Kawneer offers a comprehensive range of architectural aluminium building products and systems which include curtain wall, windows, commercial entrance doors and framing systems. Its manufacturing facility in Runcorn supplies an ‘end to end’ process of extruding, inserting thermal breaks and powder coating for the UK market. Four bespoke Combilift STE models have recently been delivered to this site to ensure smooth and efficient handling of the large volume of aluminium profiles that is produced on a daily basis.

An original fleet of Combilift EST trucks had been used at Runcorn for around 8 years to place and pick stillages of profiles in the racking in one section of the warehouse. The need to maximise storage density made these stand-on trucks the ideal solution as their narrower depth enables operation in tighter aisles than those needed by ride-on forklifts. Using guided rail operation allowed  aisle widths to be set at just 1700mm rail to rail to accommodate around 900 stillages in the high bay racking.

When the ESTs came to the end of their operational life however the management at Kawneer had quite a lengthy list of refinements for Combilift and materials handling suppliers Forkway Group to work on prior to choosing replacements. “Our requirements had evolved over the years” said Maintenance manager Ian Gillaspy, “and it’s fair to say that we put the Combilift and Forkway Group personnel through their paces before we went for the new C2500 STEs. They certainly came up with the goods though and the new models are the easiest trucks to work with that we have ever had in the facility.”

One major hallmark of Kawneer’s new trucks is the bespoke diagonal cab design which enabled Combilift engineers to fit a seat into the operator compartment whilst preserving all the internal operator space. This offers a high level of comfort throughout a total shift, and as the position of the steering wheel has also been adjusted, easy entry and exit to the cab is still assured. Drivers also like the improved ergonomics such as the hand throttle which eliminates foot fatigue, and excellent visibility. The Curtis N-Gage 7 user interface on the dashboard displays real time information as to the current status of, for example, battery capacity, truck travel speed and wheel position.

Various other features distinguish the STEs from their EST counterparts: the depth of the new models is 250mm shorter which makes it easier to turn in from intersecting aisles and allows access to previously restrictive areas; regenerative brake electric drive motors and improved programming make battery efficiency 1/3 more effective and AC motor technology provides smoother acceleration and more power whilst at the same time guaranteeing quieter operation.

“This project required close collaboration from all involved,” said Paul Sercombe, Major Accounts Manager at Forkway Group. “As well as the specialist input from Combilift’s engineers for the redesign, Forkway Group also supplied a number of features which put these trucks at the top of their game when it comes to efficient and safe operation. Kawneer chose to install the Forkway FleetSafe fleet management system which provides a wealth of data in real time to ensure a safer working environment, reduced operating costs and heightened employee accountability. This incorporates our ZoneSafe proximity warning system that can detect pedestrians and trucks in surrounding areas, which improves driver awareness to minimise accidents and collisions in the warehouse. Intelligent battery charging technology from Fronius also delivers improved performance and benefits.”

“We are all more than happy with the outcome,” said Process Leader Jonathan Goggin. Engineering Manager Tony Sharkey, who led the project added “Our company prides itself on listening to our customers to provide the tools they need to succeed and the approach of Combilift and Forkway Group mirrored this. They took all of our feedback on board to engineer and supply a fleet that enables us to keep products on the move and to store them efficiently as well as to keep the drivers safe and happy with their trucks. We are now planning to add racking in another part of the warehouse which will be easily accessed by the Combi-STEs to give us extra capacity for our growing output.”

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