You’ve been successful so far in developing a product the world needs, and the purchase orders are now rolling in. The critical next step is maintaining a level of operational efficiency to satisfy the high-level demand on your business’s production side.
With an average human walking pace of 5.0 Km per hour and a safe lifting range of 45-55 pounds – stretched out over an 8-10 hour workday, delivery output in many operations is tightly constrained by the limits of the human ability – for this reason, and to further satisfy increased demand and production requirements, manufacturers look to automated lifting solutions.
WEIGHING THE ALTERNATIVES IN LIFTING
The most popular alternatives for business owners and operations managers consistently comes out to be (1) powered industrial vehicles, such as forklifts, and (2) Industrial facility crane systems, such as:
Overhead cranes are elevated on parallel runway systems, which typically run the full length of a facility. A traveling bridge spans the gap of the runway. Hoists are used to lift and handle the load and travel along the span of the bridge. A crane operator then has the versatility to lift the desired load to any destination inside the facility.
Gantry cranes are similar to overhead cranes but do not require overhead supporting steelwork and are mounted on polyurethane wheels. Gantry cranes are lighter than overhead cranes but are mobile and can be used throughout the facility, indoor and outdoor.
The two basic formats of a jib crane are free-standing and wall-mounted, each of which may be equipped with a chain or wire rope hoists. Freestanding jib cranes can be constructed for maximum slewing angles of 360 degrees with various fixing solutions, including anchor bolts and wall plates.
Workstation bridge cranes enable an operator to achieve effortless and reliable area-saving overhead handling for various applications. Each system is configured with the operator in mind and includes the principle feature of ease of movement, designed to reduce fatigue and ensure accurate load positioning.
Choosing the Right Lifting Solution
It is important when making your decision to weigh the cost-benefit of each lifting solution over the useful life of the equipment and the practicality of the solution given your specific operational requirements and business environment.
- Powered Industrial Lifting Vehicles – powered industrial vehicles are fairly standardized. The cost of a forklift, for example, ranges from CDN$15,000-$30,000 new, and most operations will require more than one. The useful life of a forklift is about 12,000 operating hours, and the maximum load capacity is about 5 metric tons. You will also require storage space, forklift certifications for employees operating the machinery, Insurance, fuel & 2x person-hours per forklift to ensure safe operation & load stability.
- Industrial Crane Systems – Industrial cranes, are highly customizable, and the price varies greatly. In the case of an overhead crane – the crane’s span, the number of girders, the class duty of the crane, any crane features & the Installation will all be important factors in determining the final cost of the crane. We can safely commit to a range of CDN$35,000 – $80,000 for a standard set-up with lifting capacities ranging from 1-200 metric tons. The crane’s useful life depends on the effective use of the crane within its prescribed duty classification, as well as regular service, inspections, and maintenance. When these conditions are met, you should expect to get well beyond 25 years of operational use. Also, you will require at least one certified overhead crane operator.
THE RIGHT FIT FOR YOUR OPERATION
The start-up cost requirement for an industrial crane system can be substantial; however, the yearly maintenance costs are low. Its useful life is much longer than the powered industrial lifting vehicle; for this reason, industrial crane systems have become the preferred alternative among long-term investor- proprietors. That being said, if your operation is still in the early stages of growth, you may want to consider a powered industrial lifting vehicle until you have settled into a facility that supports peak demand – crane relocation costs will apply, and minor facility modifications are often necessary.