Innovative and safe solution for bale handling


A manufacturer of fibres for manufacturing applications is improving its bale handling procedures thanks to stacker trucks from Combilift, as MEPCA found out

IFG Drake, based near Huddersfield, is part of the International Fibres Group, which services a worldwide market with technically advanced fibres for diverse applications, including the automotive, floor covering, clothing and speciality paper sectors. The company has taken delivery of two Combilift pedestrian-operated Combi-CS counterbalance design stacker trucks, with the aim of improving procedures for handling bales of fibres that are ready for customer despatch.

IFG’s premises in an old mill comprise a number of floors, with the main manufacturing facility being on an upper level. The finished bales, which can weigh up to around 250kg, had traditionally been moved from the bale press to a chute to the lower storage area using a combination of manual handling and a trolley. “This inevitably entailed a certain amount of strain and risk to the workforce, which we wanted to eliminate, so we decided to investigate a mechanised solution,” said Health & Safety and Facilities Manager David Dransfield.

Due to space constraints, ride-on forklifts would have been tricky to operate effectively around the manufacturing machines, which resulted in a collaboration between Jason Rathbone of Spartan Forklifts, Steve Egginton of B&B Attachments, and Steve Tomlinson of Combilift to organise an on-site trial of the 1000kg Combi-CS model.

Instead of the forks usually found on the front of the truck mast, IFG’s Combi-CSs were fitted with a KAUP bale tipping clamp supplied by B&B attachments. With hydraulically operated arms, it is ideal for lifting and moving non-palletised loads and ensures a good grip of the bale when taking it from the press and tilting it to 90° degrees at the mouth of the chute. “Ensuring that enough clamping force could be generated from such a small machine was quite challenging, but this customised unit is now perfectly suited to IFG’s requirements,” said Steve Egginton,

In common with all Combilift’s pedestrian models, the Combi-CS features a multi-position tiller arm that enables push-button rotation of the rear wheel, allowing the operator to remain in the safest possible position at the side of the truck. This also enhances visibility, making it safer for all personnel in the vicinity.

Both trucks have been in operation for over six months and have behaved impeccably, with no downtime to report. “We got a spare battery per unit to be on the safe side, but we get an impressive 24 hours of operation per charge,” said David. “Compared to other applications, the trucks don’t travel such long distances or do as many high lifts. But having these on site has opened our eyes to further operational advantages as well as, of course, the overriding priority of safety. If a bale is slightly overweight, there is no longer any need to split it and repack as was the case with the previous system, as the trucks can easily cope with an extra few kilos.”

“It’s always very satisfying when everything comes together from various parties to provide a solution for a potentially tricky application – and this was the case at IFG Drake,” said Jason Rathbone. “Most of the 40 plus operatives have now been trained up on the CS, which is relatively quick and easy, and although the old trolleys are still out on the factory floor, they are tucked away in a corner and serve as a reminder of how things used to be!”



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