Big Jobs Call for Big Tools: Heavy-Duty Equipment for Industrial Projects

Industrial 0419 Image Credit: Greenlee
Image Credit: Greenlee

Last year, I started this column to profile interesting and challenging industrial projects from the contractor’s perspective. This month, I depart from that format to cover specific tools contractors need for large industrial projects.

The basic types of electricians’ tools are routinely used in these projects, but industrial work may require heavier-duty models. Some tools and equipment specifically apply to larger, more complex industrial projects. These include electric conduit benders and bending stations, cable pullers, cable reels and cable handling equipment for larger diameter, heavier cables, and demolition hammers. Portable work lifts, generators and portable lighting also are prominent.

“Typically, larger industrial projects require more equipment for larger diameter rigid conduit, such as large stationary threading machines,” said Tim Sardis, manager of construction for Oklahoma Electric Supply Co. “In addition, when pulling larger conductors, especially medium-voltage conductors, we utilize dynamometers to measure pulling tension, tray rollers or banana sheaves to reduce pulling tension, and motorized reel stands to hold wire supplies.

“For pulling conductors through manholes, we utilize ‘elephant trunk’ cable guides. We also utilize self-loading reel trailers for larger industrial projects, since reel spools can measure over 8 feet in diameter. On certain projects, we provide a carry deck crane because it is mobile, and much of what we need to move can be managed so we do not have to call a crane service to perform the tasks.

“Safety requirements are stringent on industrial sites, so PPE items often are greater than on other jobs; however, our internal company policies ordinarily cover all situations, including industrial projects,” he said.

Heavy industrial work requires variations of tools used for smaller projects, said Nick Cole of Voss Lighting, and previously manager of construction services for Commonwealth Electric of the Midwest.

“Examples include large table benders; larger-size threading equipment, including what is referred to as a ‘hophead’ threader for 2½-inch-and-up rigid conduit; ‘power ponies’ with insertable die sets for ½- to 2-inch rigid conduits; bandsaws and ‘portabands;’ hydraulic crimpers for large size cables; specialty cable pulling equipment for straight pulls, angled pulls, pulls in manhole systems; companion or slave pullers that boost a long cable pull through manholes and duct-bank systems; dynamometers for monitoring pulling tensions and pressures on all types of power and control cables; manual and hydraulic cable bending tools for larger size cables; and specialty tooling for termination of controls and sensing cables, and high-voltage cables,” Cole said.

Industrial work often involves larger, heavier raceways, trapeze hangers in open areas for racking multiple raceways headed the same direction. Some of the cables and raceway systems are larger and heavier, and strapping is necessary.

Tools and equipment

Many suppliers of basic electrical tools also offer equipment industrial jobs. Greenlee’s product line includes electric conduit benders and programmable benders for high-volume work; pulling equipment, including models for multiple bends with offsets; cable-handling equipment; termination and crimping tools; a 30-ton shearing station; and storage containers. Other companies making heavy-duty benders and cable pullers include Current Tools, iToolco and Southwire Tools. IToolco also manufactures cable tray rollers.

Portable generators

Gasoline- and diesel-powered portable generators are available in various sizes, including large models for industrial applications. Generators with inverter technology process raw power produced by the generator and pass it through a special microprocessor to produce the stable power necessary for operating computers and other sensitive equipment in on-site field offices. Brands offering this include Generac, Honda, Kohler, Multiquip and Wacker.

Portable lighting

Portable lighting ranges from compact, battery-powered light stands to larger, towable models with onboard generators and the compact engines needed to power them. LED models have become widely available and balloon bag lights provide bright, defused light; they are often seen today on construction sites. Names in portable lighting include Generec, Genie/Terex, Honda and Multiquip.

Elevated work platforms

Most industrial construction projects require working at elevated heights, and self-propelled scissor lifts with platforms that can hold tools and equipment are an effective answer to these needs. Self-propelled bucket lifts often used for maintenance also can be used in new construction. Smaller vertical mast models lift individual workers. Telescoping boom material-handling equipment also is a common sight on industrial projects. Providers of this include Genie/Terex, JLG, Multiquip and SkyTrak.

Much of this equipment is readily available for rent from general rental centers and rental equipment specialists.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer

Jeff Griffin, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at up-front@cox.net.

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