An Interview with Owner Joe Taylor of Alum-Elec about his Beam Drill Line
Alum-Elec builds substation structures for electric utility companies, primarily manufacturing hot-rolled beams, channels, flat bar and aluminum extrusions. Owner Joe Taylor saw a need for a beam drill line, but determined it wasn’t an affordable option until viewing the Ocean Avenger. After purchasing the Ocean Avenger beam drill line, Joe has seen a dramatic improvement in process flow and in his bottom line.
What was your fabrication process like before you bought the Ocean Avenger beam drill line?
If we did it in-house, we would lay it all out by hand with a tape measure, scribe, combination square, and prick punch. We then would either run it through a conveyor on both sides of a drill press, or if we could punch it, we used a hydraulic hand punch. We would often run the smaller parts on an ironworker if we could, but if the parts got too big, it would take two people to run them.
How time consuming was that process?
Before we bought the Avenger beam drill line, we would spend weeks on a job detailing, measuring, and drilling. Now, with the Ocean Avenger, we can get the same type of job done in a couple of days. We would have up to five employees detailing and drilling; now, we only need one employee to do all those jobs.
Did you ever have to subcontract out work?
Yes. We subcontracted a lot of work to a couple of local businesses that had beam lines. These businesses had the big, big beam lines–the kind where the beam moves instead of the drill. That work used to be subcontracted, but now we buy the material and run it through the Avenger, which greatly reduces our costs.
When did you realize you needed to change your process?
Two to three years ago when we were fortunate enough to have several of our customers ask us to do these big jobs that would have taken us too long to do by hand. We subcontracted the work, but because we sent the work out, it wasn’t as economical for our business. When I was introduced to the Ocean Avenger, I realized we could own a beam drill line when I thought I never could.
What made you think that?
Two things: cost and size. The only beam lines I had ever seen were heavy duty–where you needed 40 to 50 feet on both sides of the drill so the beam could pass through. We didn’t have that type of space. Since the Avenger has a small footprint, we only need about 50 feet for the machine. The cost of the machine is only a third of the cost of the larger machines–making it affordable.
What advantages has the Avenger offered you?
It’s versatility. Not only can we drill I-Beams, but channels too. Channels have always been a challenge because of the tapered flange. Now, it’s no problem. The Avenger just drills right through it. We do a lot of angle work with complex holes. Before we had the Avenger beam drill line, that was a lot of time and effort. Now, it’s a piece of cake.
Not only that, but when we had to subcontract the work, we had to work with their timeline. The subcontractors did a pretty good job of squeezing in “hot jobs,” but we had to pay a premium. We don’t have to do that anymore. We work on our own timeline and save money by eliminating the subcontractor’s expense.
What has this versatility done for your business?
It’s opened up new opportunities to quote and to be competitive at this kind of work. Before the purchase, when we received a quote for a beam job, we would forward the prints to a subcontractor. Now when we receive quotes for a beam job, we have the ability to quote and fabricate in-house. We have been more aggressive in quoting jobs. Jobs are much easier to quote, and we have had greater success in being awarded these types of jobs.
What is your favorite aspect of the Avenger?
Every time I walk by the Avenger, the machine is drilling holes like a mad man. Seriously! We built some large lattice structures out of angle last winter; they were 6 x 6 x ½” angle. One truss was 44-feet long and had a ton of holes in it. We never would have tackled that before. I mean, never. The Avenger drilled it like Swiss cheese.
Did you receive any training with the software?
Some, but I didn’t really need any. During the buying process, I watched your installation technician program a job, and it looked simple enough. I was sent a manual, and I have referenced it. I have called a couple of times to ask questions, but nothing major. I can program a large job in a couple of hours; it is just that simple.
What’s also great about the software is that it will nest parts for you. You can drill a full-length beam, saw it into many parts, and have ready-made parts.
Need beam work done? You can reach Joe Taylor at (260) 347-9362.