Portable Press: Case Studies

Make Holes Faster.

Our portable presses allow metal fabricators to take the press to the work, saving time and money.

Scroll down to read how Price Erecting, Marshall Erdman, McFarlane and Skyline Steel put our portable presses to work.

Case Studies

Price Erecting

For over 90 years, Price Erecting Co., Milwaukee, WI, has been home to derricks, truck cranes, heavy lifts and all the equipment that efficiently handles machinery moving, steel erecting, precast concrete erecting and heavy factory maintenance jobs. The company is also home to creative, innovative project managers and engineers who approach each situation with an attitude to finish the job safer, faster and cheaper.

A good example is the company’s work at Miller Park Baseball Stadium, home to the Milwaukee Brewers and a seven-panel radial retractable roof that keeps players and game attendees warm and dry during baseball season and other events.

Price Erecting and Miller Park came together, though not for the first time, on a project to improve the mechanics that open and close the signature stadium roof. Price Erecting was involved in much of the support work during the stadium’s construction and is involved with maintenance and operations at Miller Park today.

Since the stadium’s completion for opening day in April 2001, some operational challenges appeared within the roof system. Engineers determined that the best and simplest way to solve the challenges is to replace the two-wheel bogies (trolleys that support and move the roof panels) with four-wheel bogies. The replacements are narrower and longer to better distribute the heavy weight of the panels—that range in weight from 1800 to 2500 tons.

A major part of the renovation process is refurbishing the horizontal rails that guide the bogies around the track surrounding the stadium. A steel “wear plate” is being added to the inside of each rail. Dale Anderson, Price Erecting Millwright Superintendent and Project Manager, explains, “There are wear plates being added to the surface of the guide rails to enhance the operation of the roof driving system. Holes are punched in the existing track and the wear plates are bolted on.” Total length of the wear plate being installed is approximately 4000 linear feet.

“Better Mousetrap” Thinking

This is an area where the creative approach and “better mousetrap” way of thinking that Price Erecting is proud of came into play. The original quote for the stadium contractors included time and tooling required to drill the nearly 15,000 1-1/8″ holes in 18″ @ 71# WF structural beams with a flange thickness of 13/16″ that form the guide rail for the retractable roof.

When Dale looked at the repetitive nature of the holes, he figured there had to be a better, faster, cheaper way to accomplish the job. He did the research – talked to his machine tool representative Don Raba at Angel Machinery and visited a fabricator who used a Piranha-Whitney 90-ton press for structural steel.

He ended up with two Piranha-Whitney Model 790 90-ton Flange Presses to punch horizontally rather than vertically. But his innovation didn’t stop there. Dale designed two custom brackets to hang one 90-ton portable press with the throat up, and the other with the throat down. The brackets rolled along the track, 140′ in the air, supporting the presses that produced holes quickly and easily. For ease of mobility, Dale also changed the hoses to quick disconnect.

Economics of Creativity

Savings due to the change from drilling to punching 15,000 holes was dramatic. The estimated completion time dropped from 10 months of mag drill time to only two months of punching time. And other efficiencies contributed to the greatly reduced project costs. “The decision was based on pure economics,” Dale explains. “It was a much neater, more efficient process. There was also considerable savings just in tooling costs—about 10 to 1—between the drills and punch sets. And it’s a much neater process—we didn’t have concerns with the chips or cutting oil.”

Rob Kieckhefer, Price Erecting Owner, took over the family business when his father-in-law, Glenn Price, son of the founder Leo Price, retired. Kieckhefer, proud of continuing the company’s encouragement of innovative thinking, speculates on the process of moving from the drilling to the punching process, “My guess is that Dale probably thought of Piranha-Whitney because we have used a lot of presses in the Miller breweries for putting high guards on conveyors. Typically, we’re punching light gauge but I’m sure Dale said the only difference with this job is that we’re punching structural beams.”

Dale’s experience and creativity took it from there. Bottom line, the switch from drilling to punching took an estimated 75 percent out of the cost of this part of the job. That savings are passed back to Miller Park. So it was a win-win situation. The job got done faster, easier and at less cost to the community. Kieckhefer is pleased, “It’s fun to see the creativity of our foremen—they look for a better way, a safer way to do every job. This is a good example of Price innovation—finding the Piranha-Whitney punch for this application.”

