Author Archives: Mike Cashen

In an increasingly computer focused society, businesses are faced with the challenge of continually mastering new techniques and programs to keep pace with the market. Even in industries where efficiency has always been a primary focus, professionals can find it difficult to adapt to the rapid development and expansion of data driven technology. While education can be time consuming and expensive, the benefit of utilizing modern drafting software is incomparable.

At TMS a significant portion of our projects are focused on solving malfunctions within complex production systems. Every second that a line is stopped costs our customers dearly, and nothing has saved us more time than AutoCAD. By enabling our design team engineers to fully map a system digitally, the time consuming and sometimes dangerous trial and error of assembly is removed from the work site. A single technician with a computer can identify, investigate and plan for the majority of obstructions and potential risks. AutoCAD drawings keep track of the finest details, even accommodating for proper gap space between welds.

Understanding how an object can be maneuvered through a space is vital in the complex systems of production plants. Work sites are often congested, difficult to access and constantly changing. Knowing which objects can be brought into an area allows our technicians to do all possible prefabrication work in our own shop. 3D drafting gives our team incredibly accurate plans from which to craft custom parts and makes planning projects easier. With individual pieces of a project labeled and categorized, we can create weld schedules to ensure each person is making the correct welds at the right time. With prefabrication done in our work shop, the time spent on site is shorter. This not only saves money but is less intrusive to the customer.
The vast majority of our customers continue to operate while maintenance is performed. Working in the midst of a live industrial production system is inherently dangerous. The safety and success of a project relies on our complete understanding of the entire system, not solely the project in focus. AutoCAD’s layering function has drastically improved our ability to model the individual systems within a work site. With layered drawings, a 3D model is created of each system with respect to its spatial relationship to the rest of the plant. The drawing can be viewed in its entirety, or we can select to view 3 of 10 lines. The team has a precise diagram by which they can recognize what materials are passing through the work space. With this information we can make decisions on site about what techniques and materials are safe to use around a specific system. Layering also presents us with the opportunity to examine the interactions between systems without the visual obstructions that may exist on site.

Our dedication to understanding the entire system through focused study and complete modeling has not changed since the days of pencil and paper drafting, but the integration of AutoCAD has revolutionized the speed at which we work. The maintenance of a skilled computer drafting team is undeniably essential to mechanical contracting in the 21st century.

Making Line Relocation Seamless with the Help of a Mechanical Contractor

To remain competitive in today’s economy, it can take bold moves. This is literally the case when it comes time to relocate a process line.

Reasons for Line Relocation

TMS LocationProcess lines typically are moved when companies get sold or acquired. It makes sense when brands are undergoing buyouts or mergers that the line already owned and in use gets relocated—even if it means moving equipment a long way, like from a plant out west in Arizona to a Midwest facility in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa or Illinois. Moving a process line is not like moving grandma’s china in a typical home move. It requires more special consideration and handling.

Must-have Milestone Scheduling

Planning is paramount with process line relocation in order to compensate for the fact that the equipment will not be in service throughout the duration of the move. If transport is scheduled to take a week, for example, that means a brand must build a bridge of inventory to cover a week of downtime. It also means the mechanical contracting company servicing the move must do so within the planned amount of time. Otherwise the brand will be at risk of running out of inventory, which can negatively affect the whole sales process, from customer loyalty to the bottom line.

One Mechanical Contracting Crew is Better Than Two

While equipment must be deconstructed and palletized for transport, it must also be responsibly reassembled in an orderly and effective fashion once it reaches its destination. In order to guarantee the job is done correctly, the mechanical services crew at the start of the line relocation should follow the system to the new location, where it then reinstalls the system. Sometimes a second crew of mechanical service contractors may be hired to greet the arriving line. However, the success rate of having the same crew strike and set the process line back up is monumental.

Experienced Mechanical Services Serve Best

Planning and executing process line relocation can be complex and technical so it’s essential experienced mechanical contractors do the job. In addition to reassembling, they must plan disassembling the line and properly loading it onto the truck. The more effectively a truck is loaded, the more efficiently it can be unloaded and the line put back together so it is up and running smoothly again. Otherwise, a large area may be required at the other end of the journey to first lay down the equipment, exposing it to the elements and taking extra time before the equipment can be reassembled.

Companies tempted to cut corners by not hiring experienced mechanical contractors at the start of process line relocation will likely to regret their decision since, odds are, it will cost them more time and money down the road. If your facility is planning on moving equipment, plan ahead with the experienced mechanical contracting firm, TMS Inc., by visiting tmsmech.com.

