Vanguard makes short work of automotive press contracts


As the global commodity slump continues and the Rand’s value comes under pressure, locally based international heavy-lift, specialised transport and plant installation company Vanguard is helping grow one of the country’s economic shining lights: the automotive sector.

Set to attract a record R7,5 billion in capital expenditure this year, automobile manufacture in SA directly creates over 30,000 jobs but generates another 70,000 jobs in automotive components – a sub-sector of some 360 companies.

The efficiency and growth of automotive component manufacturing has been prioritised by government’s Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP), which aims to raise the volume of cars manufactured in South Africa to 1,2 million per year by 2020 and to boost local content.

Among the valuable services provided by component makers is the pressing of metal automotive parts for original equipment manufacturers both locally and abroad. Vanguard have recently undertaken a slew of projects for the transport, engineered rigging and installation of these heavy hydraulic presses; the firm’s expertise and capacity has saved clients the expense of structural modifications to their factories and costly losses in production time.

In four press-related contracts over just the past few months, Vanguard has provided engineered project solutions to overcome severe space constraints to place and install components weighing up to 120 tonnes.

“Our contracts for these press installations have generally begun with the loading and transportation of all components from port to site, but our engineering expertise and specialised equipment really came into its own at the installation end of these projects,” said Vanguard director Roland Cumings.

“Space is usually highly constrained in press halls due to the comparatively small footprint area that presses occupy, coupled with the designed production layout of the presses aimed at optimising their workflow. Adding to the challenge, clients are understandably reluctant to make any major structural changes to accommodate the installation of the presses, so the working tolerances for the installation are very small.”

In executing these press installations Vanguard employed a combination of specialised equipment including self-propelled modular trailers, hydraulic lift systems of various configurations, and a long list of purpose-built lifting accessories.

“Our hydraulic lift systems are placed into position spanning both the final position of the press and the delivery channel, ready for the components,” said Cumings. Depending on the space and layout that we are constrained to, the delivery of the press components is delivered under the lift systems, either by means of rigging, pick and carry cranes or compact self-propelled trailer configurations.

“Due to the layout and space constraints we are often unable to deliver the components in the correct orientation or correctly lined up. To overcome this as efficiently as possible, we have engineered a rotating lifting beam that allows us to lift and turn the load in one set-up; it can also slide on the top end of the header beams, allowing us the flexibility of moving the loads both longitudinally and transversely – an efficientinnovation that saves considerable time.”

He said two types of presses were installed in these contracts, each with very different press hall layouts. The mono block presses come as a single component and are transported horizontally; they are offloaded, stood upright and installed in one operation.

“Because they came in one piece, they were the heaviest components in these contracts, weighing in at 120 tonnes per press,” he said. “The other presses were split and generally comprised five major components that need to be built in a specific sequence. It was therefore critical that the components were delivered in the correct order to ensure minimal handling.”

The assembly of these split presses always starts with the base of the press and ends with the crown, usually the heaviest part of the press, he noted. In these contracts, the crowns weighed between 75 and 98 tonnes.

“While we have lifted crowns in the past of up to 240 tonnes, the challenge recently was the limited head-room between the top of the crowns and the roof trusses,” said Cumings. “In one case, the roof trusses on either side of the press were even lower than the top of the crown in its final position, which required expert planning and execution.”

He said that, with the company’s substantial and diverse asset base of equipment, Vanguard had the capacity to carry out three of these press contracts at the same time. Each of the four contracts also required a different type, capacity and configuration of hydraulic lift system, varying between two-post, four-post and six-post configurations.

In addition to the port works, transport and engineered lifting, Vanguard has employed its extensive engineering capability to handle both the electrical and mechanical aspects of each installation, taking the presses to ‘cold commissioning’ stage before handing over to the respective clients.