Material Handling
Tuesday | 02 November, 2010 | 7:04 am

Material movers

By Meghan Siroky

October 2010 - About four years ago, Metals Inc., Tulsa, Okla., decided to increase its material handling ability and maximize its workspace with new equipment. After researching different sideloaders on the market, the company settled on one from Combilift USA, Greensboro, N.C. Since then, it has been reaping multiple benefits.

Metals Inc., part of HD Supply, Atlanta, is a stainless steel service center that primarily handles stainless steel, nickel alloys and aluminum products in plate, structurals, sheet, coil, bar and tubular products. Jon Murphy, district operations manager for Metals Inc., says the initial attraction to Combilift’s sideloaders was their ability to work in guided racking systems.

"At that time, we were starting to develop a new layout for the facility utilizing racks for bar, sheet, structurals, plate and tubing products. After researching various brands of sideloaders, we selected the Combilift C Series based on value, product features and the wide variety of configurations available," Murphy says. "We currently have four C10,000GT [10,000-pound] lift capacity side loaders that work primarily in the guided racking system and two C22,000 [22,000-pound] multidirectional units that handle the plate yard inventory."

Both Scott Montiegel of Florida Lift Systems, Tampa, Fla., a Combilift dealer, and Rhonda Rodeffer, director of fleet for HD Supply, were involved in providing these units to Metals Inc. The HD Supply Group also has Combilifts in operation at other locations including Artesia, Calif.; Tukwila, Wash.; Houston; and Edmonton, Alberta

"As the manufacturer of the world’s first engine-powered, all-wheel-drive multidirectional forklift and sideloader, Combilift has built its business around identifying a gap in the market and devising a niche solution for it," says Gearoid Hogan, vice president of marketing for Combilift USA.

All in the details
Metals Inc. moves roughly 100,000 pounds of material each day, says Murphy. Therefore, the company requires machines that are durable, reliable and able to utilize every inch of available work area.

"The C Series has allowed us to maximize our floor space in the building utilizing 16-foot-tall racks with 89-inch aisles. Its ability to work in a small area, lift 10,000 pounds and still be a stable working platform has greatly increased the facility’s productivity," says Murphy. "The larger units are used for multiple functions ranging from loading and unloading trucks, stacking plates up to 40 feet in length and loading our plate shear and five plasma burning tables.

"We have 50,000 square feet under roof," he continues. "It has allowed us to use 89-inch aisles to take the GT series, the 10,000-pound Combilifts, and run them through these guided aisles. We have racks that are 16 feet tall. They have 4-foot arms, and we can put approximately 9,000 pounds [on each] level." He mentions the C22,000 provides an extended carriage with 8-foot forks. "We carry a plate that ranges from 4-inch thick by roughly 20 foot long to plates that are 3/16-inches thick, 480 inches long and 120 inches wide." Murphy says.

"Developments in sectors such as manufacturing and construction industries have prompted companies to look for safer and more efficient methods of handling increasingly larger loads--whether these are incoming raw materials or finished products," says Hogan. "Combilift has responded to feedback from customers by steadily increasing the size and lift capacity of its range since its core C8,000 model was first developed."

Combilift increased its capacity when it introduced the 50,000-pound multidirectional forklift in 2010. With more than 11,000 units in operation, Combilift products impact more than 50 markets, says Hogan.

Customer loyalty
In the past, Metals Inc. had problems handling large materials. Conventional fork trucks sometimes damaged the company’s materials. Murphy says with a typical fork truck, the size of the carriage load is limited. Even if you add extensions, making the carriage wider, it can be unstable. Combilift was able to eliminate that problem. "It allowed us to do things we could never do before," says Murphy.

"With their ability to turn on a dime, handle large-dimensional products and work outside in all weather conditions, they far exceed the capabilities of a fork truck," Murphy continues. "The Combilift, with its extended carriage and 8-foot forks, has all but eliminated damage due to material handling."

In the past, if plate was 30 feet wide, the company needed a 30-foot door to handle it. "The Combilift comes in at a 90 degree angle into your building. It takes up roughly 14 feet ... and we could go through a much smaller door," says Murphy.

Combilift machines have been operating at Metals Inc.’s facility for about three years with few problems. And Murphy says when the company does have an issue, Combilift is quick to respond. He points out that when the C22,000 machine’s master cylinder suffered a hydraulic failure, Combilift sent a new cylinder to Metals Inc. in just a few days.

"Combilift has been supportive of our needs from the very beginning and has supported their equipment through local companies as well as direct contact with Combilift if needed," Murphy says. "We move a considerable amount of material every day on multiple shifts and these units perform their functions with minimal down time."

"Combilift’s willingness to listen to customers and incorporate their feedback into current and future forklifts is part of the ethos and mission of the company to continue to come to the market with new ideas. It is inherent in our philosophy, and about ten percent of our annual turnover goes into research and development every year," says Hogan.

A combination of value per unit and assistance from Combilift solidifies Metals Inc.’s plan to stick with Combilift machines when choosing future operations products.

"When it comes time to replace these units, we plan on staying with the Combilift line based on the performance of the units and the support of Combilift," says Murphy. "This equipment has had a very positive impact to our bottom line and has allowed us to handle products that we couldn’t in the past. We are more efficient, handle more products in the same footprint and process more materials as a result of these Combilifts." MM

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