 

Another Mechanical Contracting Success Story

TMS_1If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know how important satisfied clients are to the mechanical contractors at TMS. Getting a job done right, exceeding the expectations of our clients and doing it at an agreed to and reasonable cost are our prime goals. It’s just not enough to say we do these things; we have the customer feedback to prove it. Here’s another one of our success stories.

It was Friday afternoon, about 2:45 PM when our client (one that hadn’t done much work with us in the past few years) called looking for some help changing out a shaft. Now at some businesses, late in the afternoon on the day that ends a long workweek is not the best time to call in an emergency job. But the TMS staff was ready and up to the challenge.

Phil D of TMS was available, and agreed to head right over to the client, even though he had a previous engagement that evening and could only stay until 4:30. Ryan B was also available (without any time restrictions), so he agreed to go with Phil and check things out.

We called the client back to let him know what the situation was and to make sure that would be all the help they needed. It wasn’t. Our client thought it would be better if two more of our guys could pitch in – No problem.

Immediately, we got our Don T on the phone, who was working at another site nearby our distressed client. After explaining the situation to Don, his response was, “Let me get my tools!” We thanked him for his willingness to pitch in and asked if he could bring along one more person from the job he was at, to the new site. Again – No problem.

Don and Jeremy M were at the site by 3:35 PM. The shaft was removed, sent to a machine shop for repair, returned to the plant and re-installed. Once the belts were put back on and the duct work was reattached, the unit was ready to be turned on. Everything ran great and our guys left at 10:30 pm with the gratitude of the plant.

This is the email they sent us:

“I really appreciate your help Friday evening. It helped us out and the efforts of Don, Ryan, and Jeremy and all who helped is appreciated. Everybody came in with a great can do attitude to help get it done, and I for one greatly appreciate it. Thanks again!”

It takes more than just setting a goal to do a great job for a client, it takes the people at a company to step up to the challenge and make it happen. To the TMS staff that made this project a success, thank you!

And remember, it’s our goal to provide complete satisfaction with every job we do. We look forward to receiving and sharing more great comments in future months. Contact us for your mechanical contracting needs and become another one of our success stories.

 

 

 

Ways Technology Empowers Mechanical Contractors

Thanks to the technological revolution, the world has changed a lot since the turn of the millennium. With iPads, smartphones, Wi-Fi and more, we have a world of information literally at our fingertips. As a result, it’s possible to look up virtually anything or anyone—making business a breeze.

Calling Mechanical Contracting Companies

Technology has improved the way in which mechanical contractors work. Once upon a time, handling a plant relocation could be problematic if a crew member didn’t know where to place a part in a machine. Imagine how difficult it would be to first find an old landline telephone and then describe the dilemma over it. But with today’s smartphones, mechanical contractors can simply snap a photo of the mysterious machine part and send it to someone anywhere in the world, allowing them to find out exactly what the part is and how to install it—within minutes.

Mechanical Contractors Digitally Connect

From smartphones to tablets and laptops, digital communication has proven to be incredibly beneficial for mechanical services companies and their customers. Questions get answered within minutes or hours instead of days or weeks.

The connectivity of the Internet empowers mechanical contractors to communicate back and forth without having to be in the same room—or even country. Mechanical contracting companies worldwide are now connected via their devices, allowing them to view the same images and determine what a certain part is, where it should go, and how it should function. 

Mechanical Services Excel with Excel

Back in the day, using hard copies for records often meant getting buried in a deluge of documentation. But with digital software programs, it’s easy to input paperless data, store it, and then quickly access it when necessary.

Mechanical contracting companies using Excel sheets can also better compute, plan and collect information via standardized scheduling, tabulating and billing methods. Spreadsheets streamline the process by offering a uniform means of determining costs, creating estimates and benchmarking timelines for projects.

CAD for Design and 3D Modeling

Today, mechanical services often take advantage of computer-aided design (CAD) software for 3D modeling and 2D vector-based graphics. Such technology is no longer considered a luxury item since it can speed up the time it takes to complete a project.

Recently, our TMS mechanical contractors were given only four days to do a substantial amount of relocation and equipment repurposing work. But using 3D modeling we were able to create a good plan, prefab 95 percent of the piping associated with the assignment, and finished with a clean, efficient and fully function system. And it was done within the timeline we were given, something that would have been impossible in the days before CAD software.

