Archive for July, 2010

Work Positioning Can Be A Big Challenge

July 30, 2010

Work positioning

Work positioning is a big challenge for many industrial manufacturers. I have seen countless tool and die makers hunched over worktables that are just too low. Often, the size of the piece makes it very difficult to work with even if the height is adjustable.
Many assemblers of bigger items, such as lawn mowers also have problems reaching the entire assembly. These poor postures result in back, neck and shoulder injuries. In addition, eye problems are common, since the worker blocks out the light needed to see the project.

There is a super product from Ergotech called an Ergo Chief. This is a motorized height adjustable pillar outfitted with a slotted turntable that easily accepts mounting of any tool, fixture or work part. It has foot petal controls for the height and rotation speed. The controls are variable speed so the user has accurate control of speed and rotation and can even reverse rotation at any time.  The Ergo Chief handles loads up to 400 pounds. This product is also available for welding production lines.

For applications where less movement is needed, Ergotech also offers the Ergo Master, a manual height-adjustable pedestal that can be set to any position in a 360 degree hemisphere. If you have an application where height adjustment is the only need, then the Ergo I is a very economical tool to improve work positioning challenges. For production lines handling larger products, such as auto assemblies, there is the programmable Ergo Control that offers 3-axis positioning of workloads, up to 13,200 pounds!

Ergotech products are engineered and manufactured in the United States. They have a number of exceptional products. Check out their website at


More on Creating Space with Mezzanines

July 23, 2010

I have been ignoring my blog on material handling because I have been very busy generating a proposal for a large, and rather complicated mezzanine. For this customer, the total is pretty large (over $100,000), but looking at the cost per square foot (about $20.00), it is certainly less than the alternative of adding building space.

Adding the mezzanine also offers more advantages. The addition of a building adds square footage, but it also adds more travel time within the building. This particular customer moves everything on carts, one at a time, so it is a big price tag to add another 250 feet to the travel on those carts. Additional square footage adds lots of costs: moving, utilities, maintenance and taxes to name a few. For a large company, even planning a move can cost double or triple the cost of a mezzanine.

The mezzanine will depreciate as a piece of equipment in 7 ½ years, unlike a building addition, which will depreciate in 39 years. If your company is profitable, the write-off can be significant (contact your tax professional!). Another big advantage of the mezzanine is that it can be modified, moved or sold in the future. We have several customers that have built mezzanine levels in several sections, as funds were available. One never knows about the future, so it is great to know that if your company relocates, the mezzanine can be taken down and moved to the new location. Stick built structures can’t do that!

There are lots of companies manufacturing mezzanines, so do your homework. You should not deal with any company that does not have structural engineers on staff. When you get a quote, it should detail the structure, size of beams, columns and all the weight capacities and loads. If you don’t have that information, then you can’t really know what you are buying. Some suppliers use lighter-weight structure, and the product costs less, but you probably won’t be happy with the finished product. In the mezzanine world, you get what you pay for.

Solving Drum-Handling Hazards

July 19, 2010

We received a product bulletin today from Valley Craft concerning their new power Drive Drum Handling equipment and I though it would be a good subject for the blog.  Handling drums is a major problem for many companies. Drums are big, heavy and often full of some kind of chemicals that should not be spilled. I have worked on numerous drum-handling projects over the years, often after an injury has occurred.

A large number of the cases I have seen involved moving drums by hand- 1 or 2 people tip the drum and then roll it slowly where it needs to go. It’s really hard to get a drum off of or onto a pallet. I have also seen a number or injuries caused by moving a drum with a drum dolly. It’s a lot of weight to “break over” so that the load is on the wheels, and this often leads to back, neck and shoulder problems.

You can get an attachment for your forklift that will handle drums with ease, but a lot of companies just don’t have the floor space to operate a forklift in the area where they store and access drums. A simple way to handle drums in limited space is with a Roto-Lift or Roto-Grip from Valley Craft. These machines look like a pallet stacker, but come with an attachment that clamps around the drum to lift it. The straddle style fits on the corner of a pallet, so you can easily lift or place a drum on a pallet. There is also a counterbalanced version, which eliminates the outriggers and makes the lift more maneuverable. Using these lifters make drum-handling a one-person job and greatly reduce the chance of injury, dropping or spilling a drum. The Roto-Lift and Roto-Grip will also rotate the drum so the contents can be dumped.

The new versions are fully powered, so the machine does the pushing during travel. Any operator can move up to 1000 lbs. with the power drive wheels and full hydraulic lift functions. The use of the power drive decreases injury risk by another 50%. These lifts have the added benefit of easy maintenance.

More on Investing in Ergonomic Mats

July 13, 2010


Hog Heaven Mat is Industrial Tough


I actually got some positive feedback for my blog! I had written a blog about the importance of good ergonomic matting and I am going to add a bit more evidence. In the last year, one customer has added 1368 square feet of matting to their building. The cost for these mats has been $9,300. This investment has cost the company less than half of the projected cost of a back injury! 

One of the mats that we prefer is the Hog Heaven mat from the Andersen Company. This mat has as static dissipative nitrile rubber surface, which is resistant to oils and chemicals. It performs very well in Industrial environments. The top is textured for slip-resistance. This mat will not curl or crack and it has four OSHA colored safety borders available. The mat has a gentle bevel around the edges, which removes the tripping hazard created by some mats. It is also safe to use in welding production areas. The National Floor Safety Institute has certified this mat as slip resistant. The mats come in standard and custom sizes, so there are hundreds of configurations. Best of all, the manufacturer faithfully ships standard or custom mats in 5 days or less, so you don’t have to wait long.

We think this mat is the most comfortable one on the market and it a great value. We have a number of Hog Heaven mats that have been in service at customer locations for over 5 years, without a complaint!