Since structural steelwork fabricator Frank H. Dale took delivery of its Combilift Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) it has been able to speed up loading and un-loading procedures and has significantly reduced the number of potential forklift movements by thousands a year. This has resulted in safer working practices and a reduced environmental impact at its site in Leominster in Herefordshire. This family owned company, established in 1932, manufactures structures for its clients throughout the UK in the industrial, commercial, retail & leisure sectors and offers a complete steel design, detailing, fabrication and erection service.

Managing Director Paul Read and Production Director Jon Minton were keen to find a more efficient and safer alternative for handling both raw and fabricated materials outside of the factory environment. Wherever possible, they prefer to fabricate and load on a “just in time” basis which allows steelwork to be safely loaded directly on to trailers in the loading bays. But if a project is delayed steelwork has to be stored outside. The side loaders previously used for this were uneconomical, untidy and involved many forklift movements around the yard to lay out the steelwork, which was individually picked up again and re-loaded when due to go on site.

Paul Read: “We first saw the Combi-SC in the United States in use at a steel fabricator and thought it could be the answer for us and we were right. If customers put back a project we no longer have the headache of where to accommodate the material or of tying up lots of trailers and having to hire additional ones at extra cost. We just lift loads off the trailers, store them in the yard and re-load when required. It could take two operatives a whole shift to re-build a load but with the Combi-SC one lift puts a ready assembled load onto a trailer in less than an hour.”

The nature of Frank H. Dale’s business means that materials are all irregular lengths and the make-up of loads varies constantly. The 35t capacity Combi-SC incorporates a patented load stabilising feature which allows full loads of non-uniform lengths to be lifted with no risk of swing during transit, even when the weight is unevenly distributed. “The guys from Combilift worked closely with us to design the stabilising feature and they will create a bespoke product rather than just selling you something ‘off the shelf’ that only partly works,” said Paul.

The 17 multiple lift points on each side of the beam allow operatives to fix the drop chains in the most suitable position according to each load. Two lateral bars which serve as supports below the load can then be pivoted into place to provide a secure base, enabling the Combi-SC to travel over relatively rough ground with a very stable load.

The machine’s ability to lift from ground level has also resulted in more compact storage in the yard, potentially doubling the storage space compared with the side loader system – a major advantage as the 12 acre site is pretty much full to capacity. Loads can be stacked closely side by side thanks to the SC’s ability to traverse aisles of just 1650mm. The number of trailers needed has been reduced from 29 down to 16 which is beneficial from a space point of view and has resulted in financial savings on trailer maintenance and upkeep.

Paul sums up: “The beauty of our Combi-SC is that we can assemble and lift a mix of, for example, 3m, 5m, 6m beams or longer in one load with the minimum of fuss. We can now easily move, load or offload hundreds of tonnes of materials a day, and we have drastically reduced forklift movements, which is always beneficial from a safety point of view.”

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