Traditional and Tech-Savvy Professionals

CAD, Excel or smartphone—it’s obvious technology can work for you. So why shouldn’t it work for your mechanical contractors as well? If you’re looking for traditionally trained yet tech-savvy professionals to handle your mechanical services job, visit TMS Inc. at tmsmech.com.

How Mechanical Engineering Differs from Mechanical Contracting, Part Two

mechanical-engineering-mechanical-contracting-2Turnabout is fair play, and since our previous blog post addressed who mechanical engineers are and what they do, this one focuses on mechanical contractors—you know, those practical professionals who put the plans of multidisciplinary mechanical engineers into motion.

Idea vs. Execution

Mechanical engineers think of ways to produce and distribute energy, the processing of materials, control and automation of manufacturing systems, and the design and development of both machines and the environment. But without execution, their plans would remain on the page—it takes mechanical contractors to turn their bright ideas into reality. It could be said mechanical contractors tackle projects with both brawn and brains since these hands-on workers regularly handle piping, line installation and custom steel fabrication.

Say, for example, your company needs to create a design on a mezzanine where products and equipment will be set up. If you give this job to an engineering firm, chances are you will wait three to four weeks for just their drawn plans, opposed to straight-away hiring a mechanical contractor, who will have physically installed the area in that same amount of time. Not only will the mechanical contractor turn the project around in less time, it will be 18-20% less expensive since, unlike mechanical engineers, they don’t sublet the physical work to another company for execution.

Mechanical Engineer vs. Mechanical Contractor

Simply stated, mechanical contractors implement the design, manufacturing and operation of components, devices or systems generated by mechanical engineers. If problems within these systems occur, companies don’t need to revert back to square one by contacting the mechanical engineer who designed it since mechanical contractors are trained to identify and resolve system issues.

In other words, if your facility needs to audit its waste water drain system or if it needs an entirely new system designed, you would seek the expertise of a mechanical engineer. But if you need to make changes to a system that is already in operation with an established process in place, a mechanical contractor can handle the job. Even though we didn’t design the system, we can easily make modifications such as replacing an old inefficient pump with a new pump to rectify the bottleneck slowing down the system.

Working with Others

While mechanical engineers and contractors often work independently of each other, there can be situations that require input from both. When needed, these professionals will work side-by-side, applying the unique assets each brings to the table.

Sometimes a place at that table will also need to be filled by another engineering professional, a chemical engineer. If the situation pertains to chemical reactions, a chemical engineer will be able to ask the right questions, offer the right answers and successfully find the right solution. But in the end, a mechanical contractor will still be on the job applying that solution.

Whether working solo or with mechanical and chemical engineers, mechanical contractors and their much needed services are valued by facilities across the nation. Let TMS Inc. handle all your mechanical contracting needs. To learn more, visit tmsmech.com.

Using a Mechanical Contractor and Repurposing to Save You Money

Reuse

 

 

The phrase “everything old is new again” can be applied to repurposing, especially when it comes to costly mechanical service equipment.

Time to Repurpose

When manufacturing companies update their plants, they usually replace old heat exchangers with new, more efficient models, even if the existing ones still work. But because heat exchangers typically cost $15,000-$60,000, it makes sense (and cents) to repurpose them.

Repurposing Heat Exchangers

One plant’s existing heat exchangers were initially used to heat oil. As such, cold oil goes in the process on one side while hot oil comes out the other. Steam is used to heat it further via a liquid-to-liquid transfer.

With the advice of the mechanical contractors at TMS, after the installation of a new one, the old exchanger was reused farther down the line to further increase the heating of the oil and boost the plant’s efficiency—and bottom line. Because manufacturing companies spend a lot of time and money on this process, they want to make sure they get the most out of their investment.

With the new arrangement, all the heat exchangers in the process get the plant 10-15 degrees that it wasn’t getting before. Although it’s not how the old heat exchanger was originally meant to work, repurposing it has greatly increased the plant’s thermal efficiency.

Repurposing Tanks

When a plant replaces expensive equipment but cannot repurpose it themselves, it can sell the machinery at a discounted price to another company rather than scrap it. In these cases, a mechanical services contractor may suggest a plant manager pick up, say, a 10-year-old $80,000 nitrogen tank for $50,000.

In fact, tanks are usually repurposed continually until they’re worthless. However, a pressure vessel should be either brand new or, if older, be able to pass sonogram testing to ensure it can withstand pressure. If it can’t, it’s not a pressure vessel anymore—it’s a bomb.

