Chandler Equipment manufactures and supplies truck components for transport tanks, vacuum trucks and frac tanks used in numerous industries, including oil and gas, agriculture, industrial waste and transportation.
The Springdale, Ark.-based company’s state-of-the-art facility allows it to provide quick turnaround time on orders of manufactured components for customers around the globe, without compromising quality and value. It relies mostly on robotic MIG welding to complete customers’ mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum parts. Welding automation allows Chandler to get high-quality finished products out the door faster, which also offers the benefit of being a relatively clean process that generates low levels of weld fumes.
But even low weld fume levels have to be dealt with, so two and a half years ago, Chandler invested in two Miller Filtair centralized fume extraction systems to further improve the work environment in the welding cells and on the shop floor.
The Filtair systems have not only greatly reduced weld fumes for Chandler, but the company continues to enjoy additional and unexpected benefits with regard to maintenance and cleaning.
“The biggest surprise for me is that we haven’t had to change the filters,” says Spencer Reed, assistant shop foreman at Chandler. “Once a month, we check to make sure the filters still look alright, but other than that, they clean themselves. They’ve been running every day since we installed the extraction systems, and they work just as well as they did when we installed them.”
The Filtair systems’ ease of use and low maintenance requirements continue to be an added bonus for Chandler – helping reduce downtime and costs related to maintenance and cleaning.
“We don’t even think about the systems half the time,” says Donnie Moore, production shop manager. “We take it for granted now that we don’t have to do much maintenance at all.”
A fume extraction decision
Before installing the centralized fume extraction systems, Chandler was using exhaust fans in an effort to circulate and remove fumes generated during the welding process, but the company wasn’t happy with the results. In addition, the exhaust fans were cumbersome, and wherever they were located, work had to be done around them.
Also, cold weather made the fume situation worse because employees didn’t like to open the ventilation system and let cold air into the building.
“By the end of the day, we could still see a haze of fog and fumes in the air. We felt like we had to do something,” says Jeff Chandler, president. “I started out as a welder in this business, and so air quality is very important to me for many reasons.”
After deciding fume extraction would be the best way to remove the greatest amount of fumes and particulates from the welding cells, the company considered several systems before choosing the Filtair systems.
“We went with the Miller systems because we felt they knew what they were doing,” Chandler says. “The equipment is well-engineered and all of the details that we wanted to be taken care of were fulfilled.”
Chandler was able to install the Filtair systems with minimal changes to the ductwork, which is especially important in operations using robotic welding because they often need to move the cells around from place to place based on the application.
“We’re able to adapt that ducting right away,” Chandler says. “The system we have allows us to uncouple the exhaust and couple it in different areas. It comes in sections, so we are able to do a lot of moving around if we need to. It’s quite versatile. The cost is minimal as far as moving the sections of ductwork around.”
Improved work environment
The difference in air quality at Chandler was immediate.
“We installed two systems, and we couldn’t believe the results,” Chandler says. “By using the Filtair, we ended up with clean air. We could see clearly from one end of the building to the other.”
Welders at Chandler appreciate the more comfortable work environment they are exposed to since the new Filtair systems were installed.
“It’s night and day. It never gets smoky in here at all,” Reed says. “Normally, in an enclosed shop with 19 to 20 welders going, it gets smoky no matter what. The Filtair systems have taken care of all of it. We haven’t had any problems with breathing in fumes since we got them.”
In addition to improved air quality, employees also notice the quiet operation of the Filtair systems, which helps reduce noise levels in the shop.
“With a lot of other ventilation systems, you can’t hear over them at all,” Reed says. “With these, you hear them when they first start up, but after that you don’t really notice them. One is running right now, and we’re standing next to it talking.”
Chandler has also been able to maintain a more consistent temperature in its building since the Filtair systems were installed. In the winter, Chandler can recirculate the warm air that’s already in the building.
“We find ourselves with less need of natural gas because we can take the already heated air in the building and recirculate it through the filtration system,” Chandler says. “It uses a lot less natural gas, which impacts our heating and cooling bills – to the positive.”
Easy to maintain and use
The low maintenance requirements of the Filtair systems also help Chandler’s employees save time. The company is still surprised that the filters in the Filtair units have lasted for so long, and the built-in design that helps them achieve that extended filter life is appreciated.
Chandler has the units set to automatically self-clean while in operation and every time they are shut off. Compressed air is used to deliver a focused reversed pulse of air to the filters, and the surface-loaded weld fume particulate is removed from the filters and deposited in the storage/disposal bin.
A filter pressure gauge also indicates when pressure drop increases and the filter needs to be cleaned. When the pressure goes up, it’s a sign the filters are getting loaded and creating more resistance to pull air through them.
“The control board is very easy to set and program. You set your parameters in for cleaning – your highs and lows,” Moore says.
Chandler employees spend less time on maintenance with the fume extraction systems, and they also spend less time cleaning the shop in general, which helps improve productivity. When the Filtair systems were installed, the company did a deep cleaning of the inside of the building, including the rafters. The dust and residue buildup has been minimal since then.
“There’s a lot less cleaning in the shop,” Moore says. “The systems are pulling all of that dust into where we don’t have to clean the shop equipment and the floors like we had to in the past.”
And because the finished products have less residue and dust on them thanks to improved fume extraction, it has saved time in post-weld cleaning of the products for Chandler.
The more comfortable work environment for the welders in terms of air quality and reduced noise also has helped boost employee productivity, and it plays a role in attracting and retaining skilled employees for Chandler. “It affects everything, like a train right on down the line,” Chandler says.
“We don’t disrupt the work that we’re doing by having fume and exhaust challenges. It’s a lot happier environment,” Chandler continues. “Our employees are a lot more productive. A happier employee is a more productive employee.”
Solution makes a difference
Chandler has been able to improve the work environment for employees with the Filtair systems, resulting in increased productivity and improved quality of the finished products.
On top of that, the Filtair systems offer a small footprint, improved air quality and reduced noise, and they require low maintenance and cleaning.
“Hands down, Filtair is one of the finest systems I’ve ever had,” Chandler says. “After all the years of having a slight haze of fumes in the air, we are actually able to see a lot better after installing the Filtair systems. It makes a huge difference in the work environment.”