Custom-Engineered Kiln Access Ramps Increase Productivity and Safety

By Heather Harding

Purchasing specialty equipment is often a difficult decision. Even in a good economy, plant managers have to keep a close eye on the bottom line. Kiln access ramps are an important part of safe, efficient kiln maintenance. They have a tremendous impact on both productivity and safety. Producing one in-house may seem cost efficient but poor design and lengthy installation often end up costing more in the long run. Partnering with a specialized manufacturer offers added benefits that result in a better return on investment. 

Original equipment manufacturers offer custom-engineered designs, easy installation, and service options that in-house engineers can’t match. So, when weighing outside manufacturers against the cost of self-producing, keep these things in mind.

Custom-Made Design Features

One of the biggest benefits of working with an original equipment manufacturer is the quality and experience they bring to the project. Each burn floor, cooler and kiln present unique obstacles. Because of this, each access ramp should be specially designed to ensure proper fit for optimum efficiency, portability, and safety. Original equipment manufacturers have worked with hundreds of customers to solve specific challenges and, in partnering with them, managers can tap into that knowledge and success to find the custom-made designs, building materials, and specialized solutions for their unique needs. 

Kiln access ramps are an important part of safe, efficient kiln maintenance and have a tremendous impact on both productivity and safety. Choosing the right partner for a custom ramp that fits your unique site offers added benefits that result in a better return on investment.

This individualized approach is the first and perhaps most important factor managers should consider when partnering with a specialized manufacturer. No one knows their facility better than an in-house engineer, and in many cases, this is the argument for producing an access ramp onsite. While not all manufacturers offer custom-made designs from a certified engineer, the custom approach far exceeds relying on an in-house engineer. Working with a manufacturer whose engineers review each burn floor, cooler and kiln for a custom design ensures safety and efficiency unmatched by in-house options. But it’s critical to ask the right questions and ensure the custom approach. Off-the-shelf ramps might be quicker to fabricate, but they fail to address the individual challenges of each facility. From approach angle to threshold height, custom-made access ramps are engineered to fit the specific parameters of the project with precision and forethought that increases maintenance productivity and safety. 

Each burn floor, cooler and kiln present unique obstacles. Working with a manufacturer whose engineers review each burn floor, cooler and kiln for a custom design ensures safety and efficiency unmatched by in-house options.

A custom design is only one consideration. Manufacturing materials are also important for increased efficiency, portability, and safety. Specialized manufacturers have access to unique materials that make their ramps lighter and safer than steel – the material used by most in-house engineers for do-it-yourself ramps. Although steel ramps are strong, they’re also very heavy, requiring additional time and equipment to erect. Industry-leading manufacturers incorporate high-strength 6061 T6 aluminum, which makes the ramp as strong and durable as steel but at half the weight. Ramps constructed from this material will support as much as 15,000 pounds live load and offer a 3:1 safety factor. 

To further ensure safety, many custom-engineered ramps also incorporate standard safety features, such as curbs and fall guards, to protect workers as equipment moves across the ramp. Some original equipment manufacturers also offer accessories like safety cages, personnel tunnels and accessories that integrate seamlessly with their ramp designs to protect workers on the bridge section of the ramp from castable falling from the hood. These are all part of a catalogue of specialized solutions developed over hundreds of builds that allow custom manufacturers to create a ramp system for any site. 

In addition to safety features, some manufacturers offer solutions that minimize site damage, like articulated landing feet that ensure the ramp is always sitting properly in the kiln. Others increase productivity, like outrigger matting support to make ramps compatible with third-party demolition equipment. Partnering with an original equipment manufacturer gives customers access to features and options that result in a customized access solution for increased safety and efficiency.

Ease of Installation

Another important benefit realized with a specialized manufacturer is easier and safer installation. The combination of lighter materials and more experience results in ramps that can be assembled in a few hours with limited equipment. 

Industry-leading manufacturers incorporate high-strength 6061 T6 aluminum, which makes the ramp as strong and durable as steel but at half the weight. Ramps constructed from this material will support as much as 15,000 pounds live load and offer a 3:1 safety factor.

Most facilities that choose to create their own kiln access ramps end up with heavy steel behemoths that get the job done but are difficult to assemble. These complex systems require extra equipment, like a hoist system, more manpower and extensive assembly times – sometimes up to 12 hours – to be safely installed, quickly eating up any savings from in-house design and fabrication. 

Custom manufacturers, on the other hand, use their experience to design ramps that will make installation safe and efficient. By using lightweight aluminum and a modular design, these ramps can be assembled in as little as 90 minutes, depending on ramp length and burn floor configuration. That’s up to 80 percent less time than most alterative aftermarket or self-built ramps. Items such as lifting lugs are engineered into the plans, as well, and are built into the finished ramp to make installation as fast and easy as possible. Most manufactured ramp assemblies are easily maneuvered by basic equipment like a forklift and don’t require a hoist system. And when maintenance is complete, the modular system is quickly disassembled and easily stored until the following year. 

Sales and Service

Perhaps the biggest benefit of partnering with a specialized manufacturer, however, is the customized care you get from a dedicated sales and service department over the life of the ramp. 

To further ensure safety, many custom-engineered ramps also incorporate standard safety features, such as curbs and fall guards, to protect workers as equipment moves across the ramp.

Experience means a lot when it comes to design features and ease of installation, but it is also an important factor of customer service. When a do-it-yourself ramp falters, diagnosing the problem eats away at valuable time. Working with an original equipment manufacturer means having a partner to keep downtime to a minimum. From planning to installation, a professional manufacturer is able to think of all little things that could inhibit efficiency. Experts are available to answer questions and are better prepared to handle hiccups that might slow down maintenance. And when things don’t go to plan, extensive experience allows them to quickly offer solutions to keep the project on schedule.

Custom manufacturers use their experience to design ramps that will make installation safe and efficient. By using lightweight aluminum and a modular design, these ramps can be assembled in as little as 90 minutes depending on ramp length and burn floor configuration.

Partnering with a specialized manufacturer also provides access to after-sales service. Many manufactures make themselves available for ramp inspections for several years. Custom manufactured ramps are also continuously tested to maintain industry safety ratings. If an issue is discovered, manufacturers will work with customers to fix defects. Choosing a specialized manufacturer also means customers will have access to spare parts, should a component be misplaced or damaged during storage. Even though each design is custom made, a specialized manufacturer will keep designs on hand and can easily remake the necessary component. 

While building a kiln access ramp in-house might seem cost effective at first, the benefits of partnering with a specialized ramp manufacturer can quickly add up to a better investment.

Optimize ROI

While building a kiln access ramp in house might seem cost-effective at first, the benefits of partnering with a specialized ramp manufacturer can quickly add up to a better investment. Kiln access ramps are a necessity for safe kiln maintenance. Good design and easy assembly are vital to limit downtime and increase maintenance productivity. Year after year, a custom-engineered ramp system allows maintenance crews to get the job done safely and efficiently, ramping up productivity and optimizing ROI.   

This feature appeared in the November issues of the ACP Magazines:

California Builder & Engineer, Construction, Construction Digest, Construction News, Constructioneer, Dixie Contractor, Michigan Contractor & Builder, Midwest Contractor, New England Construction, Pacific Builder & Engineer, Rocky Mountain Construction, Texas Contractor,
Western Builder

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