Having access to the best possible lifting equipment will greatly benefit staff health and productivity in any warehousing or manufacturing setting. The challenge lies in selecting the right equipment, which often involves a complex selection process and a considerable investment. No two facilities are alike in terms of size, layout or material handling requirements. This article takes aim at being a practical primer to get you started in the selection process – and an overview of what types of equipment is best suited for or can be adapted to suit specific tasks.
How Do I Know Which Lifting Equipment I Need?
Before making an investment decision, it’s important to evaluate the areas that need to be improved and find out what the options are. Factors to consider include:
Nature of loads
One of the most important steps in choosing the right lifting equipment is ensuring that the equipment is well suited for its loads. For example, vacuum lifting systems are normally selected and customized for lifting a specific load, such as sheets, bags or boxes – all of which require different tools and components. Make note of the following to narrow down your options:
- What is the size, shape and weight of the typical load? Vacuum pumps must be dimensioned accordingly, whereas cranes, hoists and their mounting structures must be adapted for the heaviest loads plus a safety margin.
- How are the goods packaged and stored, (e.g., bags, drums, pallets)? Many types of lifting equipment – such as our lifting trolleys – can be outfitted with tools that greatly simplify the handling of standardized loads.
- What is the nature of the materials’ surfaces, (e.g., metal, textile, or wood)? This will affect, among other things, the dimensions of a vacuum pump and other components in specialized lifting equipment.
- Are the materials sensitive? Facilities that have strict hygiene requirements, e.g., in the pharmaceutical or food processing industries, will usually want to opt for stainless steel lifting equipment that is easy to clean.
- Are the materials hazardous? When handling goods in a potentially explosive environment, choose lifting equipment that does not risk causing sparks, such as TAWI’s explosion-proof lifter.
The importance of keeping the staff safe, healthy and happy can hardly be overstated. Minimizing the risk of accidents is a key part of equipment selection, as is reducing long-term health effects due to poor ergonomics.
Manual handling procedures are the root cause of many such issues, but even tasks assisted by lifting equipment may be associated with risks such as repetitive stress injuries. Using vacuum lifters is an effective way to improve safety and mitigate health risks, but it is also important to ensure that workers are trained to handle the equipment correctly.
To fully utilize the lifting equipment, it needs to align as seamlessly as possible with the workspace. This includes looking at the radius of cranes, height and width limitations, required reach and maneuverability. Mobile electric lifting equipment, such as our mobile order pickers and lifting trolleys, do not occupy much space when not in use, but in this case you also need to ensure that there are charging points available.
Traffic patterns and picking processes
Consider the facility’s flow of goods between the point of delivery and storage racks (or corresponding processes).
- What is the volume of goods on average? Some lifting equipment is designed for fast lifting, which will improve productivity when working with a high volume of lighter loads.
- What is the most efficient method and route to transport goods to and from storage?
- Do loads need to be turned or tilted in the lifting process, or gripped from the side? Make sure to select and/or customize a lifter that meets these requirements.
- Is mobility and flexibility important? Mobile vacuum lifters will save time and effort when picking orders from pallet racks. Electric lifting trolleys enable efficient transportation and lifting of goods.
When and How to Select a Vacuum Lifting System
In many material handling settings, vacuum lifting equipment is superior to the alternatives and provide shorter cycle times as well as higher overall productivity. The health and ergonomic advantages are also significant, as a vacuum lifter allows anyone to effortlessly and safely lift heavy loads. Some of the ideal types of goods to lift using vacuum technology include:
- Sheet materials – metal, glass, plastic, laminate and even semi-porous wooden sheets weighing up to 1,100 lbs. are all easily lifted, rotated and tilted using a sheet lifting tool such as the TAWI Sheet Gripper.
- Drums, kegs and pails – A vacuum lifter can be customized to lift several drums or pails together, handling a total weight of up to 600 lbs.
- Stone and cement – A vacuum slab lifter make the otherwise cumbersome task of lifting stones and slabs effortless.
- Bags – Whether the material is plastic, paper or jute, a vacuum lifter can be customized to handle bags safely.
- Cardboard boxes – The TAWI Multifunctional Lifter can grip boxes of any size from the top and/or from the side. In other words, even open boxes can be lifted with the right tools.
- Food – To lift blocks of e.g., dairy products or meat, including unwrapped products, a customized stainless-steel lifter comes prepared to meet strict sanitary requirements.
- Appliances and furniture – A vacuum lifter is ideal for lifting e.g., kitchen benchtops, tables, or appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines.
