Honselaar, operations manager of De Boer Staal knows only too well. Having looked at various methods for handling these extreme loads at the company’s site at Uitgeest, to the northwest of Amsterdam, De Boer Staal found the solution in the form of a 35t capacity Straddle Carrier from the Irish specialist manufacturer Combilift, which they say is “ideal, flexible and cost effective.”
De Boer Staal is a wholesale distributor and has large stocks of sheet steel, profiles and bulb flats in all standard sizes, grades and thicknesses, mainly for the shipbuilding industry. It also operates an in-house coating line together with steel cutting from its affiliated company De Boer Snijbedrijf. It is therefore able to offer a flexible and comprehensive service in complete shipbuilding kits and fast completion of projects for its customers.
In spite of the wide range of equipment on the market, none of these were a match for De Boer Staal’s requirements for a versatile system for offloading stacks of plates from incoming trailers, stacking them in the yard, moving them around the premises, inside and out and reloading for despatch. Any heavy duty forklifts powerful enough to lift 35t are extremely large, very expensive and have a high unladen weight. They are also not the safest machines for handling plates which can be up to 12m long and over 3m wide and their size hampers any attempts to move the loads into the cutting and painting areas. Further options of overhead cranes or gantries were discounted as these are fixed and therefore limited to use in one specific area.
“We initially found out about the Combi-SC on the internet and contacted the distributor for the Netherlands, Mabo-lifting Nederland BV, for further information,” says Rico. “Together with Mabo-lifting’s Kristiaan Feldkamp we visited a concrete company that was using a Combi-SC and it was immediately 100% obvious that it would ensure the stable handling of our products too. We worked with Kristiaan and the manufacturers to come up with a highly customised specification which included features such as a hydraulic spreader with clamps which independently clamp the front and rear of the load when it is lifted. The dimensions were also tailor made for us - the machine is 1.3m wider in the load area than standard, at 4.3m, and the height is 4.25m compared to the standard 4.95m to accommodate the size of the plates and to enable the machine to go inside without needing a telescopic facility. The light own weight of the Combi-SC is also an advantage as we do not have to worry about extra ground reinforcement.”
Manoeuvrable and nifty
The Combi-SC range was initially developed for economical container handling but it quickly became apparent that it would be of major benefit in other industry sectors which handle extreme or oversized loads, and De Boer Staal is a prime example. The machine’s small turning circle and manoeuvrability enable it to go anywhere on site and space utilisation has been optimised. Rico reckons that 50% more stock can now be accommodated on site as plates can be stored closely together with just a couple of metres width between each stack- this would have been impossible with a heavy duty forklift which needs large areas for manoevering. At busy times the Combi-SC is on the go for 10 hours a day, moving 10,000t of plates and in just three months of operation since it was delivered it has already clocked up 255 hours. It is no surprise therefore that significant time savings have also been achieved when it comes to loading and unloading trailers: the Combi-SC can unload ten loads from one trailer a day compared with five using a crane.
De Boer Staal’s machine is the first LPG powered Combi-SC to be operational in the Netherlands. According to Kristiaan the LPG powered engine has enabled substantial cost savings over a very expensive Tier 4 diesel engine that would accord to the directives for indoor operation. De Boer Staal also chose a remote control model for a number of reasons: the relatively compact size of the premises makes it suitable for pedestrian operation for a start, and it can be operated by one employee without the need for a banksman. All round visibility of the working environment together with a lack of manual handling guarantees a high level of safety for all personnel involved. The three operators also found the theoretical and practical training by Mabo-lifting’s field engineers easy and quick.
A strong solution
“Both Mabo-lifting and Combilift understood what we needed”, says Rico. “With our Combi-SC, which our employees have named ‘Ted’ after the famous Dutch strongman Ted van de Parre, we have found the best solution to our problem. It gives us the independence to offload and move our loads whenever and to wherever we want and we have maximised our space utilisation so we can order in volume and stock larger quantities of plate than before. Ted was affordable and will pay for itself in a short space of time.”