is shrimp processing equipment. We also have applications in nut pasteurizing,
vegetable blanching, as well as crab and lobster processing. We have Intralox
belts incorporated into our equipment. And we incorporate catwalk systems,
stairs, and handrails fabricated by Lapeyre Stair. Laitram Machine Shop, which
is right across the street, is our No. 1 supplier. We also do a lot of one-o; work for
Intralox R&D. And we do a lot of turnkey assemblies that are dropped in during
final conveyor assembly.”
As the shop’s chief planner, how does Vasseur schedule all the fabrications
necessary and make sure they all get where they’re supposed to be? Vasseur
paused and smiled. “Very carefully.”
Many of the food processing machines use common components, like blow-
ers. When the schedule allows, Vasseur batches parts for several dozen blowers
together. But other than that, the shop really can’t build ahead until an order is
triggered. Almost every piece of equipment is built to order.
Vasseur schedules by the constraint, usually welding, then builds in bu;ers
to account for the unexpected, such as the expedited jobs fabricators are all too
familiar with. For instance, if a customer (internal or external) needs a part to
repair a machine, especially if the customer is down, Vasseur switches gears and
bumps those repair parts to the front of the line to help the service team get
those customers back up and running as quickly as possible.
On its own, Laitram Machinery is essentially a very high-product-mix, vertically integrated precision metal fabricator. When practical, all parts needed for
an assembly travel as a kit. Piece parts then go to deburring and bending. Near
the press brake is an area where “buckets” of parts are staged for assembling
and joining. Each bucket is filled with every part welders need for a subassembly. Being a stainless shop, Laitram Machinery predominantly uses gas tungsten
The bucket area determines the flow of the entire shop. Welders retrieve a
complete bucket, which in turn pulls more work from upstream, which populates the dispatch list for the laser cutting and brake operators.
Welders set up fixtures and then prep, weld, and passivate parts before they
head to a designated bay for final assembly. (During the tour, a 30-;.-long seafood steam cooker sat ready for final inspection.) Around each assembly bay are
color-coded staging areas signifying di;erent kinds of parts: one for laser-cut
only, one for formed parts, another for subassemblies, etc.
During the tour, Vasseur showed an area that you wouldn’t find in a typical
custom fabricator, one lined with vertical rubber rollers destined for high-speed
conveyors used in the packaging industry. This year Laitram moved some of its
overflow production of one of its Intralox conveyors from a plant in Savage, Md.,
which ran out of space, to the Harahan campus. As part of that project, Laitram
Machinery is setting up a lean assembly cell, putting together machined metal
and plastic parts from Laitram Machine Shop, rollers and plastic-injection-mold-ed parts from Intralox, as well as sheet metal parts from Laitram Machinery.
The Maryland operation could have outsourced the overflow work, but that
would have brought up complications regarding intellectual property. “So now
we’re building these [conveyor projects] as turnkey systems,” Vasseur said. “
Intralox doesn’t have to worry about IP getting out. And we’ve got engineers right
across the street. If we ever have an issue, they can be here in 10 minutes.”
Communication is a central factor in any vertical integration. A fabricator can
buy a machine shop, but if people still operate in their own silos, they’re not getting the most out of the merger.
The same holds true on Laitram Lane. Intralox engineers walking across the
lane to visit Laitram Machinery’s laser, press brake, or assembly cells; the machining of fixtures at Laitram Machine Shop for Lapeyre Stair; the sharing of
products, resources, and knowledge—all of it makes the roux that holds a group
of disparate organizations together.
Senior Editor Tim Heston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of Laitram Corp., 504-733-6000, www.laitram.com
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A display above the press brake at Laitram Machinery shows the operator a PDF of
the part print as well as other information pertinent to the job.
At Laitram, the sharing of products,
resources, and knowledge—all of it
makes the roux that holds a group of
disparate organizations together.