In short, any type of goods with a surface that enables a strong vacuum grip is well suited for vacuum lifting. However, with the exception of products such as TAWI Mobile Order Picker, vacuum lifters are normally not intended as general-purpose lifting devices. Customization and the use of specialized tools is the norm rather than the exception.
Things to consider when choosing a lifter therefore include the weight and shape of the intended loads, size of the working area, length of transportation and not least a vacuum lifter’s suitability compared to the alternatives.
When and How to Select a Trolley
A portable, battery-powered trolley is highly flexible, robust, and easy to use. Compared to other lifting equipment, lifting trolleys are ideal for lifting and transporting goods without being confined to a single workspace. By equipping the trolley with specialized tools, it allows for largely effortless lifting and transportation of:
- Rolls – Rolls of plastic, paper, cloth, and other materials are easily lifted using a trolley and a roll lifter that grip rolls either from the core or from the outside.
- Drums – When working only in a single workspace, a vacuum lifter may be the most efficient option for lifting drums and kegs. A trolley with a drum-lifting tool is however more flexible.
- Crates and boxes – A trolley is often the most efficient and hassle-free alternative for transporting crates and boxes to and from production lines.
TAWI Lifting Trolleys can grip, lift and transport loads weighing up to 550 lbs. When working in spaces with high sanitary requirements, stainless-steel trolleys are ideal, as they are easy to keep clean.
When and How to Select a Crane System
There are literally unlimited ways to configure a crane system to suit your specific material handling needs. In warehousing and manufacturing settings, various types of overhead bridge cranes and jib cranes are the most common. The cranes are complemented with vacuum lifters, wire hoists or chain hoists depending on the weight and shape of the intended loads. In other words, there are few restrictions on the types of goods that can be lifted using cranes.
- When to select a jib crane: Jib cranes allow for flexible movement within a workspace limited by the length of the arm. For improved reach and flexibility in restricted areas, an articulating jib cranes may be the best choice for lifting goods weighing up to 175 lbs., whereas stainless steel models can easily lift up to 2,200 lbs. Manufacturing lines and delivery points are examples of workspaces where a jib crane may be suitable.
- When to select an overhead bridge crane: With the help of mounting systems like girders and monorails, overhead cranes can be built to cover extensive spaces such as a storage racking system, or for transporting materials along specific paths, e.g., to and from production lines. The robust design of TAWI overhead bridge cranes allow for safe and ergonomic lifting loads weighing up to 3,300 lbs. By using a telescopic crane, you will also be able to reach outside of the girder system.
Crane systems are custom solutions, built to suit the exact requirements of an individual facility. As such, the most critical part of acquiring a crane system is the planning stage. Later modifications may be complex, so it is important to ensure that the crane system is built to meet the facility’s current and anticipated future requirements.
How to Select Gripping Tools
Choosing the right tools for gripping and lifting is essential for safe and accurate lifting. Any TAWI lifter can be fitted with tools adapted for a wide variety of loads. A few examples:
- Bags: To achieve a firm vacuum grip on semi-porous bags, you may need to use comparatively large suction feet and a rubber skirt to maximize the vacuum gripping force.
- Boxes: Cardboard boxes are typically lifted using one or two rectangularly-shaped suction feet, with their size being adapted to the size of the box. It is also possible to use a set of bellow suction cups. Open boxes are lifted using side-mounted suction feet.
- Tires: Tires are securely and easily lifted using synchronized hooks that attach to the inside of the tires.
- Sheets and furniture: Fixed or flexible spider yokes are commonly used for lifting sheet materials, doors and windows.
- Pallets: Pallets can be lifted with vacuum using two or more suction feet, or with a wire hoist equipped with a fork tool.
- Components: To lift auto parts and other industrial components on manufacturing lines, it is often necessary to use customized tools in the form best suited to the load, whether it is hooks, forks, or vacuum suction feet.
Detailed planning is essential to get the best return on your investment in lifting equipment. When making the right choices, however, targeted investments tailored to your business will result in measurable productivity and staff health improvements in both the short and long term.
To get a head start in your equipment selection, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at TAWI. We have provided material handling equipment to businesses in a wide range of industries and will help you to accurately pinpoint the most efficient, safe and cost-effective solutions to your lifting needs.
The manufacturing of the food and beverages we consume involve a wide range of manual operations, from lifting and moving raw ingredients, to sealing or shipping finished products. Below we discuss custom lifting systems for the food and beverage industry with Erik Wingholm, Area Sales Manager at TAWI in Sweden.
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