Logistics for Curved HSS12 x 12’s

For any project requiring curved steel there are challenges and concerns. As the scope of a project requires greater amounts of curved steel, the challenges are multiplied. Roller/benders providing curved steel for larger construction projects have additional concerns regarding incoming material and its storage. The material may be purchased by the roller/bender, either from a service center or directly from a mill. Material may also be supplied by the customer.  There are numerous challenges regarding the scheduling of inbound material, unloading, storing, curving/bending, and shipping of the material that has been curved.

Chicago Metal Rolled Products was logistically challenged the past winter (2013/2014) on a large project which required 210 pieces of HSS 12 x 12 square tube to be curved for the roof trusses for the University of North Dakota Athletics High Performance Center in Grand Forks, ND .  The incoming material included 496 tons of HSS 12 x 12 x 3/8, 1/2  and 5/8 wall tubing, and 13 tons of W12 x 40 beams. The tubes varied in length from 58ft to 70ft long and the beams were 70ft long. This material was being delivered to our Chicago, IL facility.  The inbound material would need to be scheduled in such a manner that once received, the tubes could be curved, marked, trimmed and ready to ship in a relatively short period of time, minimizing the storage of both straight and curved tubes.  Once the tubes were curved to the required radii, the ideal situation was for the curved steel to be shipped as soon as possible because curved material requires more floor space than straight material.

This required communication and coordination between the bender/roller and the steel fabricator who was responsible for the shipping of the curved material to Fargo, ND. Complicating an already challenging logistical situation is the fact that the 25 truckloads of tubes were due to be delivered starting in January 2014.

The 2013/2014 winter was one of Chicago’s coldest and snowiest winters on record. As a lifelong Chicago resident, I did not need the National Weather Service to tell me something that was obvious, but since 1884 there have been 3 years of recorded snowfall in Chicago of +80 inches. This winter the recorded snowfall for Chicago was 82.0 inches (3rd all time highest). Not only was there a lot of snow by Chicago standards whose average annual snowfall is 38 inches, but it was the coldest winter on record with a 4 month average (December – March) of 22 degrees, and with 26 days of zero degree and below recorded temperatures–another record.

Shipping Curved Tubing During the Winter of 2013-2014

The tubes were shipped mill-direct to Chicago Metal Rolled Products. The tubes were unloaded and stored indoors. The first truckload of tube was delivered 01/13/14. Upon receipt of notification to proceed from the steel fabricator, the tubes were curved to the specified radii, marked, trimmed and bundled for shipment. The steel fabricator was responsible for the trucking of the curved tubes from Chicago, IL to their plant in Fargo, ND. This was yet another challenge, shipping 21 truckloads of curved tube and beam from Chicago, IL to Fargo, ND in the heart of winter. The fabricator received advance notice from the bender/roller regarding curved tubes being ready for shipment. The first truckload of straight tubes was received 01/13/14, and the last truckload of curved tubes was shipped 03/05/14. Over 500 tons of material was processed in less than 2 months, during one of Chicago’s snowiest and cold winters.

Truss with Curved Steel Sections for the University of North Dakota

To say that everything went as planned would not be accurate. However, careful planning and constant communication between all parties minimized any logistical impact. The success of this project is a testimony to the great job of communication by all parties involved: the steel fabricator, the tube supplier, the tube mill, the bender/roller,and the transportation company.


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