Rethinking materials handling

Published:  08 January, 2015

Moving Alvan Blanch’s grain driers onto low loaders for transportation used to take over three hours, involve five personnel and four forklifts. Since the company took delivery of a Combilift Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) the procedure now requires just the one piece of lifting equipment, one driver and is finished in 10 minutes.

Alvan Blanch was established over 60 years ago and designs and manufactures machines and integrated systems for the primary and secondary processing of agricultural produce and waste materials. The company is a world leader in its field, exporting to over 100 countries from its base in rural Wiltshire.

As its finished products became larger and longer it was apparent that a rethink on materials handling was required. As existing Combilift users (with a 4-way truck) managing director Andrew Blanch and production manager John Henden were aware of Combilift’s handling products and invited the company to come up with a solution. Andrew Blanch explained: “When we saw a video of the Combi-SC and realised that Combilift could customise the machine for our loads it was clear that this was the ideal answer.”

Although the design of the grain driers is not dissimilar to containers in that they are long box shapes, a crucial difference is that they are tapered, the height can vary at the front and the back and the weight is not evenly distributed as the working components are mainly situated at one end. Combilift design engineers added a number of features to Alvan Blanch’s Combi-SC to ensure stable lifting of various sized units, the largest of which weighs around 22t, is almost 20m long and nearly 4m wide.

The inside of the 35t capacity Combi-SC’s frame measures 5m as opposed to the standard 4.3m. This gives ample space for the larger driers, and front and rear spreader beams enable the position and also the length of the chain slings to be adjusted according to the size of the units being lifted, which also caters for the differing sizes at each end. A choice of lifting points also ensures that the chains do not come into contact with the units, avoiding risk of any damage to the paintwork of the panels.

Henden commented: “More and more of our products are bespoke so our Combi-SC’s ability to adapt to varied dimensions is a real benefit.

“For example, when we are moving particularly high units we can raise the height by activating the 1.8m telescopic function and then lower it for more convenient travel around the site when it is not needed. In fact we will shortly be building a new finishing shed for which the telescopic function was specified.”

He continued: “Our business has grown drastically recently with a doubling of production, and as orders come in from around the world our operation is less seasonal and we are therefore shipping out units on a very regular basis. Having the Combi-SC on hand whenever we need it is much more convenient than other alternatives we looked into such as cranes for example, which need to be hired to schedule, put in place and are also reliant on good weather for operation. As the machine can also be operated by one driver we can avoid the previous scenario of having to take personnel from the shop floor to assist with loading so there is no loss of production time whilst this takes place. Our Combi-SC has definitely given us major benefits in terms of convenience, safety and speed.”

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