Outokumpu is a global leader in stainless steel production with a crude capacity of 3.1 million tonnes and a history that stretches back a century to the origins of the highly durable metal alloy. Production facilities cover all continents and are located in Finland, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, the UK and USA, giving rise to sales of 5,960 million euros in 2016.
In Sheffield, a city synonymous with the corrosive-resistant material, the company manufactures stainless steel rod coil, which is used in major infrastructure projects across the world, providing longevity to multi-billion pound investments such as skyscrapers, motorways and bridges.
At the ASR Mill on Stevenson Road, just a mile away from the company’s foundry, huge one-tonne coils of stainless steel rod are produced and meticulously managed through a process that balances the requirements of both the rolling mill, with its tight schedule for manufacturing particular sizes and grades, and the finishing cycle where optimum use of acids depend on careful sequencing of rod sizes and grades. The result is a constant need for storing and retrieving heavy coils of metal throughout the production cycle.
Handling large loads in such a punishing environment and to a demanding schedule calls for a robust and reliable forklift truck fleet. Failure to perform at any point can have a significant impact on the production cycle, affecting customer orders and tight time-lines.
“Any forklift truck downtime can be critical for us,” says Phil Sowerby, Engineering Manager at Outokumpu. “We are on a constrained site, so we have to use forklift trucks to move coils between processes – whether it’s annealing, to get the properties we want, or descaling products. Then, of course, we use trucks to bundle up particular products for an order – customers order various sizes, shapes and grades of stainless steel rod, so we also need reliable trucks to load lorries for despatch.”
Realising that the time was coming to renew the fleet, a particular concern for Phil Sowerby was the industry-wide use of Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) on new diesel forklift trucks – needed by most manufacturers to comply with the latest EU emission standards. Such filters require a regeneration cycle to be performed every 25 hours or so, significantly increasing downtime and fuel costs and negatively impacting on-site performance. Fortunately, there is an alternative.
After many years of running a mixed fleet, consisting of Doosan trucks and others, Outokumpu took a strategic decision to source a fleet of new forklift trucks from a single supplier. As there was a long-established service and support relationship with Ability Handling, Doosan’s local dealer, Phil Sowerby was introduced to Doosan’s latest 5.5 tonne capacity D55 Diesel counterbalance truck – which comes complete with the revolutionary Doosan designed “DPF free” G2 diesel engine as standard.
Clever design of the combustion chambers and piston heads, coupled with an ingenious fuel injection system, results in a cleaner burn with Doosan’s G2 engine, producing much less soot. Critically, the need for a Diesel Particulate Filter has been engineered out.
“For us, a major requirement was that we didn’t want a truck with a DPF as we knew we would have to take the truck out of service every shift and do a regeneration cycle for twenty minutes or more,” he says.
After extensive on-site trials and consultation with the drivers, Outokumpu placed an order with Ability Handling for nine new Doosan D55 diesel powered forklifts – complementing two smaller Doosan diesel counterbalance trucks already on site; a D33 and a D35, used for lighter duties.
Phil Sowerby points out: “We had experience of Doosans in our mixed fleet and we knew they were really reliable, they performed well and the drivers liked them. We were also taken with the Doosan design, it was straightforward and functional – it wasn’t unnecessarily complicated. And the oil-sealed brakes offered protection from dust and grit.”
He adds: “We operate an industrial site where we’re moving around a 1000 tonnes per week, so we wanted a truck that was easy to maintain in the field and that wasn’t going let us down.”
The trucks supplied to Outokumpu were standard models but with hardened steel under pans fitted to offer protection from steel wire off-cuts, and forward and reversing projected warning signals, in addition to a white noise system, for extra pedestrian safety. Other features were speed limiters, weatherguard cabs with PVC doors, and accumulators to dampen load handling – all under a five year Doosan warranty package. The specification included the use of a special 2.5 m long plastic-coated pole attachment for coil handling, making careful calculation of load centres and lifting capacity of vital importance.
Service support and parts backup was a critical factor in the decision to single source the fleet from a local dealer, as Phil Sowerby explains. “Having had a mixed fleet we could compare service levels, responsiveness and how long it takes to get parts. Ability Handling has always performed well, and we have a good relationship with them. So with our positive experience of Doosan too, this gave us the confidence to go with them.
“Coordinating the movement of coils through production and finishing, and ensuring customer orders are collated and loaded for despatch involves constant heavy work. We have timed collections, so we know who’s coming every day and we know what they want – that’s why it’s essential that our forklift fleet works reliably. We can’t afford downtime.”