Repurposing Benefits

In addition to being cost-effective, repurposing equipment is environmentally efficient. Although most machinery is recyclable after it’s been cut up and processed, reusing it is typically far more energy efficient—and of course either alternative is preferable to having equipment sit in a landfill.

If you have equipment you’re ready to replace or are not using, contact a mechanical services company to see if they can help you repurpose it. TMS has accredited mechanical contractors ready to answer your repurposing questions. To learn more, visit TMS at tmsmech.com.

Mechanical Contractors Advice on Documenting Disaster Procedures

documenting-disaster-procedures“Expect the worst, hope for the best” is not a plan for dealing with disasters. In the event of a calamity, it’s essential to know the best practices for protecting your business, no matter where you are or what industry you’re in. It’s also critical that you have a written, well-documented disaster plan.

Disaster Planning and Mechanical Contracting

While it’s impossible to fully plan for the unplanned, there are some steps you can do in advance that will help you recover from a disaster faster. One is to vet a mechanical contracting firm, like TMS, in advance so that you just need to make a call when a crisis occurs. The other absolutely necessary step is to create a disaster recovery plan in writing, that’s easily readable with simple and detailed instructions. Here’s some of what it should include:

Accessible Information – When disaster strikes, time is of the essence so the plan document must contain a table of contents for fast reference and sections should be kept to a minimum. Key ownership or management contact details, revision history and other details such as the confidential status and audience for the document should also be included.

Purpose of the Plan – To avoid confusion when swift action is required, it’s imperative to state the purpose of the disaster recovery plan by clearly defining objectives in the document’s introduction.

Scope of Services – This section conveys the circumstances under which the plan is invoked, from conditions that warrant a reconstitution phase to the length of time the defined procedures are in effect. For example, a line that’s down for couple of hours may not require emergency action while a daylong outage would.

Dependency Details – Any assumptions of the document should be clearly stated by listing all dependencies of the plan. In other words, don’t assume a certain number of personnel will be available at the disaster recovery facility. Have backup people in mind too. Such dependencies should be accompanied with appropriate contact details.

Exclusions Explained – The document should state any related disaster activities that the plan does not cover by mentioning any known references. For example, the plan may not cover a power restoration plan, instead referring to the appropriate contacts at the power company or related external documents.

Roles and Responsibilities – In the case of emergencies, key mechanical services roles should have primary and alternate personnel assigned. In addition to providing an organizational diagram that depicts the reporting relationships, roles and responsibilities of those involved should be clearly listed for the activation, execution and reconstitution phases.

Contacts – The document’s appendix should include full contact information for the managerial and operational staff involved in the planning, activation, execution, and reconstitution phases. This should include external contacts like your mechanical contractor.

Activation Procedures – The procedures for notification, damage assessment, and activation of the plan should be clearly outlined, while any topic that needs to be covered in great detail may be added as an appendix.

Execution Procedures – To offer the best possible outcome, the recovery procedure for each of the plan’s components should be explained in detail. Whenever there are parallel tasks, it’s beneficial to provide flow charts to visualize each one. The evaluation criteria to determine the success and failure of each procedure should be covered as well as instructions on further actions.

Avoid Disasters with Mechanical Services Disaster Planning

The future comes with highs and lows. To make sure your business can weather the worst situation, contact a mechanical services company with disaster recovery experience. TMS has the know-how to plan for unforeseen problems which will get you back running during a calamity and give you peace of mind the rest of the time. To learn more, contact TMS.

Got a mechanical service problem? Get a mechanical contractor.

mechanical-contracting-problems-solvedAdmitting you have problem is the first step in finding a solution. But figuring out what the problem is can be equally problematic when it comes to mechanical service issues. Too often people become frustrated when attempting to troubleshoot on their own since not every mechanical problem has a simple answer or a seemingly simple go-to company to fix it. Seeking the right professionals can be a challenge. That’s where mechanical contractors come in.

The Right Stuff

Good contractors will know there is a right way to tackle mechanical service problems. The best ones are open enough to convey what they can and cannot do. If the solution is beyond them, they will let the customer know while still suggesting who can solve the problem based on their experience.

Often the reason a mechanical contractor doesn’t have a solution at hand, is because the resolution of the issue might not lie in the mechanics of the process. The problem could stem from the control of the process or even the chemistry of the process instead. Consequently, customers might need a mechanical engineer or a chemical engineer to resolve the issue. However, it often takes a visit from a reliable mechanical services contractor to determine this.

