At Steel Service, we’re constantly looking for ways to innovate the steel production processes to make it faster, safer, and more cost-efficient. Our new robotic assembler, the Zeman Z6 SMA (Steel Beam Assembler), code-named Pegasus, is a perfect example. The journey to acquire, assemble, and implement the Pegasus has been a long one for Steel Service, but one that’s proven to be well worth the time and effort.

Getting It Installed

The Pegasus is currently the only robotic assembler of its kind in the entire state of Mississippi, and that quality comes with a price tag of over four million euros. The Pegasus is capable of handling a wide variety of steel beams weighing up to 11,000 pounds. Handling material of that size meant a few changes at Steel Service’s production floor in Flowood had to be made.

Preparation for the Pegasus installation began with a complete concrete re-pour, making the floor under the machine over eight inches thick to reduce vibration. After getting shipped from Europe in six different containers, a dedicated crew from Austria worked to get the Pegasus up and running. Steel Service VP of Plant Operations, Doug Fiorilli, described the three-month process as “seamless.” 

From there, some of Steel Service’s most trusted employees were removed from the line to work exclusively with the Pegasus. Another Zeman crew from Europe worked with the tasked Steel Service crew during a two-week training program to get everyone up to speed with the assembler. The Pegasus can be operated with a two-man crew, one acting as the machine’s operator and the other as the runner for material.

A Rise in Production

The Zeman Z6 boasts some rather beefy stats in terms of upping production. The complexity of each project means the time to complete will always vary, but Steel Service has seen an increase in efficiency when using Pegasus of 3-to-1. Features like an integrated profile turning device are what makes this possible, allowing the Pegasus to rotate a beam 360° for continuous processing.

Software like Pro-Fit means the Pegasus isn’t just fast, but incredibly accurate. This precision has left many veterans of Steel Service particularly impressed. Production Manager, Brandon Cothran, explained, “The accuracy of the machine is really impressive. I think the accuracy of this machine will be huge for the company.” 

Of course, when an automated system is brought into a workforce, there’s always some fear of job loss, but Mr. Fiorilli stressed that was never the mindset of Steel Service when purchasing the equipment. “The Pegasus is not intended to replace people, but to subsidize the workforce. There hasn’t been a single job lost in the transition to using the robot.”

Added Safety That Comes With the Zeman Z6

Steel Service understands that adding a machine like the Zeman Z6, of course, comes with added productivity and speed, but there is equal excitement about the increase in safety as well. Mr. Cothran explained, “The less someone touches a beam, the smaller the [chance of] error.” 

Mr. Fiorilli further emphasized safety, “We want to enhance what we have. This machine makes us faster and safer. It’s all about getting fewer touches (handling of the product). More product out the door equals more value, but it also equals fewer touches. It’s a win-win in terms of efficiency and safety.”

The Future of Zeman Z6 at Steel Service

We plan to utilize the Pegasus six days a week, with scheduled shifts of nine-hours during the week and eight-hours shifts on the weekend. Our goal is to safely maximize the Pegasus’s output, with the room to increase to a ten-hour shift should a project require more output. The Pegasus is just the beginning in terms of Zeman robotic assemblers, as there are plans to add two additional machines. The Pegasus is currently working on beams and girders for the Amazon Distribution Center in Virginia.