AUTOMOTIVE manufacturers are continually looking for ways to improve efficiencies within their operations and one area where costs can be significantly reduced, is well-organised materials handling.
That’s according to Ken Mouritzen, Managing Director, BLT WORLD, who said that in automotive assembly plants, containers, components, engines and completed vehicles are moved from plant to plant and these distances often mean extensive travelling time for transport.
“This results in assembly delays and extensive wear and tear on conventional equipment, which negatively affects productivity,” he said.
“By introducing a well organised materials handling system for each automotive plant, the supply to production lines and warehouses is more efficient, there are fewer damages to goods, reduced losses and enhanced safety for workers. All of these factors contribute to improved productivity and significant savings in manufacturing costs.”
Mouritzen said the company’s Meclift heavy duty variable reach trucks increase efficiency and safety during materials handling procedures in automotive plants.
“Unlike conventional forklift trucks, Meclift machines are able to go into a container for efficient, swift and safe container stuffing, de-stuffing and are also designed for handling all types, sizes and shapes of components.” This series has a 16 T lifting capacity from 16 – 42 mt.
Various lifting attachments are available for Meclift variable reach trucks that enhance the performance, efficiency and safety of these multipurpose machines. For example, a Meclift fitted with a coil ram or coil clamp, can efficiently and safely handle steel coils or steel plates up to 32 000 kg.
“By combining the strength of these coil handling attachments and the extended reaching ability of these reach trucks, handling operations during automotive assembly are safer, faster and cost-efficient.”
Another important lifting attachment is the double fork system that enhances the flexibility and performance of goods handling. This double fork attachment offers many benefits when loading and unloading automotive components.
For example, four pallets or a similar load, can be easily handled at the same time and it is possible to fully load a 20 ft container with only two lifts. The weight of the load is not a problem because these double forks can handle the same maximum load of 18 T.
Double forks use the same fixing points as normal forks, which means switching between the two is effortless. Fork positioning can be altered from inside the cabin, without the operator having to get out to manually adjust the gap between the forks.
“With features like hydraulic cab raising, forward and reversing cameras, hydraulic side shift for accurate and effortless positioning, safety on site is improved.”
BLT WORLD’s Mobicon mobile straddle carriers are also designed for efficient, safe and versatile container and product handling, in and around automotive assembly plants.
Mouritzen said an important advantage of this container handler is that it utilises all parts of the yard and operates on pavements and in restrictive areas where conventional equipment cannot go.
This mobile container handler turns in tight spaces and is also able to travel inside warehouses and under awnings. “The Mobicon ensures the efficient movement and supply of components, engines and completed vehicles to and from each plant and line, in containers or on flat beds, as well as specialised racking systems.
“By having only one container or product supply movement during automotive assembly, time savings are significant and there is no longer the need to run a fleet of conventional forklifts.”
Other advantages for the Mobicon in automotive assembly include easy handling of ramps and speed bumps, reduced on-site congestion and minimal damage to stock normally caused by long forklift and container handling truck runs. “Loads are no longer handled outside in wet weather conditions and container handling schedules are more efficient.”
Mouritzen said the Mobicon unit requires minimal maintenance, unlike conventional container handling equipment, where ongoing maintenance is necessary and costly.
The Mobicon also eliminates the need for costly yard repairs. “One of the biggest problems associated with using conventional equipment to load and unload containers, is damage caused to yards and pavements that are not suitable for carrying heavy weights.”
Enhanced safety has also been critical in the design of this machine. “The operator has a clear view of the working area and does not have to travel with a container three metres in the air, as with conventional systems. Instead of staff having to work at a trailer height of 1,5m, they are able to work safely at ground level.”