Marshall Erdman & Associates

Waunakee, a picturesque town of around 8000 people, is nestled in the rolling countryside of south central Wisconsin. This tidy community is the home of Marshall Erdman & Associates manufacturing plant, a company that specializes in the design and construction of medical buildings. In addition to being a design build architectural firm, the company is also a manufacturer of high quality commercial cabinetry and furniture marketed under the trade name “Techline.” Marshall Erdman founded the company in 1951. Erdman was an architect, by trade, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright, but he was equally comfortable with manufacturing. Quality was something Erdman was quick to recognize and when he wasn’t getting it, he quickly made necessary changes. “I don’t want to compete with anyone on common ground” was his philosophy. His goal was to always do better than the competition and this continues in the company’s current commitment to excellence and high quality.

Fab Shop Core of Building Operation

James Schaff, Vice President of manufacturing, directs operations at the entire Erdman manufacturing facility including the structural fabricating shop. The fab shop which employs around 20 people uses Piranha-Whitney Portable Hydraulic Presses in the fabrication of their medical building components. They also use a Piranha-Whitney hydraulic shear in the angle shear operation.

Portable Presses

At the heart of Erdman’s structural punching line are a pair of 100 ton Piranha-Whitney portable hydraulic presses. Beam flanges are punched with a Piranha-Whitney Model 790X6 Flange Press and webs are punched with the Model 791AX18 Web Press. Roller conveyors feed the beams to the portable presses which are suspended over the work with overhead cranes. The mobility of the presses coupled with beam movement on the conveyors facilitate quick hole punching, typically allowing for the punching of five to six holes in the time it takes to mag-drill one.

Angle Shear

A Piranha-Whitney Model 7609, 59 ton hydraulic shear equipped with infeed material handling and outfeed gaging makes quick work of cutting bracing angles, clips, angles, truss components and other miscellaneous angle parts. The Model 7609 has capacity to cut up to 6- by 6- by 1/2-inch A-36 structural angle. Cycle time can be adjusted from two to six seconds depending on angle size being sheared. Marshall Erdman & Associates fabricates from 75 to 100 tons of structural steel a week through its heavy fabricating facility. By bringing these structural building components together with fabricated exterior and interior wall sections, also manufactured at the Waunakee plant, complete medical facilities are constructed right down to their interior cabinetry, furnishings and decorating. Piranha-Whitney equipment plays a major part in this company’s continuing success and excellence in the building business.

McFarlane Mfg. Company

Sauk City, Wisconsin, a quaint town of around 3,000 residents, is located on the Wisconsin River in southwestern Wisconsin. Sauk City, home to McFarlane Mfg. Co., along with its neighboring town of Prairie du Sac provides the setting for “Bald Eagle Watching Days” each year in January. Large numbers of America’s national bird, congregate in the Sauk City area because the strong current below the Prairie du Sac dam keeps the river from freezing and allows access to fish, the eagles’ favorite food. The area’s bluffs and valleys provide natural roosting areas at night. It’s in this picturesque setting that McFarlane began in 1919. They started by manufacturing a farm tractor under the trade name of “the Wisconsin Tractor.” McFarlane continued to build this tractor through the 1920’s and in 1933 began to manufacture a line of farm harrows. Over the years they have developed an enviable reputation through constant product improvement and today they produce large state-of-the-art farm harrows which are labeled as “America’s Finest Harrows.”

Structural Steel Operation Started

Around fourteen years ago McFarlane developed their structural steel operation. Stan McFarlane comments “that this diversification has been good because it helps balance the overall business, when farm equipment may be down, structural fabricating kind of takes up the slack and vice versa.” The structural steel they fabricate is mostly for steel framed buildings and consists mainly of beam and column work, as well as accessories such as clip angles, base plates, and angle bracings. The twenty-six man shop can easily fabricate upwards of 10,000 tons of steel a year with over 90 percent of it going to construction projects in the United States and a small portion going out of the country. One of their largest jobs was around 600 tons going to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Revenue in the structural steel fabricating business is primarily produced by such value-added operations as sawing to length, punching connection holes, fabricating and assembling attachments such as clip angles, base plates, beam seats and bracing. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative that all of these operations be completed in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible.

