How Industrial Magnetics Inc. (IMI) Revolutionizes with Cutting-Edge Magnetic Solutions

Manufacturing and construction work is easier when you use the right tool for the job. A wrench easily can drive a nail into a wall, but a hammer will do it faster, safer and more efficiently. Industrial Magnetics Inc. (IMI) applies that principle when providing solutions for clients, and magnets are the most reliable, most exciting technology available for fabrication shops.

Industrial Magnetics has provided permanent magnets and electromagnets for manufacturing applications such as work holding, lifting, fixturing, conveying and magnetic separation since 1961.

General Manager Dennis O’Leary explains that magnetic tools have gone through a technological transformation over the last 20 years. “Years ago, magnets [in manufacturing applications] were very heavy and cumbersome,” he says. “For example, electromagnets were the norm for lifting, and had to be hooked up to a battery backup because if you lost electricity, you would lose the part that was being lifted. It was heavy, awkward equipment that was challenging to operate and expensive.

“We are now able to make much safer product that comes in smaller packages,” O’Leary explains. “Many designs in the market are fail-safe – when they are in a locked position, you can’t accidentally turn the magnet off or drop the part. We have eliminated the margin of error and are able to build a much stronger, safer magnet.”

Changing Perceptions

Changing the way some of the industry perceives magnets has been one of the challenges IMI has faced. “The challenge is re-educating the marketplace in North America on the fact that magnets really are a better alternative to slings, chains, gripper, vacuum and like lifting aids,” O’Leary explains. “We have been doing that through education, videos and sending our clients our Customer Solution Profiles.”

IMI introduced its Customer Solution Profiles 10 years ago as an educational and marketing tool. IMI puts together literature explaining how a custom-engineered solution worked for a particular company and sends it to other manufacturers that would benefit from this technology but might not be aware of this option.

In a recent Customer Solution Profile, the company featured the case of a food production facility with a bag dump station that was having problems with its magnetic grates, which are used to remove ferrous metal from incoming product. Some of the problems the company encountered were safety issues with operators bending over to lift magnetic grates out of the bag dump, as well as damage to the equipment due to drooping grates and wasted time and productivity.

IMI’s solution was the EZ-Clean Drawer Magnet. This safe and innovative product maximized time management by eliminating the need to manually remove collected metal. Cleaning with the new product is done by pulling the magnetic drawer of grate tubes through stationary outbound wiper seals while the collected metal falls into a catch pan located outside of the product stream for disposal. No more bending down and pulling out heavy magnetic grates is required.

The company is able to offer a variety of solutions for an array of industries thanks to its three product lines: Automation, Mag-Mate® and Tramp Metal. “We sell to over 100 markets a year,” O’Leary explains. “We serve the automotive industry, bottling facilities, canning plants, paint plants, mines and fabrication, among many others. Our marketplace is so broad that one of our inside people might take a call from the Kellogg plant in Battle Creek, Mich., one minute and the next call might be from Ford Motor Co.”

Engineered Solutions

The Mag-Mate® group comprises standard, off-the-shelf solutions like magnets for holding, lifting and fixturing parts, manhole cover lifts systems and shop tools. These are sold through a nationwide network of distribution partners, some of whom stock the product and others who fill their customer orders from IMI’s shelves.

The Tramp Metal and Automation groups consist mostly of engineered products, with lift systems for moving metals, magnetic conveyors and components, electromagnets, magnets for gravity and pneumatically conveyed dry particulates as well as liquid applications.  Whether the goal is consumer protection such as magnets for a food plant or capital equipment protection in a coal mine, IMI specializes in engineered solutions designed to fit the specific needs of each application.

“Our competition might make a great product that is a 10-by-10 magnet, but if the customer has a 9-by-13 application, they will sell them the 10-by-10 unit and let the customer figure out how to make it work,” O’Leary explains. “We are more interested in designing a 9-by-13 application that fits their needs precisely.  Our goal is a turnkey, plug-and-play solution whenever possible.”

O’Leary explains that 60 percent of IMI’s products are custom-engineered. “When other companies stay away from certain applications due to their complexity, we look at them and say, ‘That is a great application, let’s give it a shot,’” he says. “We stumble once in a while, but most of the time, we do a fantastic job of meeting the requirements for the solution to make sure it works.”

The magnetics company also creates innovative products anticipating its clients’ needs. Three months ago, IMI introduced a remotely operated magnet called DynamicLift™ that needs no air or electricity.

“This is one-of-a-kind, next generation technology; nobody else has this,” O’Leary says. The new magnet can be turned on and off using a remote control from up to 25 feet away. The rare earth lift magnet has a failsafe mechanism that eliminates the possibility of dropping the load lifted due to power failure.

“When you are ready to disengage, you simply hit the red button, green button, red button, so you can’t accidentally hit one button and drop the part,” O’Leary explains. DynamicLift™ also gives the operator freedom from electrical cords and air hoses and offers flexibility to maneuver around the piece, lifting it above or below arm’s length, loading and unloading with forklifts or onto cutting tables.

“You can load the part wherever you need it without having to jump on the table, or reach over hot steel, or cut parts or anything else,” O’Leary says.

IMI credits part of its success to its reliable and supportive vendors. “We’ll process 11,000 orders this year and a lot of them will be emergencies,” O’Leary says. “We will be able to do that thanks to our reliable network of vendors.  We understand that our niche we’ve carved is quick, reliable delivery of quality product so we take pride in delivering an engineered solution as fast – if not faster – than the market has come to expect for an off-the-shelf product from our competition.”