The Spicer Drive Shaft Div. of Dana Corp. recently installed 4 Aisle-Master narrow aisle, LP Gas internal combustion lift trucks at its Gordonsville, Tennessee, production facility.
The installation is part of an eleven-truck order for facilities in Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky. The purpose was to create more space for production equipment and improve material flow between storage areas and production operations at these plants. Dana consolidated a number of operations into its Gordonsville, Tennessee facility and needed additional space within this facility to install production machinery, as well as to free up additional floor space for storage of raw materials and finished goods. The Aisle-Master lift trucks are a fundamental part of Dana’s initiative to increase productivity at it’s manufacturing plants where drive shafts are produced for the automotive industry.
Dana also used the opportunity to redesign much of the layout for a better flow of material between storage and production, improving cycle times and freeing trucks for additional activity.
The Spicer Driveshaft Division is an operating unit of Dana's Automotive Systems Group. Dana’s core businesses are the manufacturing of axles, driveshafts, structures, brake and chassis products, fluid systems, filtration products, and bearings and sealing products. Dana combines these products and a variety of strategic services to support the production and aftermarket service sectors of its primary markets, supplying products to automotive manufacturers as well as three internal strategic business units, including the Heavy Truck, Off-Highway, and Automotive Aftermarket Groups.
By reducing aisle widths from 13 ft or 15 ft to 8-ft at the Gordonsville facility, manufacturing and storage space was created without increasing the size of the buildings. “We were able to increase our inventory storage by an average of 40% across our three facilities,” points out Mark Stebing, Training, Ideas, and Safety Coordinator at Dana. “We were also able to increase our production space at Gordonsville by at least 20%,” he adds. “Re-working the interior layout for narrow-aisle storage and relying on a flexible, multi-purpose truck was less expensive than the anticipated costs of new construction.”
Because Dana works three shifts, seven days per week, the lift trucks needed to be extremely reliable because downtime on the trucks would also affect receiving and production operations. “The significance of downtime can’t be over emphasized. We evaluated electric vehicles but full-shift operation wasn’t adequate and battery change time reduced the operating cycles available to one shift or another,” Stebing comments. “With global capabilities we manufacture and provide just-in-time delivery of fully integrated driveline solutions anywhere in the world.” The Aisle-Master is designed to work in 6 ft-6 in. aisles, saving space in areas where aisles between 12 ft and 15 ft are necessary. The articulated design allows the truck to be maneuvered easily in confined surroundings and the LPG engine permits indoor and outdoor use.
“We have an eleven truck fleet at Gordonsville and, while the Aisle-Masters have the capability to load/unload trailers with the low collapsed height 187 in. triple masts, we chose to leave this function to other trucks in the plant that can’t otherwise handle inventory as efficiently,” Stebing comments.
Dana handles products in a variety of load configurations:
• 48 X 40 and 90 X 40 wood pallets
• Collapsible wire containers
• Bulk corrugated containers on wood pallet bases
• Stackable plastic tote boxes carried on a plastic pallet base
Much of the lift truck activity is moving components in wire containers from indoor rack storage to production. The trucks also remove empty containers from production to an outdoor storage area.
Aisle-Master’s United States product manager, Finbarr Collins, oversaw the truck demonstrations and training at the Dana facilities during each of the three shifts. Dana management viewed this as a significant commitment because it ensured that the requirements of both its department managers and truck operators were taken into consideration to ensure the truck could fulfil the tasks required in all areas of the plant.
The fact that a 3-way, catalytic converter and fuel system controller are fitted to the Aisle-Master’s LP Gas, GM engine means the truck can be used both inside and out. “I’m used to an electric truck environment and we attempted to go ‘green’ with this application, but the facility was large enough, the ventilation adequate, and the productivity gains sufficient to move in another direction,” says Stebing.
Another important consideration for Dana was the truck’s reliability and spare parts availability. “Parts availability and reliability were key issues in our decision making,” says Mr. Stebing. “The fact that the Aisle-Master is fitted with a GM engine and most of the other components are available from US suppliers was an influencing factor. We work seven days around the clock, therefore we cannot afford any downtime from our fork trucks.” In addition to Aisle-Master’s US centralised spare parts, dealers will also carry a recommended stock of service items for routine maintenance at a local level.
Another important issue was operator training because the articulated concept is different from reach or counterbalanced trucks. “I wish I had this truck years ago,” says Stebing. “It’s a hoot to drive.” Aisle-Master provides a very comprehensive operator training program that covers both safety and operational procedures.
“The articulated design of the Aisle-Master means that operators can be trained quickly and my experience is that after a couple of days the drivers actually prefer the truck from an operational point of view compared to reach or counterbalanced trucks” says Aisle-Master’s Joe O’Brien. Visibility is significantly better and there is no rear end swing making the truck highly maneuverable and can result in less product and rack damage.
The financial benefits for Dana since introducing the Aisle-Masters include the fact that the truck can be used throughout the plant, reducing the number of application specific and area specific trucks required. Double handing is also eliminated, when necessary, because the truck can take product directly from the manufacturing or storage areas to the delivery vehicle.
With the demand for greater efficiencies now more relevant than ever, versatile products such as Aisle-Master, which can generate up to 50% additional storage space, will continue to become a popular equipment choice.