When the summer floods of 2007 hit Sheffield Forgemasters, the world's largest independently owned forgemaster was temporarily submerged under four feet of water, causing widespread damage to mission critical equipment.
One key machine affected was a large walk-in Wheelabrator waffle floor recovery blast room, measuring 7.5 x 8m2 and standing 6m high. For the last 27 years the machine had performed a vital role at the plant - blasting away slag residue from the moulds used to create Sheffield Forgemaster’s range of cast steel ingots.
When Wheelabrator Plus, Wheelabrator Group’s after market service support division, received a distress call from Sheffield Forgemasters it dispatched a service engineer to the plant on the same day in order to assess the extent of the damage.
“The flooding was so widespread that much of the plant was still submerged when we arrived,” says Andy Peart, UK service manager - Airblast. “Fortunately we were able to access the blast room immediately and perform our damage assessment without delay.”
The waffle floor recovery blast room houses volumes of chilled iron grit, an abrasive media that is blasted onto the ingot moulds during machine operation.
“Unfortunately the media had come into contact with the flood water and had set like concrete on the floor of the blast room. The lower concentrator that recovers the media after operation had also been destroyed. It was clear from the outset that the entire floor, the feed assembly and the concentrator would all need replacing,” explains Peart.
Fortunately, the machine was not written off completely. The Wheelabrator Plus team quickly identified all the damaged parts and raised a quote to completely overhaul the blast room, replacing component parts where required and refurbishing others where operation could be re-established to former standards.
“Prior to the floods, the original Wheelabrator blast room was performing well, even for its age!” continues Peart. “We were determined to bring value to the stricken plant and judged that we could save the customer significant costs if we overhauled the machine and took it through our Equipment Modernisation Programme (EMP), instead.”
Over the course of the next seven weeks, the team replaced a variety of machine components including the entire waffle floor, the lower concentrator and the media recovery ducting. The team salvaged and refurbished a variety of additional key components including the pressure vessel.
“We also took the opportunity to bring the machine up to date so operation was enhanced beyond its original capabilities,” adds Peart. “This included replacing the standing platforms with non-slip materials, upgrading the lighting facilities inside the room and fitting a dead mans alarm. This is a manual disabler that a machine operator can trigger if they fall into the blast room as it is starting its programme.”
By performing the component replacement, refurbishment and modernisation of the blast room, the Wheelabrator Plus team managed to realise a significant cost saving of £280,000 for Sheffield Forgemasters.
“We were pleased with the service provided by the Wheelabrator Plus team,” comments David Allsop, maintenance manager for the Foundry at Sheffield Forgemasters. “They were extremely responsive and saved unnecessary spend by salvaging and refurbishing an existing machine. It is now enhanced beyond its original capabilities, which adds future capacity.”
As a direct result of the service received from Wheelabrator Plus, Sheffield Forgemasters is also in discussions with Wheelabrator Group over an expansion of its surface finishing capabilities using Wheelabrator equipment.