This cable manufacturer had a safety issue that seemed impossible to solve.
The company produces the kind of gigantic copper cables used in municipal lines and to wire stadium, wrapped up in reels that can reach 10 feet high and weight up to 25,000 pounds.
Once these reels are wrapped and out on the floor, moving them is relatively safe and easy.
The problem was getting them out of the wrapping machine—an area too dangerous for any worker or material handling equipment to enter. But they had to move nonetheless.
"To get these reels out, workers were basically standing on the edge of the reels to roll them," explains Ryan Blesi, vice president of material handling at NuStar Inc. "This was a huge safety concern."
And that was the concern Blesi and his team were called in to solve.
NuStar manufactures a line of high power tuggers and pushers that are designed to handle this kind of massive job. They move cars and planes and trains, anything, Blesi says, with wheels.
But there was nothing in their product line up that could help this company get their workers off the reels. There was no product in anyone's portfolio that did anything like it.
But that wasn't an issue for NuStar.
"We don't sell generic products," explains John Adams, NuStar's vice president of sales and marketing. "We provide an engineered solution."
This, he says, is what sets his company apart in the industry, and also why this cable manufacturer came to them for a solution.
NuStar tackles every new sale with a full engineering team ready to customize a unique product to solve their clients' problems—inventing original designs and unimaginable connectors in a model that puts R&D right on the front end of the business.
"We're experts in doing quick R&D projects," Blesi says. "We put work into designing the right equipment with the proper attachment, rather than just sending a boxed product out and have them figure it out themselves."
"We want them to concentrate on their business, not ours,'" Adams adds.
These customized jobs can run through the entire product, from reconfiguring their core technologies to provide more horse power or speed, better roll or turning, to often complex attachment builds like the cable manufacturer required.
This can be a large R&D undertaking, but it can also be a lot of fun for the engineers, says Blesi, who began his career at NuStar on the engineering team.
"These are very gratifying projects in a sense," he explains. "As an engineer, you like to help people; you like to solve people's problems. That is exactly what we get to do."