Thinking bigger

David Morgan
Monday, August 9, 2010

Engineering and building production facilities in-house not only saves money but can also give offshore suppliers a sizeable market edge. That's been the case, and not for the first time, at Moerdijk-based offshore steel wire ropes, cable-laid slings and grommets specialist United Offshore Services (UOS).

One of the company's owners, Otto Henschel, has made cable-laid construction, both for slings and grommets, something of a speciality over the years. It was he who put together the 110t-capacity cable-laid grommet machine which still serves the company well today. Early this year, Henschel, now 73 years of age, demonstrated his flair for innovation once again with the unveiling of a new machine capable of producing giant 500mm-diameter cable-laid ropes with a breaking strength of 10,160t and single unit weight of up to 150,000kg.

Designed and built entirely by Henschel, the ‘CLM 150' machine was two years in the planning, represents a UOS investment of almost €1.5 million and is one of those rarities among production equipment that can justify a ‘unique' billing.

The rationale behind the new machine was simplicity itself. Creating a very big but nonetheless compact machine 9m in diameter, and with its six bobbins on the same axis rather than behind each other as convention usually dictates, would make more efficient use of the available height in a production hall otherwise starting to get cramped for space lengthwise. It would also mean that UOS could produce cable-laid rope in short or long lengths using existing ropes from stock, cutting wastage, lead-times and, ultimately, cost to the customer.

‘Being able to produce these sizes, weights and lengths of rope, while at the same time cutting cost by not having over-lengths, is something very unique in this business nowadays,' says UOS export sales manager Edwin Jefferies. ‘Standard production lead time for a cable-laid sling or rope is around 18-20 weeks. With this machine we can do it within four weeks. That's a huge advantage for us and means we can now take on orders that we would traditionally have missed because we couldn't have closed the wire rope on time.

‘The idea of building such a colossal machine in these turbulent times was to be more flexible towards our customers,' he adds. ‘It's an investment in the future of our company and strengthens our belief in the cable-laid sling product with which we have effectively served the heavy lifting industry for over half a century.'

Simple and robust – ‘built for life', says Jefferies – the CLM 150 was commissioned at Moerdijk in April but in its OTC display in Houston the following month UOS chose to keep the machine's availability low key because it had yet to start commercial production.

Word spread nonetheless and the machine has now completed its first three orders for cable-laid rope: two for regular customer Heerema and the other for Belgian heavylift and transport firm Sarens Cranes – an order Jefferies cites as typical of those that might previously have eluded UOS on lead-time grounds.

‘We went straight to commercial production – no need for a test run – and it went perfectly well, exactly as Otto Henschel said it would,' enthuses Jefferies. ‘The machine is already generating a lot of interest among customers and we have some fantastic business lined up for it.' OE

Categories: Engineering Europe Construction Installation

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