Loading Spouts in Ash Grove Cement Plant

“A Load Off the Mind” World Cement Article – September 2015

Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Ash Grove Cement Company is the fifth largest cement manufacturer in North America and the largest US‐owned cement company. Established in 1882 as the Ash Grove White Lime Association in Ash Grove, Missouri, Ash Grove began manufacturing cement in Chanute, Kansas, in 1908. The current manufacturing capacity of just over eight million tons originates from eight plants located in the US. WC1

Quality Portland and masonry cements produced at Ash Grove plants are used in the construction of highways, bridges, commercial and industrial complexes, single and multifamily homes, as well as other structures vital to America’s economy.

During spring 2014, staff and engineers at Ash Grove’s Chanute facility were discussing ideas about improving conditions at one of their cement truck loading stations. A new dust collector was required to help limit fine cement from escaping to the atmosphere. Additionally, it would save considerable loading time if the telescoping loading spout could be positioned from both front to back and side to side. Being able to position the spout in this manner would speed up the loading process as drivers would not waste time repositioning trucks and factory personnel would not waste time manually placing spouts into truck hatches. The fact that material could be dropped vertically into the truck without the spout being positioned at even a slight angle would offer longer life for the cones inside the spout – resulting in a cost savings from parts and maintenance.

While meeting with a national spout manufacturer, the project engineers indicated they would like to order a unit that could provide a 2’ side‐to‐side travel and a 4’ front‐to‐back travel. The manufacturer indicated that because of height limitations, they could only provide the 2’ x 2′ side to side travel. Wasted time in repositioning trucks would still be a factor.

A local sales representative, who handles the Vortex Loading Solutions line, was discussing the project with Ted Florence, a plant engineer at Chanute. He asked if Ted would mind if Vortex contacted him to ascertain if they could be of assistance with the project. Upon agreement, Vortex personnel visited the facility and assured the engineer that a low profile unit could be designed to allow for travel in both directions.

WC2“I was aware that Vortex manufactured slide gates and that we had their gates in our facility. But, I was not aware that Vortex manufactured telescoping, dustless loading spouts,” Ted Florence recalled. “The Vortex representative also made me aware of added features we would be receiving with the Vortex spout. The features included a four‐cable lifting design that provides maximum stability and more lifting torque and a 3‐piece CNC machined pulley that reduces cable wear and back lashing of cables. He said there was so little wear on the cables that Vortex offers a 10‐year warranty on the cables themselves. Our maintenance group liked the sound of that.”

Ash Grove personnel decided to order the Vortex unit and it was shipped in March of 2015. “Adam Schrage at Vortex Loading Solutions was very helpful with the project’s layout and design prior to delivery of the equipment. He provided 3D CAD drawings and we engaged in some long phone conversations before and during installation.” The horizontal dimensions of the unit created some adventures during the installation process as equipment, power, and communication cables were moved and relocated. “Adam made a personal trip out to our facility following installation. His support was very much appreciated.”

“We have already saved many labor hours since the Vortex spout was installed,” said Ted. “Trucks no longer have to relocate. Personnel no longer have to leave the loading control area to grab a broomstick and push the spout in place when the loading hatch is not properly positioned. It is a much more efficient operation.”

“We continue to ‘tweek’ the project and will be adding additional vibrators and an automated dust collector damper to the unit to make the load out area even cleaner. It’s amazing for me to see truck drivers waiting in a longer line just to use the loadout area that contains the new equipment!”