Midwest U.S. company supplying ship unloaders

by Emily Buckley
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WICHITA, KANSAS, U.S. — Tramco Inc., based in Wichita, six hundred miles from the nearest port, is an unlikely supplier of ship unloaders.

After years of unloading and loading just trucks and rail cars, it seemed like the natural progression to unload ships as well, supplying the entire process of moving product from truck, rail car or ship to storage, said Leon Trammell, chief executive officer. With international business making up more than 60% of sales, Tramco decided the next step was logical to introduce ship loaders and unloaders in its product line, which includes enmass conveyors that eliminated steel on steel contact and also enmass conveying in the ‘L’ path design.

Tramco delivered its first three mechanical ship unloaders in the 1980s to a customer in Mexico. They have since supplied unloaders to South and Central America, Europe and Asia. Many of these machines were retrofits with Tramco components using existing towers or mobile loader or unloader frames. This remains the largest portion of Tramco’s ship unloading and loading division.

Tramco believes its conveying technology is what makes their machines unique. Trammell said the intent was to build a machine that is maintenance friendly and operates quietly, requires low energy, and unloads ships without downtime from mechanical failure to prevent extended demurrage.

The company designed a ‘tripod’ three-legged machine for enhanced balance. Tramco wanted to eliminate the four-legged design because when two rails are not level with each other, a four-legged machine would be resting only on three legs and causing damaging stress, Trammell explained.

It is currently assembling a 400-tph fixed base ship unloader at its headquarters. Tramco manufactures most components, assembles the critical parts of the ship unloader, runs electrical and hydraulic lines, and tests the operation before it is shipped to the job site. "This gives us the opportunity to check the quality and fit of the components and even test-run material through the conveyors," Trammell said.

To date Tramco’s maximum capacity design is 600 tonnes per hour. Very aware of the demand for larger unloading rates, it is considering both an 800- 1,000-tph mechanical machine. Tramco believes that supplying mechanical fixed and mobile machines, either rubber tired or railed, will enhance its ability to be a single-source supplier for all bulk material handling requirements.

A growing history

Leon Trammell is founder and c.e.o. of Tramco, which offers conveyors and other components for the grain handling industry.

After 10 years as a project manager with a cereal foods processor, Trammell founded Tramco in 1967 in a modest U.S.$15.00 a month building with one employee. Today, Tramco operates a 130,000 square foot manufacturing facility on 14 acres of land.

Tramco has machines in all 50 United States and 45 foreign countries. It employs 100 people in Wichita and 20 more in its sales office and factory in Hull, England. It also has a sales office in the Netherlands.

Trammell has led the company in installing conveying systems overseas, especially in China, Japan and Latin America. He is currently a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce board of directors and serves a vice-chairman of the board’s International Policy Committee.