Case Study: Efficient Grain Loading at the Foundation of Nation's Bread Supply

Michigan design and engineering firm turns to NORD Drivesystems for the gear motors that help keep the world fed and its cargo moving.

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Imagine filling a football stadium with wheat to a depth of 9.95 feet. That’s 448,000 cubic feet, or nearly 360,000 bushels with a combined weight of 13,440 tons, enough grain to make 19,550,000 loaves of bread. Now imagine completing this gargantuan vessel loading task of 360,000 bushels per hour.

That’s the rate at which countless grain cargo ships are loaded and unloaded daily in terminals across the United States and Canada. Jim McCready has visited many of them. In fact, such immense velocities would not be possible were it not for the work of companies like his. McCready is president and owner of JPM Inc. of northern Michigan, a company specializing in project management and design of advanced product handling and dust-free loading systems in the ILS/Innovative Loading Systems Division.

He has help. Just across town in Kinross, MI in the Upper Peninsula on a decommissioned SAC bomber base sits Integrated Loading Systems (ILS) / KFM, a machine shop and fabricating company that McCready joins with business partner Chuck Esson/KFM and Swan Engineering. It’s Chuck and his team who are responsible for bringing McCready’s designs to life, cutting, welding, and assembling the different components used in JPM/ILS systems.

Gearing Up

The most important components and heart of the system comes from NORD Drivesystems, a leading provider of complete, innovative drive solutions. These special double-drum drive winch systems are the “heart, brains, and brawn” of these telescoping dust-free loading devices. As McCready explains, he’s been using the company’s gear motors and helical bevel reducers since 2006, and for good reason. “I’ve completed upwards of 30 projects with NORD products and have never had a problem.” He laughs. “Actually, there was that one time when a new operator went crazy with the joystick and overheated the brake on one of the units, but that wasn't NORD's fault."

The joystick (remote operator) in question is what’s used to raise, lower, and position the articulating shuttle-type loaders and telescoping grain discharge units that McCready incorporates into many of his systems. As noted earlier, these systems are responsible for moving grain into the high-capacity Panamax ships and grain cargo vessels that arrive each day for loading at ports in Destrehan, LA, Vancouver, BC, and other locations across the U.S. and overseas. The fact that McCready’s designs provide unfailing uptime is what has helped to make JPM/ILS a leader in this industry.

73002 Vortex Loading Spout Img 1736NORD"The demurrage fees for these vessels are extremely high and there simply can't be any unplanned downtime," he says. "I'm happy to say that our systems have in many cases provided round-the-clock operation at maximum loading rates for many years—in fact, one well-known facility recently reported that we've met their productivity baseline for reliability and maintenance since the installation of a system six years ago at Destrehan, LA. They’re very pleased”. Another system in Vancouver, BC, G-3 project has been in operation for over 4 years.

Doubling Down

McCready is quick to point out the NORD Drivesystems gear motors he uses take much of the credit. In the example just given, each unit is attached to a compact, specially-designed NORD/ILS double-drum drive with integrated braking, one capable of routinely lifting more than 18,000 lbs., 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with 5:1 winch safety factors making them the ”heart, brains, and brawn” of the loading system.

“Our latest design provides a much more efficient and higher grain loading rate than the legacy system they were using," he says. "It also does a much better job at dust retention and control. This is a critical safety and health consideration, and minimizing it also helps further reduce maintenance costs. Like I said, three of these units can fill a football field to about halfway up the goalpost in less than an hour. They move a lot of material quickly and efficiently.”

Grain commerce is an integral part of the U.S. economy, but so is cement, slag, coal, soda ash, clay, and other bulk commodities that are using these NORD/ILS vessel loading systems. All must be moved into and out of cargo ships quickly, safely, and above all, dependably. McCready has designed and delivered material handling systems for each of these products and many more. In each case, he has turned to NORD Drivesystems as the gear motor provider of choice, and done so for nearly four decades.

Says McCready, “Everything we do here must comply with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) B30.7 winch specifications, which are very detailed and wide-ranging. I attribute much of our ability to meet these specs to NORD's high-quality gear motors and the technical support they've given me over the years. Every one of our systems has to operate without fail, and unless you have the right drive unit, nothing works. That's a big part of why all of our high-capacity vessel loading projects over the past 17 years have been a win for us and our customers."

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