Panama City, FL - The Berg Steel Pipe Corporation (BSPC) has manufactured thousands of miles of custom steel pipe for the oil & gas industry since opening its plant here in 1979. The task for purchasing manager, Gary Boczar, was to help find a better solution to transport and store this pipe.
"We were using ordinary loaders to move finished pipe from the plant to the yard. Then the loaders had to bring the pipe back inside to load it onto trucks. The inside cranes were the only way we could load with minimal coating damage to the finished product."
Berg Pipe is the largest steel pipe producer in the US. The firm prides itself on "just-in-time" delivery of its customers' pipe once the contract is let for new pipeline construction. Efficient pipe-handling is an essential part of the company's customer service philosophy, as well as a significant factor in its operating costs.
At the time, the yard was stacking its pipe with a used excavator equipped with a heavy-duty vacuum attachment that had previously been in service in the plant. The vacuum system is preferred over mill-yard forks or aluminum pipe hooks to protect the various ID/OD coatings applied to the pipe to protect it from the environment, both in storage and in the ground.
"I knew there had to be a better solution," Boczar said. "The excavator just didn't have enough reach to stack the pipe more than three or four high. It's a slow mover, too, compared to the loaders." To support Berg Pipe's plans for continuing growth, Boczar was looking for a way to store more pipe in a small space. He needed a pipe-handler that could move faster and stack higher.
TEC Steps Up To The Challenge
For help, he turned to Chuck Tibbets, the local branch manager at Tractor & Equipment Company (TEC). As one of the largest equipment dealers in the Gulf Coast region, TEC represents a diverse line of lifting and loading equipment. "I have always challenged Chuck," says Boczar, "and he has stepped up to the plate every time".
Chuck Tibbets walked through the application with Boczar. The new pipe-handling system was required to pick and stack sections of 24" to 48" diameter steel pipe in lengths from 40' to 80' and weighing up to 25,000 lbs. In total, the Panama City mill moves more than 300,000 tons of pipe per year. The critical need was to have enough lifting reach to increase the yard capacity with more stacking height, and to load the pipe onto trucks without damaging the product.
Seeing what the job required, Tibbets quickly moved away from TEC's loader and excavator lines, and came back with a recommendation for a more specialized piece of equipment: a SENNEBOGEN 850 M rubber-tired material handler.
"I didn't know the SENNEBOGEN name then, but I was aware of similar machines from my days in the steel industry," Boczar explains. "SENNEBOGEN has been very successful in the steel recycling business - they are made for lifting, not for digging like an excavator. So it made sense."
Boczar looked further into SENNEBOGEN's credentials and "after seeing the machines and seeing who was using them, I made a strong recommendation to the company. My background is in maintenance and I could see how these are made. It was obvious that SENNEBOGEN is in it for the long term."
From scrap-handler to pipe-handler
To complete the package, Boczar made another call to Vacu-Worx, a specialist in vacuum lift equipment. Discussions began for fitting a new diesel-powered vacuum attachment to the 850 M material handler. Then Boczar thought, "Hold on! This machine comes with a generator on it - why not use that to power the vacuum?"
The standard generator for an 850 M produces enough electrical power to energize the heavy lifting magnets used in scrap handling operations. The Berg Team put their heads together to put the finishing touches on a new, highly efficient, purpose-built pipe-handling machine. "The motor for the vacuum draws much less than a lifting magnet," Boczar says. "At first, we put resistor banks in the line to match the generator output to the vacuum. Then we replaced the resistor bank with an electronic controller that works very, very well for us."
The SENNEBOGEN pipe-handler worked well enough that Berg Pipe now has two of the machines operating in its Panama City yard, and a third unit at work in Berg's new spiral pipe plant in Mobile, AL.
Boczar also indicated that with the increased flexibility and mobility, the 850 M could also be used for loading pipe barges at their dock facility in Mobile.
"This system has increased our yard capacity tremendously," Boczar reports. "It gives our plant much more flexibility in our application. It's made for stacking. It can move quickly to any part of our yard. And it lets us load trucks right in the yard, instead of double handling the pipe and moving the material back inside to load with the crane."
A cost-saving solution
Berg also sees the new system producing direct savings for the company as well as improving customer satisfaction. By loading in the yard, the time and expense of re-handling the pipe is eliminated. Less handling also means less chance of damage to the product. "We're seeing far fewer claims for coating damage to our pipe," he says. With its rubber tires, the 850 M causes no wear or damage to the yard area as well, allowing the company to pave its storage area. Stacking and loading operations now move even faster, and the yard requires less maintenance attention.
The SENNEBOGEN machines have required minimal maintenance, too. "TEC technicians provide all of our scheduled PM service," Boczar says. "They are very well versed in the equipment. They were onsite with us for the setup and that all went well. When we have a problem, they're right here... but there just aren't many problems!"
"I don't see how you could go anywhere else," he continues. "Anyone who knows about this equipment and its capabilities would be wise to choose SENNEBOGEN."
SENNEBOGEN has been a leading name in the global material handling industry for more than 58 years. Based in Stanley, North Carolina, SENNEBOGEN LLC offers a complete range of purpose-built machines to suit virtually any material handling application. A growing network of distributors supports SENNEBOGEN sales and service across the Americas, ensuring the highest standard of professional machine support and parts availability.
For more information on the full line of SENNEBOGEN green line material handlers,
1957 Sennebogen Trail, (formerly 7669 Old Plank Road)
Call toll free: 1-877-309-0099
fax (704) 347-8894
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Visit the web site at www.sennebogen-na.com