Safe and strong components: meeting and exceeding customer expectations

by Keith Loria

For almost 30 years, Dakota Equipment Manufacturing, Inc., based in Aberdeen, SD, has been serving the southwest aggregate and mining community. Developing solutions to the challenges of the mineral extraction industry and over the past six years, DEMI has grown into servicing markets throughout the entire U.S., Canada and internationally.

“I’ve been building one-off custom equipment that we ultimately try to build as a standard piece of equipment. Most of my equipment background comes from helping customers build a custom solution for their application-specific or environment-specific location,” said Tim Holmberg, president of the company. “I’ve always been known for trying to supe-up a factory piece of equipment and try to improve on it.”

It’s no wonder that Holmberg has often been likened to being the “Orange County Chopper” of gravel equipment.

DEMI builds safe and strong equipment to meet or exceed its customers’ expectations. They also handle equipment maintenance — from small-scale daily and weekly preventative maintenance plans to full-scale seasonal restorations on older, more dated or tired machinery. This includes machinery that is up-to-date in style and design but has been pushed to its maximum limit during an extreme job, or equipment requiring some serious reconditioning before beginning the next demanding project.

For instance, during one repair, DEMI removed redundant re-welded plates and installed their patented Caged Nut Liner System. This update not only established better flow rate for the machine, it also created a one person change-out solution and removed excess weight on the portable plant, which is subject to federal bridge weight laws.

“Often, because of these harsh demands, we will take to redesigning certain wear components as well as their attachment methods in order to expedite the replacement process during routine maintenance and scheduled downtime,” Holmberg said. “We also find if the process to change these normally difficult parts [is replaced] with a much easier method, the equipment operators (and their own equipment maintenance programs) will tend to stay [ahead] of these viscous wear characteristics.”

Equipment maintenance is the “make or break” aspect of any piece of equipment and whether new or used, the operation has to acknowledge specific downtime scheduling in their production in order to take the necessary and [usually] required steps listed by the manufacturer for their machines. Without setting aside this time the machine will generally make you wish that you had. Beyond equipment maintenance programs, DEMI deals in replacement parts and wear-media installation and executes equipment design and plant layout. They also do custom turnkey crushing and screening operations tailored to any specifications.

“Maintenance equipment for me is anything from the huge 200-ton lifting crane positioning a piece of equipment into an exact location — to an actual service vehicle usually fitted with some sort of extendable lifting device or crane, right down to the very basic hand tools such as wrenches, ratchets and sockets,” Holmberg said. “Then there’s the portable diesel welders we use to not only weld with, but to power electrical tools such as grinders, drills, and saws — to full-size air compressors for [powering] all our pneumatic impact tools including air blowers and even the paint gun [used] for finishing the project as if it was brought into the shop.”

Without this vast array of specialized repair equipment, the company would not be much help in getting its clients back to operating condition — the following day in most cases.

“I’ve always emphasized gear boxes and power transmissions to fit the spec of what my equipment is needed to do,” Holmberg explained. “We’ve always utilized the products that we know are stable in the industry.”

For instance, the company utilizes a lot of Dodge (Baldor-Dodge, which is now ABB) products when it comes to gearing or bearing, as it’s a staple in conveyors for most in the industry.

Naturally, there are different challenges involved in designing a plant for effective production given the different speeds, power and torques required, Holmberg explained.

“The challenges are always the changing environment for which you design a piece of equipment, and how it’s used differently. Or a customer will push the envelope — pushing faster and harder based on their workload,” he continued. “Mines stick and stay within their guidelines and operations. Sand and gravel operations — when they get busy — they try to do more, so the gear box can start to fail if worked too hard. It’s killing itself internally under those extreme working conditions.”

Moreover, maintenance needs to be considered even more so, and customers need to change out the oil and tend to the equipment on a regular basis.

Other challenges include customers who want to do things in a certain way that is not feasible, or that goes against the manufacturers recommended tolerances.

“The environment creates challenges, too,” Holmberg concluded. “Cold is very hard on running that kind of stuff and you need to make sure it’s ready to run in the winter. There are situations where they’re not designed to run in extreme cold, heat or different atmospheric conditions.”

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