ROCKFORD — Ingersoll Machine Tools is shaping the biggest piece of steel it has ever tackled in Rockford.
And it could be a prelude to more jobs.
The 110-ton piece of fabricated metal is a part for a massive electric shovel sold by PH Mining of Milwaukee.
It is being machined on an Ingersoll MasterMill, a vertical milling machine that the company says is the largest of its kind in the U.S.
It’s known for building and selling machine tools, but Ingersoll has built and kept several machines for itself in recent years and expanded its subcontract machining business.
The MasterMill has been running only two months, but company officials expect more business from PH and other manufacturers that need large pieces machined, assembled and painted.
“This is the beginning of what could be a very long and beneficial project for Ingersoll and the community,” President/CEO Tino Oldani said. The company employs about 225 people in Rockford.
Rail service may be a part of that project. Ingersoll is inquiring about rail links to Ingersoll facilities near North Main Street and Fulton Avenue, and 5602 Pike Road in Loves Park.
Mike Reese, Ingersoll’s sales director, said up to 40 welding jobs could be immediately created in Loves Park to support machining on Fulton Avenue if there were a rail connection between the two plants.
While a plant-to-plant rail connection is a longer-term project, a rail connection to the Fulton Avenue facility would meet a more immediate need. Reese said rail would cut transportation costs, simplify logistics and solidify business with companies like PH, which needs up to a dozen parts for the shovel machined annually.
“They want to see that in the long-term there is going to be rail service going into Fulton Avenue because they’ll benefit from lower transportation costs,” he said.
For now, trucks move large parts in and out of Ingersoll.
Moving the mining shovel part from Milwaukee to Rockford required a 190-foot rig with 19 axles, said Mitch Unger, executive vice president of Miller Transfer in Rootstown, Ohio.
The truck, 15 feet wide and 13.5 feet tall, required police escorts along a route that included local, state and U.S. highways in Wisconsin and Illinois. Miller did route studies and secured permits from both states in preparation to haul the part here.
The trip from Milwaukee took about 10 hours.
Big loads “don’t move too fast, especially when you’re on the local roads,” Unger said.
Once the part is in Rockford, Ingersoll expects to take about three weeks to machine, assemble, paint and ship it. The first part is taking a tad longer, Reese said.
When it’s done, it will be trucked from Fulton Avenue to a train yard, where welders will spend two days securing the piece on a rail car for shipment to Houston.
Brian Leaf: 815-987-1343; [email protected]