Thermax Ltd., headquartered in Pune, has been providing engineering solutions for decades to the energy and environment sectors. One of its biggest divisions supplies boilers to the power sector. The company recently entered into a joint venture with Babcock & Wilcox (USA), a global leader in the power generation industry, to manufacture super critical boilers for the power sector. The Thermax Babcock & Wilcox (TBW) plant is spread over 100 acres of land at Shirwal near Pune. The manufacturing facilities are split into 3 units; a 25,000 sq.m Section shop, a 16,000 sq. m Panel shop and a 18,000 sq.m Header shop. ElectroMech has been supplying cranes to all of Thermax factories as well as their projects. The Thermax factory in Chinchwad, Pune has several cranes from ElectroMech and these are used for various applications like loading, unloading, handling, assembly work, etc. Satisfied with their past experience of using ElectroMech cranes, TBW approached ElectroMech at the planning stage itself to discuss the crane requirements for this new plant. At the new TBW plant, 34 ElectroMech cranes with capacities ranging from 10MT to 50MT integrate the entire handling operations on three shop-floors. This covers handling right from raw material storage to the final despatch, including several fabrication and assembly stations. The interesting part of this entire project was the involvement of ElectroMech right from the project conception and designing stage of the plant building. Consideration of overhead cranes in the plant is crucial in determining the overall specifications of the building. This is because overhead cranes run on gantry girders that are supported by the building structure. In addition to the building structure and roof itself, the entire load of the crane as well as the job being handled is borne by the factory columns.
Involving us at the factory planning stage is beneficial to a client as the structural engineer can optimise the factory building based on the wheel loads and crane dimensions provided by us. This also allows us to provide inputs on the workflow, so as to optimise the choice of cranes to keep costs low while achieving maximum resource utilisation.
The work of the TBW factory building started almost two years ago and following a consultative approach, ElectroMech designed a solution that was economical, had advanced features, matched speed, technical specifications and other parameters of the crane such as the geometries, wheel loads, etc. An apt example of the benefit of involving us during the planning stage is seen in the plant’s section shop. The highest capacity crane is 50MT, which would logically require the entire factory building to be designed for the loads exerted by this crane. However, during detailed analysis of the client’s work flow, it was apparent that the 50MT job would never traverse the entire length of the shop floor. This allowed the structure to be optimised so that only the necessary portion has been built to take the load from the 50 MT crane. Safety limit switches ensure that the 50 MT crane does not travel with its full load to other parts of the shop. This solution gave TBW substantial saving in their structural cost for this shop.
ElectroMech advised TBW to opt for a power supply system, especially for the outdoor duty gantry cranes, that is more lean manufacturing philosophy dictates its reduction. By taking cognisance ofwhat needs to be done on a shop-floor, arranging processes accordingly and by optimising speeds and geometries of cranes, material handling time can be drastically reduced. This needs to be planned in the early stages of the project to derive maximum advantage.
Thermax has always used conventional cranes of the older generation of technology, based on the older Russian designs in their older plants. Cranes from ElectroMech used at the super critical boiler plant are more compact, efficient and lighter in weight. These cranes are reliable with practically no breakdownsand minimal requirement in regular maintenance. These cranes are also inverter-driven. Hence, there is better control on various parameters like smoothness of operation, precise control on speeds. Energy efficiency is further enhanced as cranes take only as much power as is required. If one were to combine the total power consumption of all the cranes used throughout the TBW factory, it would be observed that there is a reduction of at least 15-20 percent over conventional cranes.
ElectroMech has also supplied TBW with unique solutions like wall travelling cranes. On a shop-floor, with respect to the principles of lean manufacturing, waiting time is one of the prime sources of waste. Wall travelling cranes allow workers to service workstations individually without using cranes on the top. Waiting time for the crane is thus eliminated and productivity of the individual workstation is enhanced. This is a much better solution than a semi-gantry crane, in which one end carriage runs on the gantry girder, while on the other side a leg runs on the floor. Having an end carriage running on the factory floor, creates a safety hazard due to the possibilities of collisions with men, machines and material. Rail tracks or supports would also be needed on the ground, increasing the civil cost. Wall travelling cranes have no legs and travel in the air independently on their own supporting structure integrated with the factory building, thus enabling efficient and safe layout of the workstation. Integrating wall travelling cranes into the layout was only possible because ElectroMech was involved in the project from the factory planning stage.
Though material handling forms a critical part of any workshop, lean manufacturing philosophy dictates its reduction. By taking cognisance of what needs to be done on a shop-floor, arranging processes accordingly and by optimising speeds and geometries of cranes, material handling time can be drastically reduced. This needs to be planned in the early stages of the project to derive maximum advantage.Adding further value is the ElectroMech factory, which uses almost every type of crane that we manufacture, acts as a showcase. This allows customers to experience a new solution that we may recommend to them, building their faith in the usefulness of the product. We are indeed very thankful to the TBW team for reposing their trust in our solutions approach and capability and for involving us at the project planning and building designing stage.