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The Vertical Load Tester

Posted on December 16, 2009


Marcal Wire Rope & Rigging and AJT/ Robert’s Testing introduce the Vertical Load Tester.

Risk is a natural predisposition to any business.  Ask any icon and you will hear stories of decisive moments of risk that transformed their company.  Sam Walton turned a 2nd rate store in tiny Newport, Arkansas into the premiere discount retailer by creating a new business model based on offering low prices.  Bill Gates revolutionized the computer world when he dropped out of Harvard to create personal computers.  Businesses simply do not arrive at success by waiting for their turn.  They do so by taking on and managing risk.  After all, an entrepreneur is one who is willing to see the value of a good idea but the success only comes when he has the courage to make those ideas a reality.
In our field, amongst industry standards and growing demands for certified durability, rigging shops and manufacturers are continuously seeking to offer better, safer and stronger products.  During a down economy, it would seem understandable to simply tread water and wait for business to get better.  A large investment into a new product may be – for lack of a better word – risky.
Two years ago, Tom Miller did just that.  His company, Marcal Rope and Rigging, like many rigging shops, tested their fabricated lifting devices through the usual horizontal methods.  He continuously ran into issues while testing his spreader bars and lifting beams.  “After the fabrication of a device, we would either send the device out to another testing facility for testing – after which it would normally be returned damaged in some way – or we would spend 4-6 hours stacking steel weights, rent a crane for the lift and or build an additional device just for the testing process”, Miller stated.  “From start to finish, the entire process was horribly inefficient.”
Since 1970, Marcal Rope and Rigging has been a leader in rigging and lifting products.  With four separate fabrication and in-house testing facilities – Alton, IL, St. Louis, MO, Springfield, MO and Olmsted, IL, Marcal represents many of the top suppliers for forged hardware, blocks, cable clamps, cordage, webbing and hydraulic tools and equipment.
Miller sat down with Joe Roberts of AJT/Roberts Testing and general manager, William Westbrook, a Certified Fluid Power Hydraulic Specialist, to explore his ideas for creating a new test bed that would avoid the problems encountered time and again with the current equipment.  Westbrook saw the problem as such – “when you have to build an additional apparatus to test the beams and bars and can’t accurately support the beams and bars, only a portion actually ends up being supported, and when you pull across a horizontal plane – the beams naturally become scratched or damaged.”  The new concept was to build a test bed that would protect the product, reduce the man-hours and save the customer money.
Over the next two years, Miller worked tirelessly with Roberts, Westbrook and the AJT/Roberts team including owner, Peter Gordon, to design, engineer and perfect what was to become the Vertical Load Tester (VLT). The VLT represents one of nearly 10 new machines that AJT/Roberts Testing has helped create since joining together over a year ago.
After several prototypes, the patent pending VLT is capable of testing spreader bars with simulated angles, lifting beams and slings.  It is calibrated to an ASTM-E4 Spec.  It can test any product but is specifically created for beams and bars.  The VLT has twin cylinder towers that roll horizontally (by the power of one individual), has rolling lower carriages, and is operated easily by one or two personnel.  The total machine weighs 45,000lbs and has a 500,000lb capacity.   The VLT was designed with a 10 foot high by 6 foot wide area of useful space.
As the distance between manufacturer and distributor grows along with the tighter standard demands of OSHA, companies face a dilemma with costs and equipment damages when it comes to testing.  Miller has two goals with the new VLT.  First, he wants to offer a better more complete service to his current customer base.  In the past, to test certain lifting beams or spreader bars, you had to add a few days to the process to account for crane scheduling or freight.  Now he can offer quick, same day turnaround, saving both time and resources.  Second, Marcal intends to reach out to other rigging shops that require a safer and more efficient way to load test their fabricated devices.  “I hated the fact that we were losing sales because of the inefficient ways we had to load-test our fabricated devices.  Now, with the advent of our vertical load tester, those sales are within our reach.” says Tom Miller.
Marcal Rope and Rigging is just now introducing the VLT to the industry as of October, 2009, and sees a big future for this product.  “With the many demands for product safety, it is our job to ensure that the right equipment is out there to handle the demand for quality performance” Miller explained, who also recently added a mechanical engineer for design and increased other staff levels and experience to coincide with a more technically advanced product offering.  As Miller sees it, “we had worked tirelessly on the VLT and it was a risk worth taking.  We believe that our current and future customers will see the value in our new machine – which will go directly to their bottom line.”