Now That’s One Tough Forklift!

hyster forkliftForklifts used in a German foundry need to be durable.

After all, they are operating next to blast furnaces that can reach thousands of degrees and they need to be able to carry red-hot steel molds from one end of the plant to the other dozens of times per day.

So how do you modify a forklift to withstand such extreme conditions?

An Ancient Foundry

According to historical documents, human beings have been forging metal on the shores of the Saale River in the German town of ¬†Schwarzenbach — near the Czech border — since at least 1,200 A.D. Today, the site is home to Eisenwerk Martinlamitz, one of the busiest foundries in Europe.

Here is where the axles for the high-speed trains used to transport athletes and visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were forged. The plant also makes axles for agricultural and construction equipment, commercial vehicles, and railways, as well as transmission housings and parts for wind turbines and cranes.

All day long, a fleet of 52 specialized Hyster Fortens H4.0-5.5FT series forklifts slip in and out of the spaces between screaming hot blast furnaces, plucking up 4,000 lb loads that are still at a fiery 1,400 degrees.

Built Tough

First of all, the forklifts have to be electric. If they were fueled by gasoline, propane or other liquid or gas fuels, they might explode when exposed to those types of temperatures.

Second, they need to have specialized equipment, such as super-elastic tires that won’t melt and extra coil coolers and temperature-resistant hydraulic hoses.

They also need to feature extra filtering systems to reduce dust accumulation and oil-immersed multi-disc brakes that can still stop the vehicles even when super-heated.

The forklifts also need to have special attachments, such as rotating fork clamps that can carry loads of up to 8,800 lbs and are strong enough to transport loads of molten mass directly from the oven to the mold casting facility where it will be processed.

Durable Machines for Hellish Conditions

The foundry has two enormous ovens, each of which has a capacity of 35,000 lbs. They alternately produce more than 617,000 lbs. of cast metal every day.

Conditions that tough require super durable forklifts. And the foundry has them in its Hyster vehicles.

The fleet includes high-lift trucks with and without platforms, Hyster 3-wheel electric counterbalanced trucks, Hyster 4 wheel counterbalanced trucks, and Hyster ICE forklifts with 1.6- to 5.5-ton lifting capacities.

Each vehicle is used for about 18,000 operating hours before being retired from oven work. But even then, their job is still not done. Once they are through working in the foundry, the vehicles are sent back to the shop, refurbished, and reassigned to less demanding jobs within the facility.