Thanks to HGR Industrial Surplus’ Customer and Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR)’s former Safety Manager and Current Volunteer Tony Caruso, I had the chance to tour the CVSR’s railyard and learn some important historical information about the railroad. What a treat, especially because HGR’s site has ties to the Nickel Plate Road, and so does Tony.
HGR’s building used to be home to the General Motors’ Fisher Auto Body Plant. The Nickel Plate Road Railroad came into the building to pick up auto bodies en route to Detroit for assembly. The entire building, including tenant spaces, was renamed Nickel Plate Junction in 2014 to honor the site’s history. Tony’s father, uncles, cousins and brothers all worked on Nickel Plate Road in Girard, Penn., and in Conneaut, Ohio, and Tony has a caboose in his backyard on actual track that was painted this summer in the colors of Nickel Plate Road.
The railroad opened in the 1880s to transport commercial freight and passengers between Cleveland, Akron, Canton and points beyond, but became a fully passenger railroad in the 1970s. In the 1990s, the park built a repair shop at the railyard so that employees did not need to take the trains to Cleveland for repairs. CVSR has six, 12-cylinder engines that can move at speeds of up to 30 mph. The railroad operates at 29 mph to stay within regulations for passenger trains. The trains hold 1,200 gallons of diesel fuel, 700 gallons of oil and 400 gallons of water, including that for the dining car, restrooms and the water/antifreeze mix for the engines. The train’s electricity is powered with a generator.
The cars were built in the 1940s to 1960s in The United States by The Budd Company out of welded stainless steel. This company also makes space shuttle bodies. Tony shared that the manufacturing standards by which rail cars and rail line are made date back 1,000 years. In the Roman days, carriages created a rut or groove in the road from the wheels. The distance between them was 4 feet, 8 inches. That is the exact distance between the inside of the rails. Even space shuttle booster rockets are designed with those measurements in mind in order to fit on a railcar for transport.
Lisa Sadeghian, CVSR manager of donor experiences, says, “The train is a moving museum that preserves the past while being educational and relaxing. We will soon begin working with two Northeast Ohio museums to create a rolling children’s museum with permanent and temporary exhibits on one of our train cars. In addition, passengers can rent a bike for a nominal fee and get on and off the train. So can hikers.” With a music education background, she goes on to share that Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” was written on a train, and that in parts of the song you can hear sounds of city life, as well as the rhythm of the train’s wheels and tracks.
Yes, indeed, trains run through songs, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and HGR Industrial Surplus!
HGR’s Sales Department is dedicated to providing outstanding customer service with every interaction. We work to build relationships with our customers, in some cases, for the past 19 years. We want HGR to be the first stop each customer makes to fulfil his or her industrial surplus needs.
How many people work in your department, and what are their roles?
Our Sales Department consists of nine sales representatives, two sales assistants, a sales expediter, sales manager and, frankly, the entire HGR staff. All of our actions help sell our products and services that we offer.
What qualifications do you need to be successful in your department?
A positive attitude, a desire to help our customers, and the willingness to be flexible.
What do you like most about your department?
We have a great team here and enjoy helping to fulfill our commitments to our customers, each other, and our community. We enjoy what we do and try to have fun in the process.
What challenges has your department faced and how have you overcome them?
We are problem solvers and have countless challenges daily that we work to overcome in order to help satisfy our customers’ needs. These can be as simple as locating an item in our 12-acre showroom, finding specifications on a product, or even overcoming shipping obstacles.
What changes in the way your department does business have occurred in the past few years?
While much of the sales role hasn’t changed, we are constantly striving to improve and be more efficient at servicing our customers.
What continuous improvement processes do you hope to implement in the future?
HGR is always improving its staff. Something as small as an internal procedural changes or on-the-job product training happen routinely. We also do offsite training and offer continuous education courses at Kent State University.
What is HGR’s overall environment like?