The Big Chill

Recently, TMS got a call from a client having an issue with their air conditioning system. The client uses chillers to cool their large, multi-roomed structure. These machines use water, which is chilled to 40 degrees or so, then circulated throughout the building to cool the air.

The Big Short

Our client’s building wasn’t getting enough flow from its chiller, so they made a call to us. But once we began troubleshooting the situation, we realized the problem had to do with the process, not with the actual chiller. We brought in a mechanical engineer to conduct a hydraulic review on each of the chiller’s three water lines and the issue was pinpointed. The problem was that the chiller was undersized and couldn’t handle the load. As mechanical contractors, we were able to find a solution for our client quickly by identifying what wasn’t working, and knowing who to call in to assist in the fix.

Who You Gonna Call?

If you encounter problems with your mechanical systems, don’t panic. Ask for help from an experienced mechanical services contractor who can accurately access the issue in a more cost-effective manner than an engineering firm. With 30 years of experience, TMS can quickly access and solve any problem at hand. To learn more, visit tmsmech.com.

Preplanning Makes a Difference in Mechanical Contracting

PrepareNothing demonstrates the effort and expertise of a good mechanical contractor like a successful project. It’s one thing to offer a philosophy to clients, it’s another to put it into action. Here’s an example of two recent projects TMS handled for a major customer that shows the importance of preplanning when time to complete the work is limited.

Balancing Old and New Scales

The first project was the installation of a new scale in the customer’s mill. We had just one 10-hour repair day, a Saturday, to install the new scale and remove the old one. A TMS crew headed up by Phil and Patrick knew that advance work would be key to getting the scale installed in the available window. So, the crew went in on Thursday and Friday to prep the old scale for demolition and to bring the new scale to the floor. This minimized the downtime required. That Saturday morning, our crew began demo of old scale and by 1pm, electricians were hooking up the new scale as the old one was removed from the area to the metal dumpster.

Sifting Old Problems to Smooth Out the New

The second project was the installation of new sifter at the mill. TMS had successfully installed its sister sifter back in 2013, so the client knew we’d be right for the new job.

Patrick from TMS took the engineering lead by getting parts ordered as well as starting the fabrication of spout boards that go under the sifter. To save time, Patrick had the floor flanges predrilled while the spout boards were in the shop. We had learned a lesson from the 2013 sifter install that the floor flanges created extra work, so predrilling saved us time and frustration.

Phil and his field crew also started on the project a few days ahead of the actual shut down, so they could stage equipment and tools on the proper floors to begin the actual installation first thing on the planned day. The installation work had been prearranged so team leaders knew the sequence each task would take. All of this preplanning saved time and problems, and for good reason. As it turned out, we needed extra time because the concrete contractor ran a little long that day.

In the end, everything was completed in the time frame allowed. Plus, the customer was especially happy with the attention to detail the crew took protecting the equipment around the sifter. They were spending a lot of money for a brand new piece of equipment and expected it to look brand new when we turned it over to them.

Happy Results

By taking time to preplan, and applying our experience with the work we did for them before, TMS has another happy customer who will consider us for the next project. Thanks to Phil, Patrick and the rest of the TMS crew for making these projects a success. If you have mechanical contracting needs, contact TMS and let us make your project another one of our success stories.

Another Satisfied Mechanical Contracting Client

happy-customer-augustLast month, we told you about some of the characteristics to look for when hiring a mechanical contractor. One good way to vet a reliable firm is to hear what its customers have to say. Here’s a letter we recently received from one of our clients that shows the kind of work we strive to accomplish:

July 21, 2015

Dave,

I would like to tell you that the … Kansas City Plant has been extremely pleased in the Safety, Quality and Efficiency [sic] that Mike [McCurley] has brought to our plant. We have had Mike work on several tough jobs for us over the past month and he has been able to handle every one of them without an issue. 

In addition, Mike was a key person when we had a fire in our GK-12 kettle. Mike was working directly besides our Maintenance [sic] personnel to make sure that the fire was extinguished and did not cause any more damage to the plant.

Mike does a good job communicating and providing updates to the plant on exactly where he is on each project he is working on.

Thank you for your support.

Scott

We love to hear from our customers, especially when they let us know that the qualities we strive to deliver to our clients come shining through.

At TMS, we offer a wide variety of mechanical contracting services and solutions for each and every one of our business partners. If you’d like to hear what we can do for you, give our TMS experts a call and put us to work.

Your success … is OUR success!