Howard Fouts was watching an injection press being rolled across a floor on skates for a move to another plant when one of the skates kicked out from underneath and the press rolled over, causing several thousand dollars in damage to the machine. Turns out the mover was using the wrong equipment, Fouts said.
Fouts, the maintenance manager at injection molder Jones Plastic Engineering LLC's plant in Camden, Tenn., said that incident happened at a company where he worked for about 10 years ago. But it left an impression when he had to coordinate Jones' move from Frankfort, Ky., to Camden.
"You have to remember that maybe the cheapest is not better," Fouts said.
When picking a location for a new factory, factors such as negotiating tax breaks and financing the plant are likely to be top priorities. But experts in the business of moving 300,000-pound molding machines say logistical issues need due consideration.
"I have seen times when an administrator or manager will not communicate with a maintenance person," said Susan Acuff, president of machinery movers Acuff International Inc. in Memphis, Tenn. "They may buy a site and not realize you need to do core samples because there may have been shifting of the concrete."
Concrete can look solid, but may have cracked or shifted underneath the surface and not be strong enough to support a machine, she said.
"Start with the ground outside — it's the whole path the machine has to follow," Acuff said.
Mattel Inc. repoured a concrete floor when it moved some injection molding machines around a Murray, Ky., plant, said Terry Simonson, toolroom and maintenance manager for the facility. Core samples found the floor was not strong enough, and it needed to be at least 12 inches thick, he said.
"Concrete can just explode when you move across it," Simonson said.
Mattel moved 30 machines in 30 days within that plant and kept them running, part of the movement or sale of 145 machines when Mattel consolidated the Fort Wayne, Ind., and Murray plants.
The company brought in a 10-axle, 80-wheel specialized trailer to move the presses around the plant, Simonson said.
The task of moving can require a little bit of undercover work. Acuff said she has posed as an epoxy floor saleswoman to get onto the factory floor when management wanted her to start planning for a move before it told workers.
One of the biggest challenges in moving is dealing with sabotage of molding machines, she said. If equipment does not work when it is unpacked, the movers may be blamed, she said.
Acuff said she has learned to watch for little signals: "If the operators are sad you are moving, that's a good sign. If they are smiling, they did something."
"We've had shotguns pointed in our faces from union people," she said. "It's a big deal when people lose their jobs."