We need to be more efficient handling pipe and steel shapes and forms (angles, flat bars, rounds, etc.). We use forklifts, small overhead cranes and manual handling. Do you have any other ideas?
Shephard's Industrial Training Systems
Early in my career I was very fortunate to have been a regional manager for an attachment manufacturing company. During those years I quickly learned there is a solution for every material handling situation. It comes down to analyzing what is required to pick, transport and deposit certain materials, what type of location will the materials be picked from or deposited into or onto, and will the material be handled from rail cars, over the road trailers, racks or stored at ground level on runners? Space available plays a large part in how you handle any stock.
There are several methods to handle flat, round, and angle materials, and it appears you are already using material handling equipment and concepts. Lift trucks with forks are by far the best and most inexpensive approach if space is not an issue. Special side loaders have been designed similar to lift trucks. These utilize a mast and forks from the side of the chassis and require less space, but storage of materials in deep reach areas may be a problem with heavy weights. The side loader equipment makes best use of floor space; for example you do not lose as much storage space to wider aisles as for a conventional lift truck design. Then there is the concept of utilizing overhead cranes with specially designed magnets or clamps to handle the steel shapes. And let’s not forget picking with an overhead crane and using rigging. Even with the overhead cranes a lift truck and side loader may still be required.
Finally, a rubber tired gantry crane is very efficient. If the gantry crane and material handling needs are designed correctly the gantry can be used to load and off load railcars and over the road trailers, and store and retrieve materials as needed. Again, lift trucks and/or side loaders may still be needed for some material handling task.
If load securement is a problem for the shapes mentioned, hold-down clamps have been designed by the attachment manufactures that will aid an operator in securing a load when handling this type of material.
One very important thing I almost overlooked is tons to be handled; this will play a big factor as to how efficient you need to be. Sometimes a second set of eyes on the problem may very well help determine if present methods are efficient. Age of equipment, downtime, repair cost and operator training will affect efficiency, but the training--or lack of it—may be a problem no matter what you do!
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