The overall environment at HGR is often described as a handyman’s toy store. We are within a building originally built in 1943 to produce aircraft parts during World War II, then housed GM’s Fisher Auto Body Plant. The building itself is amazing. The wooden beams, brick, and numbered aisleways create a unique backdrop that is perfect for 12 acres filled with industrial surplus. See this story for more on the history of our site.
What is your perspective on manufacturing, surplus, investment recovery/product life cycle/equipment recycling?
HGR is the heart of the “rust belt” and is a major player in the re-use of used industrial equipment. We help continue the life of machines that otherwise could be scrapped and lost. It isn’t uncommon for us to see items we’ve bought and resold a couple times. As companies needs change, we are always here to purchase machinery so it can be reused by someone else.
In June, I met with Alicia Booker, vice president of manufacturing, and Alethea Ganaway, program manager additive manufacturing & Ideation Station, of Cuyahoga Community College’s Workforce, Community and Economic Development division at the Metro Campus. Booker says, “We take a manufacturing systems approach and not a product approach. We don’t just focus occupationally on the need to fill a gap then three months later the need arises again due to churn.”
For this team, it’s all about workforce development and creating a skilled workforce. More than 3,500 students are attending the workforce programs, including youth, adults interested in a career transitions, students who already have a degree but are returning to upgrade skills, older adults interested in a second career, employees who need additional training for their current role, and job seekers interested in starting a career.
Booker moved to Ohio two years ago from Pennsylvania to accept the position. Ganaway was moved from Tri-C’s robotics program to additive manufacturing in order to write the grant to fund the program. Now, two years later, the fruits of their labor are paying off in the Manufacturing Center of Excellence (MCoE).
Booker says, “We offer a unique brand of training – short-term through two-year degree plus transfer opportunities. Classes are offered in environments that meet the needs of the students and customers — day, evening, weekend, and bootcamp formats, full- and part-time training, and now we can offer onsite training through the Citizens Bank Mobile Training Unit. Our programs are comprehensive, offering exploration and career exposure to students as young as eight years old through our Nuts & Bolts Academy, middle and high school visits (via the mobile unit), and our college credit plus K-12 initiative.”
This is what the impressively outfitted MCoE contains:
A shop that houses CNC equipment
An integrated systems line with Fanuc robots that launched in June 2017 (Students can become a certified production technician in eight weeks, including program automation, PLCs, and visual inspection for quality control.)
A 3D printing lab that houses a Faro scanner and two printers that can print biomedical-grade devices
A PLC training line with both Allen-Bradley and Siemens systems that launched In August 2017 (Students can earn an international certification for Siemens Mechatronics Systems, mainly used by European companies, since there are more than 400 German companies in northeast Ohio, while Allen-Bradley is more common in The United States. Some companies, such as Ford, use both systems in different portions of the plant. The training line includes a PLC station with hydraulic and pneumatic boards and a robotic arm.)
A rover for virtual-reality training and integrated gaming
A Fab Lab, a maker space for community and international collaboration (it houses a classroom; a Techno CNC router; an embroidery machine; a small mill for engraving, heat presses for T-shirts, hats and mugs; a laser engraver; and a vinyl cutter.)
A mobile unit that can go to businesses, events and schools for teaching and demonstration opportunities in a nine-county area that launched in February 2017 (The trailer fits 10 students and instructors; is WiFi, laptop and software equipped; has its own generator; has plugs for different amperages; and can be deployed with electrical, welding, CNC, mechanics and 3D printing equipment. The lab already has been deployed to the 2017 IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference & Expo, a workforce summit, Crestwood Local Schools, and Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland.)
According to Ganaway, “The Additive Manufacturing program includes not only 3D printing, but we teach students how to reverse engineer parts, 2D and 3D design, 3D scanning, inspection and other technologies related to additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is not just related to manufacturing; it includes other disciplines, as well, such as medical. Some of the projects include 3D printing prosthetics for veterans at the VA who are disabled.”
