The timing of the program could not have been better for the owners of the Louisiana Mid-Stream One (LMO), a unique barge-mounted conveying system located on the Mississippi River near New Orleans. Working in tandem with a separate barge-mounted unloader, coal from a barge is directly fed into the receiving hoppers of the LMO. After the coal is combined, it travels up a series of conveyors to a retractable loading boom that feeds an ocean-going export vessel.

The LMO, a brand new rig, was scheduled to start loading vessels in early September 2011. But, during the final test prior to the first load out, a catastrophic failure of one of the three gearboxes on the conveyor system shut the rig down. Company representative Andy Matherne said they already had vessels booked in anticipation of the LMO start-up, and every day they couldn’t load coal was going to cost his company a great deal of money.

“We are allowed a certain amount of time to load a vessel, but once we go beyond that, we have to pay a penalty,” said Matherne. “Typically it’s about $20,000 per day, but in this particular circumstance, with so many vessels on anchor waiting to come in, we were sitting on $50,000 a day. Obviously the longer it took for us to get running, the more money it was going to cost us.”

The situation was frustrating to the LMO team because, according to Matherne, they couldn’t get the kind of help they needed from the gearbox manufacturer. With a $50,000 a day penalty hanging over their head, they could not afford to wait eight to 10 weeks for a replacement. Matherne says that’s when they decided to call Jim McLain, co-owner of Allied Bearing & Supply.

“I have had a long relationship with Jim, and he has provided equipment and expertise for us on many other projects,” said Matherne. “When it comes to conveying equipment and gearboxes, Jim knows more about this kind of equipment than anyone else I know. We were confident that if anyone could help us out, it was Jim.”

McLain said he received an email with a photo of the failed gearbox asking if he could help on Sunday, August 28, 2011. After getting more details on Monday, he believed he could find a gearbox by taking advantage of the new MagnaGear quick-ship program. Not only did he find the right size MagnaGear to replace the failed gearbox, but he also found two more units in case LMO wanted to change out the other units on the rig. On Tuesday, he presented the solution to the LMO team.

“By Wednesday, we got the order for all three MagnaGear reducers because the customer didn’t want to take any more chances with gearboxes,” said McLain. “I know the team jumped through hoops at the Dodge gear plant to get couplings rebored and get additional shaft fans, but everything showed up at the LMO site on Saturday. With a lot of work behind the scenes, we were able to help a customer get out of a very bad situation.”

Not only did they get the reducers in just a couple of days, but McLain said they actually got a superior product that’s much better suited for this conveyor application. He said Dodge gearing is known for reliability, and because of its power-dense design, the MagnaGear offers more power in a smaller package.

“The MagnaGear reducers provide the output torque twice of the boxes they replaced,” said McLain. “Plus, because it’s available in a right-angle configuration, it was a perfect fit for this conveyor design. These reducers are built for tough environments, and they are going to last for a very long time.”

Matherne gives McLain the credit for quickly finding the solution that ended up saving the company a great deal of money. For his part, McLain said it’s this kind of experience that really makes him proud to be a Dodge distributor.

“You look across the Dodge product line, and you see the quality and a company that tries to do more with products, not less,” said McLain. “This experience has also shown me the capability of the company and the ‘can do’ attitude of the people behind the products. There were a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot of extra work to get these gearboxes delivered to the customer this quickly, and it speaks very highly of all of the people who were involved.”