Once considered only suitable for lighter loads or inside operation, new developments and design features from companies such as Combilift prove that electric forklifts are now more than a match for IC models when it comes to robust and powerful performance and impressive lift capacities. Combilift CEO and Co-founder Martin McVicar: “We made our first electric C-Series over 18yrs ago, and now over 60% of the trucks we manufacture are electric, with availability in almost all models across our range. As an increasing number of our customers are opting for electric power it is obvious that they are as committed to sustainability and a circular economy as we are.”
8t capacity for Smartroof
Smartroof is leading the way in developing innovative insulated room in roof panel systems that reduce overall build time, ensure consistent quality as a result of a factory controlled environment, and improve health and safety during the onsite installation process. In line with the company’s drive for sustainability it has switched from diesel to electric power for its fleet of material handling vehicles. These include four Combilift multidirectional forklifts that were recently delivered to the manufacturing facility in Swadlincote, Derbyshire.
Since the company was established in 2002, becoming part of The Keystone Group in 2012, it has grown consistently, and 2021 has been Smartroof’s busiest year to date. As a consequence, there has been a marked increase in the volume of materials that need to be offloaded and moved around the premises. Due to the extreme size and bulk of the products, which can be up to 12m long and weigh 7t, Production Director Lukasz Semen chose Combilift as the preferred supplier.
“We were aware of Combilift’s products, their capabilities and reliability. We are extending our production facility and yard which will triple the size of our current footprint, so we needed to make sure we can handle our loads with utmost efficiency and safety,” said Lukasz.
Together with Glen May from materials handling consultants Forkway, specifications and attachments were drawn up for two C8000E and two CBE3000 models, which were supplied in Smartroof’s corporate livery. Although as Glen points out: “Lukasz and his team had really done their homework, and were clear on their requirements. For us at Forkway it was really just a matter of firming up the various add-ons and attachments.”
Space optimisation and faster offloading
There are five cameras on both the C8000E and CBE 3000 models, which Forkway recommended to be magnetically mounted so that they can easily be repositioned. Blue safety lights for each direction of travel, red zone pedestrian proximity warning lights and work lights for nightshift operation were also installed. A further safety feature is Forkway’s own SpeedZone system which reduces the trucks’ speed from 5km/h to 3km/h when they transition from outdoor to indoor operation.
The C8000Es are the largest electric models that Forkway has supplied to date and are used primarily for offloading and loading the most challenging loads that Smartroof handles; 10 – 12m long x 2.7m deep bundles of roof panels. Fitted with a 5.5m mast, a 6m wide hydraulic spreader beam with 2.5m long forks, they can reach across the truck bed to lift a complete load in one single procedure. With the previous trucks this necessitated multiple lifts and what used to take 40 minutes is now complete in 10 minutes.
The 3t capacity CBEs - counterbalance design multidirectional forklifts - offload lighter products and components and transport materials to the assembly lines. Thanks to their compact size and manoeuvrability they can move between machinery without hampering production.
“Space utilisation and speed were crucial factors and the Combilifts have been integral to keeping up with fast paced operations and gaining more work space inside - without their multidirectional ability we’d have at least 20% less capacity overall,” said Lukasz.
Quiet and emission free for EWT
Whereas Smartroof switched from diesel to electric, hardwood timber specialist English Woodlands Timber (EWT) went for electric power from the outset when they had an overhaul of their materials handling procedures. Sustainability is a byword at the EWT woodyard, with solar panels on roofs wherever possible, charging stations for those who drive electric vehicles, chippings are used for biomass and other material is recycled into bedding for horses for example. “It’s electric power wherever possible here and nothing goes to waste,” says Director Ian McNally. “Electric Combilifts were therefore the machines of choice, as they are emission free and are also very quiet, which is much appreciated by all on site. The innovative engineering from Combilift has enabled our business to expand and flourish, without having to worry about building extra space too.”
Two C4000E 4t capacity trucks are in operation at the 4 acre site, together with two 2t capacity Combi-WR4 multidirectional pedestrian stacker trucks. The latter feature Combilift’s unique patented multi-position tiller arm which enables the operator to work at the side of the unit rather than at the rear when working in narrow confines for enhanced safety.
Extra space, improved productivity
The ability to move 6m lengths sideways with the C4000E trucks has done away with the need for wide aisles and access areas in the undercover warehouse, and the widths between packs stored outdoors have been more than halved - down to 3m compared to the 6-8m needed for the old two-directional counterbalance trucks. Storing most product in 4m high racking rather than block stacking has also made best use of vertical capacity and Ian reckons that at least 35% extra space has been gained in the existing footprint.
Owner and MD Tom Compton is particularly impressed with the performance of the Combi-WR4s. “This one operator/one machine combination has been transformative and has improved productivity by 30- 40% compared to the old trucks. In spite of their relatively small size they can easily lift packs of timber from the top bay of racking. An added bonus is that training staff to use them takes just a few hours.”