The college offers training by which students can earn college credits and industry certifications. In the welding training, they learn MIG, TIG, and stick welding. Right Skills Now affords students with CNC training in manual and automated machining. They train on Haas CNC mills and lathes, and on Bridgeport manual machines. The 3D/additive manufacturing training is in digital design, and students receive training in multiple 3D printing technologies, including the use of 3D printers, scanners, and other equipment available through the Ideation Station where they can work with a techno router, laser engraver, etc. In Mechatronics, students learn techniques in mechanical, electrical, computerization, and gain an understanding of how these systems work together. Finally, as a certified production technician, students are prepared to begin career opportunities in manufacturing and earn four industry certifications in areas of safety, manufacturing processes and production. This is a hybrid training program that includes training on the integrated systems training equipment to prepare them for occupations in material handling, assembly and production.
To stay connected to industry, the program has several advisory committees made up of industry professionals from the welding, machining, electrical, mechanical, 3D printing and transportation sectors. They also have specific employer-based programs, including First Energy, Swagelok and ArcelorMittal, who have advised the college on customized programs that lead to employment with their companies. Local businesses, such as Cleveland Job Corps, Cleveland Municipal School District, Towards Employment, Boys & Girls Club, Ohio Means Jobs, Ford, General Motors, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, NASA, Arconic, Charter Steel, and others, utilize the program’s services.
The program, says Booker, helps to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce by “working to strengthen the region by supporting the existing efforts of our partners and by addressing the needs we hear from employers for a skilled workforce. We provide a quick response for new skills by developing new programs and training modalities. We also are working with schools and youth-serving organizations to enhance the talent pipeline that industry needs.” She continues by sharing that the most common challenge that she sees manufacturing facing is “the alignment of skills — commonly referred to as the skills gap. The impact of technology on the industry is also a challenge as industry works to keep up with the growth of technology, and we (as a training institution) work to keep up with the projected needs for skilled workers.”
On Sept. 28 – 30, The Nickel Plate Road Historical and Technical Society (NKPHTS) is hosting its annual convention in Cleveland, one of the stops on the Nickel Plate Road railroad, which connected New York, Chicago and St. Louis. If you missed it, you can learn more about the society in this 2015 HGR blog. HGR’s current facility was one of the Cleveland stops on the line where GM’s Fisher Auto Body Plant used the railroad to transport automobile bodies to Detroit. You can read about the history of the site on this past blog.
So, why are we talking about an event that doesn’t take place until September? Well, because pulling off a convention takes planning, and Chuck Klein, NKPHTS’ convention chairman, is running the show. On March 7, he visited HGR’s showroom in Euclid to pick up his “check” for $1,000, donated by HGR. Matt Williams, HGR’s chief marketing officer, is a member of NKPHTS. And, HGR cares about preserving the heritage of its site, which was an important part of the war effort and industrialization in Cleveland.
Williams joined the society because his grandfather worked in Nickel Plate’s Canton, Ohio, railyard, and his father, an electrical engineer, was The Orville Railroad Heritage Society’s president. While Klein, a retired optician, is a model railroad enthusiast and a committee member for the National Model Railroad Association, which is how he came by the job of convention chairman.
Klein says, “We almost didn’t do the luncheon because it wasn’t financially feasible, but with the donation from HGR to cover the room rental, we were able to pull it off.” And, pull it off in style they will do. The society is shuttling convention attendees from The Holiday Inn South Cleveland — Independence to The Terminal Tower with a special stop along the way. A visit to the tower’s observation deck also is planned. The topic of the luncheon presentation will be “From Chicago World’s Fair to Cleveland’s Public Square: the Story of the Terminal Tower.”
For lovers of Cleveland history, especially of Public Square, Klein provides a wealth of information. I learned more in an hour with him about the history of the buildings on Public Square and the Van Sweringen brothers who built them than I’ve learned in my (ahem) undisclosed number of years on this planet where I’ve lived in Cleveland since birth. He recommended the book Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers by Herbert H. Harwood Jr. It’s now on my Goodreads list!
If you are interested in joining the society or attending the convention, you can get more information on the society’s website. We’ll be at the luncheon looking for you!