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The System Integrator’s Role in Recovery from Pandemic-Driven Disruption

Thus far in 2021, you have not had to look hard to find a manufacturing business with a “Help Wanted” sign adorning their frontage. Here in northeast Ohio, talk radio has become a sounding board for business leaders to vent on a common theme: “We are unable to fill our demand due to labor shortages bottlenecking our operations.”

"Now Hiring" banner in front of a business

The root cause of our current labor shortage problem is beyond the scope of this article, as well as, outside the influence of the typical business manager. Here at Steelastic, we know through contacts within our automation supply chain, that many manufacturers have reacted to this problem by streamlining labor intensive operations with automation. This is accomplished by integrating sensing technology and/or material handling, including robotics, into their existing production systems.

Steelastic

Keys to System Integration

Over the past 51 years, Steelastic have forged a name for ourselves in engineering and manufacture of high precision, tire component production lines, citing nearly 800 installations in this time span. Eighty percent of these turnkey systems entail integration of mechanical, electrical, and software systems to the end of encapsulating horizontally spaced rows of steel tire cords with rubber in a continuous process.

Steel tire cords

In this experience, we have learned that system integration requires an extensive collection of tools and skillsets. To name a few of these keys:

  • High proficiency in mechanical, electrical, and software engineering fundamentals.
  • Knowledge of industry standards, especially safety related.
  • Intimacy with numerous software interfaces.
  • High skill level in fine tuning of hardware, including troubleshooting.
  • Continual awareness of the offerings of the automation market.
  • Longstanding relationships with the suppliers that serve us the solutions that we make our livings from integrating together.

Steelastic’s reputation is founded in a niche area of tire manufacturing, but we are well equipped to take on the broader challenges of numerous markets.

Automation Integration Examples

Proportional-integral-derivative (PID) control integration

Armored drain cableA drain cleaning equipment manufacturer uses a spring coiling machine to produce their armored drain cable. Part of their process involves induction heating of the cable once it is downstream of the coiling operation.

Historically, part of the operator’s responsibility was to measure the cable temperature, then adjust the heater output as necessary for the cable to achieve the required temperature. As the line speed varies, the heater output must be readjusted to maintain the required temperature. This manual, “open loop” process was eliminated by sourcing a sensor that could accurately measure the temperature of the cables reflective surface, then integrating this feedback into the heater output control.

From the customer’s perspective, this operator task was eliminated. The integration enables the employee to accomplish other tasks, and it reduced the level of “knowhow” required by the position, potentially making it easier to fill in the future.

The first key to getting this done successfully and in short order was Steelastic knew who to call to obtain a sensor that could accurately measure the temperature of this reflective surface. From there, our core skill set of setting up a PID control was deployed.

A typical manufacturing operation contains hundreds of similar labor streamlining opportunities throughout their facilities.

Unloader integration

There are countless examples of industrial production systems that require an operator to stand at the downstream end of the line, perform a “last-ditch” spot check that the product is defect free, and intervene in the event that a “bad one” comes through. This scenario is an unenviable task, filled with potential for errors, and a classic opportunity for automation enhancement.

Automated robot checking for defectsSteelastic routinely develop unload solutions for our production lines. We have hundreds of examples of both integrated “catalog” material handling and vision components, as well as, custom designed gantry and end effector tooling systems. Our broad experience with the non-liner materials utilized in tire production have made us accustomed to handling difficult to manipulate objects and materials.

From the customer’s perspective, this type of integration often eliminates the need for an employee to man the end of the line and will improve the quality level, considering that machine’s minds do not wander, nor become distracted by Instagram posts.

The keys to success here include:

  1. Knowledge of the sensing technology that will best replace the human eye which will net the pass/fail signal. This entails, not only, knowing the options available on the market, but also, how to tune and program these devices. Programing often involves development of complex algorithms that effectively teach the system to interpret what a “bad one” looks like from the data that is output from the sensing technology deployed.
    Cognex
  2. Proficiency with the software technology used to coordinate the servo motors used to power the specific material handling device employed to remove the “bad one” before it is mixed with the “good ones”.
  3. Experience with the design of the tooling necessary to accurately and repeatably pick and place the product requiring handling.
  4. Most importantly, high competency in the practice of implementing this type of integration without putting workers in harm’s way. This requires proper utilization of safety devices in adherence to industry standards.

automated integrations

In closing, the pandemic has clearly disrupted our near-term world; however, it will likely have lasting effects on the workplace, in terms of where personnel do their work, as well as what duties they are charged with out on the production floor.

