New Fort Worth Tank Works shop features electronic technology, repair expertise
Feb 1, 2004 12:00 PM, By Mary Davis
THE NEW Fort Worth Tank Works LLC (FWTW) in Fort Worth, Texas, was conceived with the latest electronic technology in mind — and a strictly cost-saving motive, says Jim Young, facility president.
“People today are familiar with computers, so it hasn't been a problem training our people to use them in the shop,” he says. “Our goal is to eventually be paperless.”
With the four bays at the cargo tank repair facility filling up with business almost from start-up, the in-house designed-software program began paying off right away.
“We needed a system to do things like allow for a time clock,” Young says. “We wanted certain things to appear on our estimates and invoices, and we wanted it to generate specific reports. There are systems out there that can do those things for us, but they are also very costly. Inside Olsta Industries, the talent to write the program already existed, so we decided to do it ourselves.”
The company settled on Microsoft Access as the best software for their purposes. They began the design by drawing sketches on paper to represent what they needed, and then translated it to the computer screen through the program.
Each job is listed in the database and includes the trailer number, customer name, and work order number. As the job is completed, the information is entered accordingly.
“Each mechanic uses the time clock themselves to log in and out of each job,” says Young. “They also can see the work order on the screen and check off line items as they are completed. I can see that same screen in real time, so when a customer calls for status on a trailer, I know exactly where in the process the trailer is.”
Young has exclusive access to all of the data and is able to review the shop process, including estimated time required for finishing a job, status of a job, and total time taken to complete a job.
Another valuable asset of the tracking program is the ability to establish accountability. “Every minute spent on the trailer is logged, each part is accounted for, and the check off system assures us that the order is completed exactly as requested by the customer,” says Young.
In addition to data for the repairs going on in the bays, the system handles parts inventory. Keeping up with parts enhances the company's ability to track parts in the $50,000 inventory so that unnecessary orders are kept to a minimum while keeping those parts that are needed on the shelf and readily at hand.
Young points out that the only paperwork on the shop floor are the forms used when conducting steam tests, keeping a record of gas detection monitoring, and those used to document tests on trailers that are required by state and federal regulations.
The facility opened in late 2003 and includes a 5,000-square-foot cargo tank repair shop and a separate 1,780-square-foot office and terminal leasing space. FWTW, and a new sister repair facility, Island Tank Works in Memphis, Tennessee, are both affiliated with Olsta Industries, Huntsville, Texas. Local ownership is in place at each location. The Tennessee location opened in February 2004.
The approximately two-acre Fort Worth facility offers a full line of tank parts, R-stamp code repair, and testing services, including those for petroleum, chemical, dry bulk, crude oil, and vacuum trailers. Trouble shooting and repair expertise are part of the service lineup. In addition to providing tank repair services, the shop offers tractor preventive maintenance. Additional office space and parking are available for carrier terminaling activities.
“We will provide efficient service,” says Young. “Petroleum carriers often need immediate repair or testing in order to meet their customers' demands. It's important for them to get checked out and back on the road.”
Juan Ramirez, shop foreman, oversees the floor, having 24 years of tank repair experience. Three of the four mechanics hired at the new business have extensive tank trailer experience, having worked in the manufacturing side of the industry. The fourth comes to the shop with experience in suspension and brake repair.
In the shop, there are heavy-duty blowers used to force ventilation for each bay. Equipment includes a Sullivan Paltek air compressor that is linked by piping to each bay. A Miller Welding Machine is used with mechanical inert gas (MIG) for wire and tungsten inert gas (TIG) for rods, as well as plasma for cutting.
Ingersoll Rand and Dayton Impact tools also are in use.
A 7,000-gallon tank trailer parked adjacent to the shop stores water for pressure and leak testing.
A Con de Phase water/oil separator takes care of any spilled products that are captured from the compressor. The water can be removed to the sewer, and the solids are hauled off to a disposal center.
Safety plays a big role in the shop operations. Explosion preventive meters are used to measure explosive limits, as well as carbon dioxide and oxygen rates. Test are conducted before the shift begins and after the morning break, lunch, afternoon break — and after 5 pm, if work is continuing.
“It is incredibly important to check for vapors in the tanks,” Young says. “There is just no reason not to do it.”
Since petroleum and chemical trailers must be steamed out before work can begin, the repair facility uses K&K Cleaning that is nearby.
Although the shop has just begun operations, Young predicts the future will be bright, especially since the economy in general seems on the upswing.
He sees a continuing effort to build on the company's electronic infrastructure in order to enhance customer service. That, with repair expertise firmly in place, bodes well for the new business.
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