Exciting changes are on the horizon for Akkerman Inc. In mid-August the underground construction equipment manufacturer took delivery of a new Okuma VTR-350A Double Column Turning Center – the third of its kind to arrive on U.S. soil.
Machine installation has been ongoing since mid-August, representing the final but shortest phase of the process. Most of the work has been occurring behind the scenes since last fall, precisely 6 ft below the surface of the plant floor. The necessity for this type of machining center had been considered for many years. A large volume of complex parts progress through the machining department, which can cause a bottleneck in production. This was balanced by implementing a second shift, but an opportunity for improvement still existed.
Six months ago, Akkerman consulted with an engineering firm to survey the production floor and to design a foundation for the nearly 100,000-lb machine. From this time until early Summer 2019, relocation of the existing machining center, rerouting of heating and electrical lines, excavation of a 40-ft by 40-ft hole in the shop floor and installation of a foundation and pit took place. The height of the machine allowed Akkerman to make some choices about machine positioning. Akkerman opted to mount the machine in a pit below the shop floor for ease of access to the table and to eliminate the risk of interference with overhead bridge cranes.
At the end of August, seven truckloads containing all the intricate pieces that constitute the complete assembly arrived for installation, along with an installation crew and Okuma technicians. Machine installation took six weeks.
This new Double Column Turning Center is designed for high rigidity, stable accuracy, and process-intensive machining of big-bore and tall work pieces. The machine can turn up to 138-in. in diameter. But the benefits do not stop here.
In simplistic terms, previously, when Akkerman needed to machine a large intricate part, it was turned to size, then transferred to an indexing table for milling and hole drilling then moved to the shop floor for manual drilling of horizontal holes at a 90-degree angle on the exterior. The new machining center will consolidate all of these steps with just one program setup, increasing accuracy and throughput of parts done carefully and safely.
The uniqueness of this acquisition also allows Akkerman to continue innovating for larger diameter machines and positions it as a premier manufacturer in its industry. Justin Akkerman, operations manager, states, “As Akkerman equipment designs move into new realms of industry demands, this machining center enables us to build larger and more complex designs to get us there. It has an anticipated life expectancy of 30 years, and we’re confident it will prove to be a worthwhile investment.”
The Okuma replaces Akkerman’s old tried-and-true Cincinnati-Hypro vertical turning lathe, first installed in 1986, and manufactured in 1940. It served the company well, but its workload will be significantly reduced. Once the new Okuma is in operation, Akkerman staff will also receive several weeks of onsite technician support. The first build on the new equipment will be a periphery drive SL6OP MTBM.
A Little Help from Friends
Akkerman believes in the value of hiring local contractors and service providers. The company would like to recognize the following vendors who assisted us with this endeavor:
- American Engineering Testing Inc., Rochester, MN, Geotechnical Services
- City Concrete Co., Austin, MN, Concrete Services
- Cullinan Rigging & Erecting, Ramsey, MN, Rigging
- Fox Electric Company, Austin, MN, Electrical Services
- Harty Mechanical Inc., Austin, MN, Mechanical Services
- Husemoller Excavating, Austin, MN, Earthwork
- Jones, Haugh & Smith, Albert Lea, MN, Foundation Design and Surveying
- Morris Midwest, Waukesha, WI, Installation
- The Concrete Cutter LLC, Le Sueur, MN, and Regional Concrete Cutting Inc., Rochester, MN, Concrete Cutting