Is your business ready to streamline labor intensive operations with automation? Contact us today.

Author

V.P. of Engineering, Jack Papes has been a passionate designer of machines and systems for the past 33 years and has enjoyed the pleasure of leading the Steelastic-RMS engineering team since 2014.

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STEELASTIC® Names New President

Gregory HamiltonCUYAHOGA FALLS, OH – May 20, 2021.

STEELASTIC has named Gregory Hamilton as its new President.

Greg’s background includes over 20 years of cross-functional leadership in sales, operations and project management combined with manufacturing and engineering experience in OEM environments. Greg holds a Mechanical Engineer Bachelor of Science degree from Youngstown State University and received his MBA from Ashland University in 2008.

He commented, “I am excited to take the helm of a legacy company during a time of significant change and growth in our industry. As tire manufacturing plants become smaller and more localized, the transition to Steelastic’s extrusion systems allows for both small and large tire OE and aftermarket manufacturers to be nimbler in smaller, rapid-change-over style regional plants.”

In addition to his most recent tenure as VP at Steelastic, Greg previously worked at Innovar Systems, a leader in integrated industrial automation solutions in a wide range of industries including tire testing. He also held the position of General Manager of Systems Integration for tire industry capital equipment company Micro-Poise Measurement Systems.

Patrick Calderone succeeds Greg as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

About STEELASTIC:

Founded in 1970, The STEELASTIC Co., LLC is the leading designer and manufacturer of extrusion-based systems for manufacturing belt, cap strip, inner liner, and apex components for passenger, truck, bus, off road, aircraft and motorcycle tires. STEELASTIC is fueling the “Go Calenderless” revolution in the tire-making industry, allowing tire makers to now profitably manufacture shorter runs of multiple SKUs.

Today, STEELASTIC has over 900 systems operating in more than 55 countries around the world. STEELASTIC has been owned by Heico Companies LLC since 1998. Chicago-based Heico is a privately held business with a portfolio of more than 50 companies worldwide representing engineered components, specialty equipment, construction and industrial services and steel products. Steelastic is part of The Heico Companies’ Industrial Technologies Group (ITG) a group of companies focused across four key segments: heavy-duty construction, professional tools, capital equipment, and specialty solutions & components.

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Steelastic® Introduces Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine

 

CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH – Nov. 6, 2019. Steelastic, the world leader in extrusion-based systems for manufacturing tire reinforcing components, has introduced its new Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine. This combination machine, originally developed for Steelastic’s own Calenderless Manufacturing Cell, can switch from running steel belt / breaker material to textile or steel body ply in a matter of minutes. The combo machine shares a common extrusion, cooling and accumulation system, with separate cutting and splicing lines for belt / breaker and body ply. Material is produced in one, end-to-end process, from creel to wind-up, eliminating the need for expensive calendering and off-line processing operations.

 

“We wanted to make it easy for tire manufacturers to try our calenderless manufacturing process, using their own materials, with the finished product produced to their exact specifications,” said Ian Dennis, Steelastic President. “To achieve this, we invested in our groundbreaking Calenderless Manufacturing Cell incorporating our new generation of highly flexible Belt and Body Ply machines. This combination machine format is very attractive to tire manufacturers, particularly for R&D facilities, where smaller batch sizes and regular SKU changes are the norm.”

 

The new Steelastic® Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine is custom-designed for every application and can even be adapted to add extruded textile cap strip manufacture. The basic set-up includes creels for steel or textile reinforcement cords, which feed into a cross head extrusion die where the cords are fully encapsulated in rubber. The material then passes through a cooling and accumulation unit, before being processed in either the belt / breaker or the body ply machines, and then wound with liner on an in-line wind-up system. In-line hot or cold gum edging of the steel belt can also be added if needed. The machine is operated by a single operator to minimize operational cost.

 

For more information about the Steelastic® Combo Belt & Body Ply Machine, call us today at +1-330-633-0505 or email at sales@steelastic.com. www.steelastic.com.

 

About Steelastic:

Founded in 1970, The Steelastic Co., LLC is the leading designer and manufacturer of extrusion-based systems for manufacturing belt, cap strip, inner liner, and apex components for passenger, truck, bus, off road, aircraft and motorcycle tires. Steelastic is the fuel behind the “Go Calenderless” revolution in the tire making industry, allowing tiremakers to now profitably manufacture shorter runs of multiple SKUs. Today, Steelastic has over 900 systems operating in more than 55 countries around the world. Steelastic has been owned by Heico Companies LLC since 1998. Chicago-based Heico is a privately held, WBENC-certified business with a portfolio of more than 50 companies worldwide representing engineered components, specialty equipment, construction and industrial services and steel products.

