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How an Overhead Cable Spooling Machine Saves Time for Cable Distributors

Cut-to-length wire and cable distributors fill orders of all sizes. For the largest of these — which compound the respooling challenge with the size and weight of reels themselves — industry-standard equipment leads to considerable efficiency losses. Overhead, shaftless cable spooling machines provide the solution. How an Overhead Cable Spooling Machine Saves Time for Cable Distributors

This new cable respooling design is typified in the Spool Winding Trolley from Solus Group. But before we describe this product’s innovative approach to industrial cable spooling, we need to explore standard cable spooling solutions to reveal their innate inefficiencies for cable distribution applications.

Standard Cable Spooling Machines

The market for take-up cable spooling machines is dominated by one of two designs: shafted and shaftless.

  • Shafted reeling technology requires operators to remove a take-up spool (usually wooden) or reel (usually steel) from storage and spear it on the machine’s reel, which affixes to the flanges to rotate the spool with a rotational motor. The reel arm lifts the reel from ground level manually (assisted by a jack) or through powered lift controls.
  • Shaftless spooling machines grasp reels with short pegs mounted on adjustable pivot arms; this eliminates the time it takes to mount them onto shafts. Other than that, they work similarly to their shafted counterparts. A motor rotates the reel attachment point, which in turn rotates the reel itself.

Take-up machines with these designs are available in roll-through, gantry configurations, or as single-sided devices that users must load and unload from the same angle of approach. Either way, these designs share the same disadvantage in preparation time: They require the operator to bring the spool or reel to the device and load it.

To understand why this can become a serious inefficiency, consider the material handling challenge of moving cable reels and spools within a facility.

Handling Cable Reels and Spools for Bulk Orders and High-Voltage Conductors

High-voltage conductors require thicker insulation; take-up reels and spools must therefore be larger than with mid- and low-voltage cable to store the same quantity in foot-length. Even with smaller, low-voltage cables, orders for large installations require the upper end of the size spectrum for spools and reels.

These larger drums pose two familiar material handling challenges: Size and weight.

For instance, take wooden spools for large cut-to-length cable orders. A standard number 18 (in the U.K.) wooden spool measures 5’11” in diameter, and weighs nearly 1,000 pounds — half a ton. Rolling an object of this weight is unsafe. To move an empty spool of this size to the respooler typically requires the use of forklifts fitted with special reel-handling attachments.

Reusable steel reels will weigh even more and require similar material handling feats to bring the loose reel to the spooling machine. If empty reels and spools are stored in racks or on A-frame pallet jacks, add in the time it takes to remove them from these systems. If they’re stacked in storage, they’re even harder to safely retrieve.

In short, before beginning to fill an order, operators must complete the following material handling tasks to safely fill an empty high-capacity spool or reel:

  • Prepare and deploy material handling equipment, such as forklifts with reel-handling attachments
  • Remove empty spools and reels from storage
  • Transport them to the respooler machine elsewhere in the facility
  • Affix spools or reels to the shaft or shaftless arms of spooling machines
  • Lift spools to allow for spin

Once the order is filled, users face the same material handling challenge in reverse — with the added weight of the product. This multi-step process can create considerable added costs in labor hours for cable distributors, but until recently, there was no alternative for filling large cable orders. Traveling cable spooling machines with overhead engagement provide that alternative.

Traveling Spool Winding Trolleys with Top-Down Engagement Rollers

Clearly, the act of transporting empty cable reels to spooling machines is inefficient. The other option is to carry the spooling machine to the reels. This inversion of the formula saves time for cable distribution staff in a number of ways:

  • Traveling respoolers like the Spool Winding Trolley from Solus Group are designed for portability. They move safely and quickly via heavy duty casters. This obviates the need to outfit forklifts with special attachments, cutting out a time-consuming step in the respooling process.
  • Empty spools and reels can be stored on Parallel Reel Payouts or A-frame jack stands, filled, and delivered as a package — all without removing or replacing reels on their stands. Delivering orders on returnable reel payouts, creating a delivered solution, provides a value-added service that online B2B e-commerce dealers can’t match, helping small and medium-sized cable distributors keep hold of their market share in an era of encroaching giants like Amazon.
  • Spool Winding Trolleys rotate reels with an overhead rim drive, which tilts down for contact with optimal pressure for most standard sizes of industrial reels, spools, and drums. Compare this to removing and replacing shafts, or even the delicate adjustments required to line shaftless connection points with the reel core perfectly. The overhead rim drive is faster.
  • Once an order is loaded onto a Parallel Reel Payout, it’s ready for shipment. Four-way fork pockets in the Parallel Reel Payout allow staff to transport the full order to the shipping area or directly into trucks via forklift — without special attachments.

In short, Spool Winding Trolleys shift the paradigm on cut-to-order cable fulfillment. They work with spools and reels of virtually any size, without any of the hassle related to shaft replacement or shaftless aiming frustration. The overhead rim drive provides quick, simple engagement while the travelling frame brings the respooler to the reel, not the other way around.

In combination with Parallel Reel Payouts, which provide multi-compartment reels for orders of different conductors on a single unit, the Spool Winding Trolley represents a value-added method of fulfillment and delivery that will increase market share for its users. In addition to these advantages, Solus Group’s latest models of Spool Winding Trolleys also introduce Industry 4.0 efficiency to the cut-to-length cable distribution industry.

Cable Spooling Machines and IIoT

The SWT-IIoT model of Spool Winding Trolleys ships with a cloud software package that provides for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) functionality. Operators access these orders through the attached touchscreen human-machine interface (HMI).

A cable length-counter with a digital display provides exact measurement for flawless order fulfillment, while eStop allows users to shut down the unit digitally. The IIoT software logs each use of eStop. This connectivity gives managers unprecedented productivity monitoring and prevents unauthorized use. Along with external, cloud-based IIoT analytics systems, the length-counter allows users to track inventory payout in real time. And customized reporting gives decision-makers the intelligence they need to continually improve operations.

While the old order of cable spooling machines certainly get the job done, cutting edge IIoT functionality and an innovative, top-down engagement design make Spool Winding Trolleys from Solus Group the ideal choice for cut-to-length cable order fulfillment — especially in the context of a delivered solution. Learn more about IIoT solutions in the wire and cable distribution industry by calling Solus Group at 314-696-0200.