Manufacturer continues to reduce maintenance time, filter replacement costs and downtime with engineered, automatic cleaning filtration system
Chandler Equipment is a preeminent manufacturer and supplier of truck components for transport tanks, vacuum trucks and frac tanks used in numerous industries, including oil and gas, agriculture, industrial waste and transportation.
The Springdale, Arkansas-based company has a state-of-the-art facility that allows them to provide quick turnaround time on orders of manufactured components for customers around the globe, without compromising quality and value. They rely mostly on robotic welding to complete customers’ mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum applications. Welding automation allows Chandler Equipment to get a high-quality finished product out the door faster, and also offers the benefit of being a relatively clean process that generates low levels of weld fume.
Two and a half years ago, Chandler invested in two Miller® FILTAIR® centralized fume extraction systems to further improve the environment in the welding cells and on the manufacturing floor.
The FILTAIR systems have not only greatly reduced fumes for Chandler Equipment, but the company continues to enjoy some additional and unexpected benefits in regard to maintenance and cleaning.
“The biggest surprise for me is that we haven’t had to change the filter,” says Spencer Reed, assistant shop foreman at Chandler. “Once a month, we check to make sure the filters still look alright, but other than that, they clean themselves. They’ve been running every day since we got them, and they work just as well as they did when we installed them.”
The systems’ ease of use and low maintenance requirements continue to be an added bonus for Chandler — helping reduce downtime and costs related to maintenance and cleaning.
“We don’t even think about them half the time,” says Donnie Moore, production shop manager. “We take it for granted now that we don’t have to do much maintenance at all.”
A fume extraction solution
Before installing the centralized fume extraction systems, Chandler Equipment was using exhaust fans in an effort to circulate and remove from the building the fumes generated during the welding process, but they weren’t happy with the results. In addition, the exhaust fans were cumbersome, and wherever they were located, work had to be done around them. Also, cold weather made the fume situation worse, since employees didn’t like to open the ventilation system and let cold air into the building.
“By the end of the day, you could still see a haze of fog and fumes in the air. We felt like we had to do something about that,” says Jeff Chandler, president. “I started out as a welder in this business. Having the experience of being a welder, the air quality was very important to me for many reasons.”
After deciding fume extraction would be the best way to remove the greatest amount of fume and particulate from the welding cells, the company considered several systems before choosing the Miller FILTAIR Centralized collectors.
“We went with the Miller system because we felt that they knew what they were doing,” Chandler says. “The equipment is well-engineered and all of the details that we wanted to be taken care of were fulfilled.”
Chandler Equipment was able to install the Miller system with minimal changes to the ductwork, which is especially important in operations with robotic welding, since they often need to move the cells around from place to place based on the application.
“We’re able to adapt that ducting right away,” Chandler says. “The system we have allows us to uncouple the exhaust and couple it in different areas. It comes in sections, so we are able to do a lot of moving around if we need to. So it’s quite versatile for that. That cost is at a minimum as far as moving the sections of ductwork around.”
The difference in air quality at Chandler Equipment was immediate.
“We installed two units, and we couldn’t believe the results of what those units have done,” Chandler says. “By using the Miller system, we ended up with clean air. You could see from one end of the building to the other without any problem.”
Improved work environment
Welding operators at Chandler Equipment appreciate the more comfortable working environment they notice since the new systems were installed.
“It’s night and day. It never gets smoky in here at all,” Reed says. “Normally, if you’re in an enclosed shop and you have 19 to 20 welders going, it gets smoky no matter what you do. This is taking care of all of it. We haven’t had any problems with breathing smoke since we got them.”
In addition to improved air quality, employees also notice the quiet operation of the system, which helps reduce noise levels in the shop.
“A lot of other ventilation systems I’ve seen, when you turn it on you can’t hear over it at all,” Reed says. “These, once you turn them on, you hear them when they first start up, but after that you don’t really notice them. It’s running right now, and we’re standing next to it talking.”
The addition of the FILTAIR centralized fume extraction systems has further improved employee safety and productivity.
“The air quality is so much better, and that makes for a happy employee, too,” says Chandler.
Chandler has also been able to maintain a more consistent temperature in their manufacturing operation since the FILTAIR units were installed. The systems filter their own air, so in the winter, Chandler can recirculate the hot air that’s already in the building.
“We have found ourselves in a lot less need of natural gas because we can take the already heated air in the building and recirculate it through the filtration system,” Chandler says. “It uses a lot less natural gas that we burn per year, which impacts our heating and cooling bills — to the positive.”
Easy to maintain and use
The low maintenance requirements of the system also help Chandler’s employees save time and money. The company is still surprised that the filters in the FILTAIR units have lasted for so long, but appreciate the built-in design that is helping them achieve that extended filter life.
Chandler has the units set to automatically self-clean while in operation and every time the machines are shut off. Compressed air is used to deliver a focused reversed pulse of air to the filters, and the surface loaded weld fume particulate is removed from the filter and deposited in the storage/disposal bin.
“It’s been so nice not having to do maintenance — they’re very low maintenance,” Moore says.
A filter pressure gauge also indicates when pressure drop increases and the filter needs to be cleaned. When the pressure goes up, it’s a sign the filters are getting loaded and it’s creating more resistance to pull air through them.
“The control board, you set your parameters in for cleaning — your highs and lows — and it’s very easy to set it and program it,” Moore says.
Chandler Equipment employees spend less time on maintenance of the fume extraction machines, and they also spend less time cleaning the shop in general, which helps improve productivity. When the FILTAIR systems were installed, the company did a deep cleaning of the inside of the production facility, including the rafters. The dust build-up has been minimal since then.
“There’s a lot less cleaning in the shop,” Moore says. “It’s pulling all of that dust in to where we don’t have to clean the shop equipment and the floors like we had to in the past.”
The more comfortable environment for the welding operators in terms of air quality and reduced noise also has helped boost employee productivity, and it plays a role in attracting and retaining skilled employees for Chandler.
“We don’t disrupt the work that we’re doing by having these challenges of fume and exhaust. It’s a lot happier environment,” Chandler says. “Our employees are a lot more productive. A happier employee is a more productive employee.”
And because the finished product has less residue and dust on it thanks to improved fume extraction, it has saved time in post-weld cleaning of the products for Chandler Equipment.
“It affects everything, like a train right on down the line,” Chandler says.
A solution that makes a difference
Chandler has been able to improve the production environment for employees with the FILTAIR centralized fume extraction systems, resulting in increased productivity and improved quality of the finished products.
On top of that, the systems offer a small footprint and reduced noise, and they require low maintenance.
“Bar none, it’s hands down one of the finest systems I’ve ever had,” Chandler says. “After all the years of having a slight fog of fumes in the air, then after installing the Miller system, we are actually able to see a lot better. It makes a whole lot of difference in the work environment.”