 

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STEELASTIC® 12 Station Cap Strip Machine Available for Immediate Sale

Following successful development trials and customer demonstrations in late 2018, STEELASTIC has a fully commissioned 12-station extruded textile cap strip machine available for immediate sale.  The equipment will be priced to reflect its lightly-used nature and to attract a quick sale to create floor space for other contracted machine builds in 2019.

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STEELASTIC® Introduces “Calenderless” Manufacturing Cell

Calenderless Manufacturing CellCUYAHOGA FALLS, OH – Sept.25, 2019. STEELASTIC has built a Calenderless Manufacturing Cell in its Akron area facility to enable tire manufacturers to test run their own materials to produce the full range of tire reinforcement components. STEELASTIC’s extrusion-based manufacturing processes for belt/breaker, body ply, cap strip and inner liner eliminate the need for expensive and inflexible calendering and off-line processing equipment.

The compact, single-operator machines used in this cell have been developed in response to a growing demand for more flexible, highly automated and lower capital outlay manufacturing systems. “This dedicated manufacturing cell is a key component of our drive to help manufacturers, worldwide, convert to more versatile, smaller footprint systems, necessary to profitably manufacture shorter runs of multiple tire types,” said Ian Dennis, STEELASTIC President.

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STEELASTIC® Names Dawnsun to India Sales and Service Team

Steelastic- India - Dawnsun

CUYAHOGA FALLS, OH: The STEELASTIC Co., LLC, a leading manufacturer of extrusion-based machinery for producing reinforcing components for tires, has added Dawnsun Exim Corp. to their worldwide sales and service team. Dawnsun will be responsible for STEELASTIC equipment sales, machine upgrades and customer service in India, as well as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. This is a rapidly growing area for tire manufacturing, and STEELASTIC President, Ian Dennis, noted Dawnsun’s excellent relationships with all the major tire manufacturers in India, and their reputation for knowledgeable and customer-attentive representation in the area. Dawnsun represented STEELASTIC equipment many years ago and works with STEELASTIC’s sister company, Bartell Machinery. With STEELASTIC introducing a new generation of extrusion-based component manufacturing machines and a variety of high-productivity machine upgrades, the time was right to renew the relationship with Dawnsun.

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STEELASTIC® Adds Tradequest to Latin American Sales and Service Team

Steelastic Tradequest PartnerCUYAHOGA FALLS, OH: Steelastic, Inc., a leading manufacturer of extrusion-based machinery for producing reinforcing components for tires, has added Tradequest, Inc. to their sales and service team in Latin America. According to Ian Dennis, Steelastic President, “Adding Tradequest is an important part of our efforts to develop long-lasting versatile solutions for tire manufacturers, world-wide, looking to increase the versatility and profitability of their manufacturing operations.”

Steelastic sought a partner in Latin America to work with manufacturers making sure their tire equipment remained as productive as possible. As Mr. Dennis stated, “Our mission is to keep Steelastic equipment in the field operating at maximum efficiency by ensuring customers know about new innovations to improve capability and operability. Tradequest’s ability to assist customers with equipment acquisitions, maintenance and upgrading was as attractive to us as our manufacturing systems are to them.”

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STEELASTIC® Exhibiting at TireTech 2019, Halls 19/20/21, Deutsche Messe, Hannover, Germany – 5th to 7th March 2019

STEELASTIC will be launching its game-changing Extruded Textile Body Ply capability featuring its proven precision splicing technology at TireTech 2019. This follows the successful launch of its highly automated, closed-loop controlled, Next Generation Extruded Steel Belt machine at TireTech 2018. The introduction of extruded textile body ply capability is the final piece in the puzzle to make the lower volume, highly flexible, ‘calenderless’ tire plant of the future a reality. Come visit Booth #8014 to see how our range of tire component preparation equipment is changing the future of tire manufacturing forever.

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STEELASTIC® @ India Rubber Expo – 17th to 19th January 2019

STEELASTIC will be participating in the upcoming India Rubber Expo trade show in Mumbai on January 17th, 18th and 19th 2019.  Evan Smith will be attending the show along with our India sales agent Mr. VM Kulkarni of Pelmar Engineering.  We will be exhibiting in the Pelmar Engineering Booth No. H-002.  It is expected that most of the major tire companies in India will be attending this show, including Apollo, MRF, CEAT, TVS, JK Tyre, BKT, ATG and others.

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