For a steel plant, a shutdown can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. But that was the threat engineers at a Detroit plant faced when they had to replace aging valve actuators located right in the middle of their production process.
That’s when Jim Ballantyne stepped in. He’s Macomb’s very own MacGyver — with a toolbox.
Not only does Jim share the TV hero’s Scottish heritage, but he also has a famous knack for thinking outside the box and developing creative solutions for tough challenges. The steel plant situation may not have been as dire as the nuclear meltdowns that MacGyver sometimes faced, but it was critically important to our customer.
Essential automation in inconvenient locations
Because of this customer’s unique situation, the actuators were obsolete but had to be replaced in-situ to avoid a shutdown.
Although The Macomb Group had replacements off the shelf, the plant couldn’t halt production to remove the old actuators, redesign the brackets that fixed them to the valves, and install the new actuators. Multiple critical dimensions simply couldn’t change, like the locations of the pipelines and how far the actuators stick out from the bracket.
“Jim went out with our salesman and figured out a way to mount our actuators without any other changes,” explains John Mazzie, Inside Sales Manager with The Macomb Instrument Group. “He came up with a bracket design that would adapt to their existing bracketry, allowing our actuators to work seamlessly. We replaced all 15 of the critical actuators without interrupting the plant’s production.”
And the solution works great! “They just received the first round of these a few weeks ago,” John says. “They’re working great and they bolted right up.”
This precision solution depended on Jim’s careful measurements, inventive design, and close communication with a local machine shop to produce the bracketry and couplings.
John, who has worked with Jim for 27 years, speaks highly of his coworker’s skillset: “He’s just one of those guys who can do anything. He’s a great mechanic and he knows valve automation inside and out. He can come up with great solutions.”
His abilities proved to be highly beneficial for this customer. “In this case, being able to take measurements out in the field was critical. It worked really well, and all the machining was done correctly too,” John says. “It’s great to see when experience, creativity, and partnering with the right folks comes together; everything fits.”
Because they go back a long way, John fondly refers to Jim as “a crazy old Scotsman” but he knows, as he has demonstrated time and time again, that, just like Angus MacGyver, Jim Ballantyne knows how to turn a critical issue into a creative solution.
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