27 Nov 2015
Managers at the German staircase company Krieger Treppen GmbH had a problem. Workers were unable to lift the wooden planks weighing up to 353 pounds in order to carve them into staircase steps.
So the company turned to the North Carolina-based FIPA Inc. to design, build and install a custom material handling solution that allowed employees to easily lift and maneuver the heavy and often bulky wooden planks. The equipment relieves workers from strenuous physical labor, increases operational efficiently, and improves productivity at the staircase manufacturing facility.
Too Heavy for Workers to Lift
When the large, heavy, rough-hewn wooden planks would arrive at the factory from nearly sawmills, they could be offloaded using industrial equipment. But once they were ready to be placed on individual workstations where they could be carved and shaped to order, lifting the heavy planks was beyond the abilities of most workers.
Managers were left with a decision: Either hire former Olympic weightlifters and circus strongmen to do the heavy lifting or find a more practical solution.
American Ingenuity at Work
FIPA engineers created the device by customizing one of its FIPALIFT tube lifters, combining it with a custom crossbeam that easily adjusts to accommodate different sized plank, along with four moveable suction cups that hold the plank in place using specialized sealing foam.
The suction cups allow workers to grip the planks securely, even when there are rough, uneven or even fissured surfaces on the plans.
Now a single worker can lift, carry and maneuver planks weighing up to 353 pounds — a job that formerly required two or more workers to struggle with a single plank every time one needed to be used, according to FIPA president Rainer Mehrer.
“The loading and unloading of the often unwieldy wooden materials fed into such machines is typically still conducted by hand, which is both inefficient and dangerous, or executed by expensive robotic lifting equipment that is inaccessible to most small- and medium-sized companies,” Mehrer said in a company news release.
Other Industrial Applications
FIFA customized one of its mass-produced equipment products to fit the German staircase maker’s specific requirements. Now company managers are looking for ways to do the same thing for other companies in need of personalized solutions.
FIPALIFT tube lifters can be customized using a variety of vacuum and gripper equipment, as well as tricked out with various accessories, adapters and other gear that allow them to be used to lift and maneuver a variety of materials, including glass, packaging, plastic, and metal, in addition to wood.
Meanwhile, the German staircase makers are pleased with the solution FIPA provided for their workers.
“We felt with their broad range of vacuum, gripper, crane, and lifting systems, in conjunction with their talented in-house design and installation team, FIPA could provide an effective solution to a difficult challenge at a competitive price,” said Guido Krieger, of Kreger Treppen. “The system has significantly reduced the physical demands on our employees while increasing efficiency and, as a result, both production and profit.”