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Pedestrian truck delivers safer bale handling

20 December 2023

IFG DRAKE, based near Huddersfield, is part of the International Fibres Group and has recently taken delivery of two pedestrian operated Combi-CS counterbalance design stacker trucks from Combilift. The trucks have been secured to improve procedures for handling bales of fibres that are ready to be dispatched to customers.

IFG’s premises are housed in an old mill, and comprise a number of floors, with the main manufacturing facility being on an upper level. The finished bales of packed fibres, which can weigh up to around 250kg, had traditionally been moved from the bale press to a chute connected to the lower storage area using a combination of manual handling and a trolley. “This inevitably entailed a certain amount of strain and risk to the workforce which we wanted to eliminate, so we decided to investigate a mechanised solution,” said H&S and facilities manager David Dransfield.  

Due to space constraints, ride-on forklift trucks would have been tricky to operate effectively around the manufacturing machines. Collaboration between industry experts including Jason Rathbone of Spartan Forklifts, Steve Egginton of B&B Attachments, and Steve Tomlinson of Combilift resulted in an on-site trial of the 1,000kg capacity Combi-CS model. 

Instead of the forks that are usually found on the front of the truck mast, IFG’s Combi-CSs were fitted with a KAUP bale tipping clamp, recommended, specified and supplied by B&B attachments. With hydraulically operated arms, attachments such as these are ideal for lifting and moving non-palletised loads, and the clamp ensures a good grip of the bale when taking it from the press, and tilting it to 90° degrees when it is positioned at the mouth of the chute.  

“Certain aspects of this application were quite challenging,” said Steve Eggington, “particularly ensuring that enough clamping force could be generated from such a small machine. But this customised unit is now perfectly suited to IFG’s requirements as well as to the truck.”    

The Combi-CS is characterised by very compact build and excellent manoeuvrability and it can be operated with the minimum of physical effort by personnel. In common with all Combilift’s pedestrian models it features a multi-position tiller arm which enables push-button rotation of the rear wheel, allowing the operator to remain in the safest possible position at the side of the truck rather than at the rear when working in narrow aisles or confines. This also enhances visibility, making it safer for all personnel in the vicinity. 

Both trucks, each of which works in its own designated area, have been in operation for a few months now, and have behaved impeccably with no down-time to report. “We got a spare battery per unit to be on the safe side, but as the battery is quite large for the size of the Combi-CS we get an impressive 24 hours operation per charge,” said David. “Compared to some other applications the trucks don’t travel such long distances or do as many high lifts. But having these on site has opened our eyes to further operational advantages as well as of course the overriding priority of safety. If a bale is slightly overweight there is no longer any need to split it and repack as was the case with the previous system, as the trucks can easily cope with an extra few kilos. We are also looking at reconfiguring one area in a corner so that the CS can operate there as well.”

“It’s always very satisfying when everything comes together from various parties to provide a solution for a potentially tricky application – and this was the case at IFG Drake,” said Jason Rathbone of Spartan Forklifts, which supplies IFG Drake’s MHE fleet. “Most of the 40 plus operatives have now been trained up on the CS, which is relatively quick and easy, and although the old trolleys are still out on the factory floor, they are tucked away in a corner and serve as a reminder of how things used to be!”

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