What Works

Mechanical insulation transforms utility plant into a showcase



It might have been the end of the road for the historic Fitzsimons Army Hospital when it was listed on the U.S. Army's Base Realignment and Closure list in 1995. Instead, the University of Colorado and the City of Aurora, Colo. saw it as a bright opportunity. They made an innovative proposal to the Department of Defenseredevelop the base into a world-class academic health center.

The Army accepted the idea and began plans for the redevelopment of the Fitzsimons site for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (UCHSC), University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) and the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority. The project includes academic, research and patient care facilities, a bio-science park, a nursing home, a homeless assistance program and other services. When it's completed in 2010, the complex will be the first of its kind west of the Mississippi.

The Army would still own and operate some buildings, including the central utility plant. This meant the UCHSC/UCH needed to build its own central utility plant to provide steam and chilled water to its buildings. UCHSC/UCH wanted the new plant to be a showcase of design and function.

They got what they wanted. The central utility plant, finished in 2002, is indeed a showcase, boasting four boilers, each delivering 60,000 pounds of steam per hour, and one with 30,000 pounds capacity. There also are two 1,200-ton chillers and a 600-ton plate exchanger to use with cooling towers during transitional spring and fall weather. Available space for one more boiler and eight more chillers will allow the plant to handle expansion. Much of this equipment is visible through large windows along one side of the building.

A good part of the plant's gleaming appearance and efficient functioning depend on insulation covering the pipes and vessels. General contractor Natkin Contracting, LLC, turned to Systems Undercover, Inc., of Greeley, Colo. to furnish and install the insulation. The specification was open and Ray Stuckenschmidt, president of Systems Undercover, chose insulation manufactured by Johns Manville.

The decision to use JM products was based partly on history. "We've been working together almost forever. JM is our first choice because of our relationship," Stuckenschmidt says. He also liked the convenience of working with Johns Manville and local distributor, E.J. Bartells, to get the insulation, jacketing and fittings from one place. "I'm able to work with a single source to put the insulation system together. I write one purchase order. This helps me achieve economies that keep me competitive."

Easy handling also was a factor. JM's Micro-Lok Fiber Glass Pipe Insulation is manufactured in quarter-inch layers that make it easy to cut and peel to accommodate a weld bead, valve or other obstruction. According to Stuckenschmidt, "Micro-Lok is easy to work with in the field."

The owners invested in protective jacketing to prevent damage and deterioration and make the insulation appear its best. Color coded JM Ceel-Tite PVC jacketing for the chilled water lines and the aluminum jacketing for the steam lines and equipment make the central utility plant sparkle.

Systems Undercover insulated condensate receivers, steam blowdown tanks, deaerator tanks and other vessels using JM's Micro-Flex Large Diameter Pipe and Tank Wrap because traditional wrap presented difficulties. Micro-Flex was designed specifically to make the installer's job easier and faster. It has homogeneous, random fiber orientation and a factory-applied jacket that won't separate from the insulation. It can be cut to size easily and fitted around protrusions.


Keeping conveyor solutions simple

Founded in 1975, Freightmasters has grown to a $60 million company by offering a variety of freight handling services. Its Regional Trucking Service (RTS) division, however, recently found an innovative, yet inexpensive solution to a basic problem of pool distribution.

When a clothing manufacturer, for example, loads a truck with this year's fashions, the cartons are labeled for delivery to their ultimate destinations, but the truck is loaded for efficient use of space. When the semi reaches the distribution center, it must be unloaded so boxes can be sorted and placed on pallets, each representing a separate retail outlet. The pallets are then reloaded on trucks, this time arranged for efficient delivery within the same mall or town.

That was the heart of the problem. A truck pulls up to the Freightmasters loading dock. Employees move pallets as close to the truck as possible. Then, they unload the semi using a short, non-powered conveyor system. Next, they hand-carry the boxes to the proper pallet. The process was backbreaking and time consuming. Employee turnover was high. Obviously, some sort of automated solution was needed.

Freightmasters contacted a number of suppliers, including manufacturers of the latest state-of-the-art sorting systems, but the choice quickly narrowed to SJF Material Handling Inc. of Winsted, MN. "They were the only ones who came to the table willing to be creative to keep costs down," said Ronald Have, president of Freightmasters.

A cost-saving measure adopted early was the use of renewed equipment. "The way we see it," said Have, "the only thing we gave up was a little bit of long-term life. That wasn't a problem, because we knew this system wasn't going to meet our needs forever. Our business changes too quickly for that."

Freightmasters uses bar codes to track 45,000 cartons a day, but automating the sorting process provided new challenges. Each Freightmasters customer has its own ideas about bar codes and label placement. This made the flexibility of the bar code scanning guns essential. Software Engineering Corporation (SENCOR), which had provided the original bar code software, developed new software that lets the operator set the system to accept only bar codes matching those used by a particular customer. This worked as long as customers' cartons could be kept separate. Fortunately, that part of the problem had already been solved.

The system Ron Have and Frank Sterner, head of SJF's Special Projects Division, designed features a separate sort line for each truck being unloaded. To make this possible within limited floor space, the lines are stacked three high. Three loading docks are equipped with powered conveyors. Each carton placed on the conveyor is delivered to a PC-equipped scanning station, where it comes to a stop. A successful scan reactivates the rollers and the carton goes on its way. The destination information gathered during the scan directs the carton to a sorting station, where the pallets for an outgoing truck are positioned. The employee never carries the carton more than 30 feeta considerable improvement over the old system.

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