One of the problems that came to the fore during the COVID-19 supply chain crisis, was Australia’s imbalance of shipping containers. This imbalance created significant demand, and businesses such as Australia’s Tilling Timber were subject to heightened hire costs and detention fees if containers were on site for too long.

This issue prompted Tilling – a family-owned business that is also Australia’s largest wholesaler of engineered wood products – to see if there was a better solution. In fact, there was – the Combilift Container Slip Sheet (Combi-CSS), a motor-driven steel sheet and platform that enables the safe loading and unloading of freight containers.

Launched in 2019, the Combi-CSS reduces the load cycle to an average of 6 minutes per 40-foot equivalent container. For Tilling Timber, this has proven highly beneficial in getting containers unloaded and offsite quickly says CEO, Adrian Robertson.

“We don’t want to have a lot of empty containers on site. Real estate is valuable to us – especially when we have a lot of moving parts and material on site,” he explains. “The Combi-CSS allows us to bring a container in, take the material out in under 10 minutes, then the truck leaves and we just deal with putting the material away.”

This provides Tilling Timber two core cost savings. Firstly, they save on the cost of using third-party logistics providers to de-stuff their containers. Secondly, they save on any detention fees incurred for having empty containers on site.

Importantly, the Combi-CSS reduces product damage which Adrian highlights as a real problem in the timber industry.

“Historically, we were utilising methods such as long forks, a jib, or load attachments to load containers, which sometimes resulted in damage to products,” he says. “The Combi-CSS just removes that potential for damage. It also gives us a lot of flexibility in the type of loads we can unload, which is a significant long-term benefit.”

The other key benefit for Tilling Timber is the increased safety that the Combi-CSS provides.

“The machine entirely eliminates the necessity for workers to enter the container, or for truck drivers to get out of the vehicle and walk around the site – instead the remote control unit is operated by one person from the ground, who has a direct line of site to the driver,” says Adrian. “This enhances both the safety and efficiency of our operations, in fact, we’re able to move a lot more product than we originally thought because of this.”

With return on investments (ROI) at the height of Tilling Timber’s priorities, Adrian highlights the drastic difference the Combi-CSS has made to their overall expenditure.

“Prior to adopting the Combi-CSS, we projected that the ROI would be about 24 months,” he says. “But when operations got into full swing, we got the ROI to just over 12 months.”

The Combi-CSS has proven a massive time saver and a genuine solution to Tilling Timber’s container unloading challenges. However, it’s also a solution that comes on the back of a 20-year partnership between Tilling and Combilift.

“Tilling Timber has worked with Combilift for two decades and currently operates close to 50 machines across five sites in Australia. We first collaborated with Combilift to find a solution for handling containers and reducing timber handling costs,” Adrian concludes. The Combi-CSS is exceptionally robust, and we expect a great lifespan out of it, as we have had this experience with many Combilift machines over the years. But what cannot be understated is the service Combilift provide, which is just second to none.”

Want to learn more about how the Combi-CSS works and how it differs from a Swing Lifter? Click on this related blog.