Mechanical Handling Equipment From MasterMover Saves Time And Adds Value
MasterMover®, provider of worldwide electric tug solutions, has experienced an upsurge in interest from the high-value manufacturing sector – something the company attributes to the growing realisation that tugs can support kaizen and continuous improvement initiatives in focussing operational efficiency towards ‘value added time.’
According to MasterMover® managing director Andy Owen, non-value-added-time – that spent on processes which add nothing to the finished product – is one of the biggest causes of inefficiency in any assembly plant.
“Whether operators are making superfluous multiple journeys when one would be sufficient, or people are held up waiting for a forklift when something must be moved quickly, the average day in a factory is full of what is essentially dead time,” he explains.
MasterMover® believes that the efforts of kaizen experts have dramatically improved efficiencies for fast-moving or high-volume goods, and that the same ought to be true of low-volume, high-value products as well.
“A lot of time, resources and hard work is invested in terms of re-organising assembly layouts to suit the products being manufactured. Yet for high-value goods such as aeroplanes, construction equipment or wind turbines, there is the additional logistical challenge of moving large and heavy components,” Andy points out.
“Even where ‘value areas’ – the specific places in which products are being assembled – are adjacent to each other in a sensible, systematic chain, if the physical objects are particularly heavy or unwieldy, the plant will still fall victim to non-value-added-time without the right materials handling equipment.
It is here that the electric tug is making a significant impact. By operating on the principle of tractive force, the tug is designed to transfer the weight of the load to reduce friction and optimise traction. This enables a single pedestrian operator to move loads up to 100 tonnes, in a controlled and safe manner.
Any number of industry sectors can benefit from the application of an electric tug. The ability to connect the tug at 90 degrees to the load means that it can be used to move goods that a forklift would struggle with – for example long components – while its compact size means it can be manoeuvred into areas of the factory where space is at a premium.
Even the movement of smaller components can be optimised with the use of an electric tug. For example, the movement of parts from a central component area to various locations around the factory can be achieved with more efficiency using a tug. Whereas traditionally a stillage containing the parts might have been moved by hand, the greater load that the tug can cope with means that manufacturers can increase quantities within each stillage, or even to couple multiple stillages together in a single journey, without compromising the safety of the operator.
Compared to forklifts, electric tugs also offer a much faster and more flexible approach to training requirements; whereas a forklift driver must attend a three-day training course (with further refresher courses at periodic intervals), an electric tug operator can be trained within half an hour because they are simpler devices.
“This means that a manufacturer can train many operators in a single session, ensuring that there is always somebody on the factory floor who is capable of using the tug – hence no more bottlenecks waiting for a forklift,” Andy Owen observes.
The real benefit of integrating manual handling devices such as tugs within the assembly line are most apparent when a business decides to scale up its production activity.
“Say a company wants to double output. That might mean going from 50 products a day to 100, yet for a particularly large component such as an aircraft wing it could involve going from one to two,” explains Andy Owen. “The instinctive decision is that twice as much space will be needed. Then the company rushes to commission architectural plans and redeploy budgets into building an extension.
“Yet what if the existing space can be used better? By using electric tugs instead of forklifts, the company can immediately reduce the amount of factory space reserved for road networks,” he advises. “Major manufacturers are now turning to pedestrian operated tugs in a bid to remove forklifts from their production halls.”