A Vital Role in Structural Operation

McFarlane has incorporated several Piranha-Whitney portable hydraulic presses ranging from 20 to 100 ton capacities into their fabricating operation. These portable presses are used at many locations within their shop for producing holes in everything from beam flanges and webs to bracing angles and base plates. They commented that they had around a dozen Piranha-Whitney portables. The larger 90 and 100 ton portables are used in the large structural bay for fabricating wide flange beams and columns.

Efficient and Productive

As one example of portable press punching efficiency, the punch operator using the Piranha-Whitney Model 791 web press, punched eight connection holes in the web of a 21 inch, 55 pounds per foot beam in four minutes. The beam was 29 feet long and the total time of 4 minutes included placing the beam on the roller work supports, positioning the press and punching the holes. Comparing punching to drilling, the leadman commented, “You can punch five holes while you’re mag drilling one. I love to punch over mag drilling any day.”

Jib Crane Enhances Portability

McFarlane’s beam punching cell utilizes the Piranha-Whitney portable press suspended from a jib crane. Suspension springs allow the press to position easily for picking up layout points, and float for material stripping. Material support stands with rollers further facilitate beam positioning. The mobility of the presses on the jib cranes coupled with beam movement on the roller support stands facilitates quick hole punching for an efficient productive fabricating operation. Throughout the entire McFarlane facility key pieces of Piranha-Whitney equipment contribute to productivity, enhancing the success and operation excellence of their company.

Skyline Steel

Structural steel fabricating is “alive and well” at Skyline Steel, Inc., strategically located in Arlington, Wisconsin. Skyline Steel was the first company to settle in Arlington’s new 355-acre industrial park. This young progressive company chose Arlington because of its location with easy access to the interstate highway system, and for its friendly, hometown atmosphere and good work ethic. Rod Everson, vice president, comments, “We’ve met a lot of nice people here and one of the things we stressed was that we were interested in hiring local help. In the beginning it was a little difficult because people didn’t know who we were or what we did. As time went on, word spread and people began stopping in. We’ve hired several local people without having to advertise.”

Eighty Years of Experience

Skyline Steel was founded in 2000 by Bill Haupt, Rod Everson and Jerry Raflik. Haupt serves as president, Everson as vice president and Raflik as vice president and secretary. The founders have nearly 80 years combined experience in structural steel fabricating. Their leadership directs a staff of highly trained office and shop employees providing complete detailing and fabricating services.


Skyline Steel provides in-house detailing for customers. They prepare steel erection plans and shop drawings for fabrication using a specialized software package which runs off AutoCAD. Quality shop drawings are highly important.

Fabricating Operations

The fabricating operation is located in a facility with three 60′ x 240′ bays. Overhead cranes facilitate easy movement of structural components. One bay is used for miscellaneous steel fabricating such as stairs and railings, as well as heavy plate flame cutting. The other two bays are dedicated to heavy structural fabricating, material preparation and painting. Equipment includes a large 3/4″ x 12′ hydraulic shear, press brake, saws, ironworker, welders and Piranha-Whitney Hydraulic Portable Presses. Skyline uses their own trucks to ship completed materials to the jobsite.

Punching Advantages

Punching holes plays a major role in Skyline’s fabrication process and the Piranha-Whitney Presses are at the center of their hole producing operation. “As we develop, we want to do more and more punching,” says Everson. “Hole punching is faster than mag drilling and the accuracy is better. Once the punch locates and comes down on the material it doesn’t crawl like a drill. Plus, you can’t drill slotted holes!” Paul Huerth, a group leader and portable press operator, estimates that he completes a job in one third the time when he punches rather than drills. An added punching benefit according to Everson is lower tooling costs. “Punches and dies are less expensive and longer lasting than drill bits.”

Piranha-Whitney Systems

Skyline Steel operates two Piranha-Whitney punching systems. One includes a 730 Flange Press and 10 HP Power Unit and is used in their miscellaneous fabrication area for punching lighter materials. The second system is used in their heavy structural area for punching beams, clip angles and various flat stock components. This system consists of two web presses—a 70 ton and a 90 ton—operating from a common power unit. A jib crane and suspension spring position the presses to the hole locations in the beams. The suspension spring allows the press to be moved easily to pick up layout points. The presses move to the work rather than moving the work to the presses. This reduces material handling and fabricating costs.

Committed to Growth and Service

Skyline, still a young company, looks for methods of reducing costs and increasing efficiency and profits. Each member of the team is committed to growth and service to benefit their employees, customers and community.