Custom Forklift Attachment Unloads Coils at Stamping PlantMarch 24, 2020
A custom forklift attachment from The Caldwell Group Inc. unloads steel coils from rail cars at MiTek USA Inc.’s stamping plant in Tampa, FL, bringing safety and productivity to the process.
The attachment, delivered by Caldwell distributor Certified Slings & Supply, is known onsite as the master coil lifter. It replaced the previous method that involved three personnel, including one precariously positioned on the rail car truck. The 24,000-lb.-capacity product has reduced time needed to unload a single car from 1 hr. to 20 min. and, more importantly, eliminates the need for a rigger stationed beneath the forks.
“Previously, we used our (high-capacity) lift truck with a wire rope sling strapped over the center of 6-ft.-long forks,” says Ken Jurgensmeyer, director of manufacturing operations at MiTek. “We then manually passed it through the eye of the coil and attached it with a swivel hook to complete the connection. I put myself in the railcar to experience it from the rigger’s viewpoint and it wasn’t satisfactory. Further, we often had to lift at an angle because of how far away we sometimes had to position the forklift. Once we picked the coil, it was taken to the loading dock and awkwardly swung into position so that a second lift truck could move it onward.”
MiTek receives the steel coils in batches of six or seven aboard each rail car, and a train might have six cars. The previous method required a full day to unload an entire train―now accomplished in a fraction of the time with less people.
“The reality was, someone could have been injured, so when Ken contacted us, our first priority was designing a system that removed the need to manually rig the load,” says Dan Mongan, special application support/new product development specialist at Caldwell, which has supplied numerous products to MiTek. “As a byproduct, we were able to speed production considerably. Even the transfer to the second lift truck is improved because we can lower the coils onto a frame for easy picking.”
Because the coils can shift during rail transit and may reside close to one another, Caldwell designed the master coil lifter with pivoting lifting shoes and thin picking legs.
The lifter currently finds use only on domestic delivery of master coils, which range in weight from approximately 22,000 to 24,000 lb. apiece, as international deliveries arrive by truck. However, currently 100 percent of the steel arriving at MiTek’s Tampa facility comes from domestic suppliers, placing further demand on a quick turnaround of rail cars. Overall, the coil lifter is required to lift 110 million lb. of steel per year, equating to 94 coils per week.