At close to 300,000 square feet, walking from one end of Cotterman Co.’s main manufacturing facility in Croswell, Mich., is about a quarter of a mile in length. While that may not seem like much at first, it can be if you have something heavy to carry or push the entire distance multiple times each day.
Add to such a trip the need to manage any number of parcel packages containing heavy supply items for manufacturing, disassembled machinery parts that need moving during maintenance, or transporting a load of tools, and the journey quickly becomes a lot more demanding.
While manual pushcarts or even forklifts might seem like the right approach to move bulky or heavy items, Cotterman Co., a manufacturer of rolling metal ladders and other industrial safety equipment, has found a more effective solution: battery-operated motorized materials handling vehicles (Amigo Mobility International). The relatively small, stand-up carriers have detachable trailers that can be operated without extensive training but are capable of transporting relatively heavy items or materials.
Cotterman Co. acquired its first Amigo Dex Pro+ vehicle two years ago to help with UPS shipment parcel deliveries to several manufacturing business units and office areas. The Dex Pro+ has a 1,100-pound weight capacity, 24-volt battery system that charges in a 110V outlet, operates up to 30 miles on a full charge, and has a 42.5-inch turning radius.
The company’s maintenance department has since purchased a second Amigo Dex Pro+ to help with transporting tools and disassembled machinery parts that require repair. This is mechanized efficiency using easy-to-operate vehicles, rather than full automation, but it suits application objectives like speeding up cumbersome parts transport tasks while reducing the chance for worker strain.
“Our facility is huge, and it’s easy to walk more than 5 miles in an 8-hour shift,” says Patrick Schott, assistant maintenance manager with Cotterman Co. “For example, if we have to take down a chain hoist, that can mean up to a quarter mile walk back to the maintenance area. Now, we can just load up the chain hoist on the Dex Pro+’s attached trailer and go. Plus, we can haul all our necessary tools and don’t have to waste time traveling back and forth to the maintenance area or wait for a forklift to deliver something to us.”
Parcels that arrive in receiving and need to make their way to any one of three manufacturing business units include small inventory items or supplies (e.g., fasteners, specialty labels, wheels, powder coating boxes, cartons, or other packaging materials) all of which require delivery to various work areas.
“Before, we were using a forklift with all of the parcels stacked on a pallet, but there were several issues with that process,” says Cotterman Co.’s project manager Rob Stimpson. “Using a seat-style forklift, the delivery person had to constantly climb out and back in at every stop. Plus, a forklift’s large size means it can’t navigate into tight work areas and visibility is compromised due to its mast being in the direct line of sight.” Stimpson also points out that forklift operators must be licensed. And if a temporary replacement is required to cover a vacation or other absence, that person must also be licensed.
To address these concerns, the manufacturer began to identify uses outside of a forklift’s primary functional purpose. The company set out to find any suitable alternatives due especially to a forklift’s high purchase, maintenance and operational costs. “We found that the forklifts were being used for many jobs outside of their primary purpose, most of which pertained to mobility needs,” Stimpson explains.
With Dex Pro+, Cotterman Co. implemented a vehicle type that helped to reduce operational costs and provided a significant functional advantage. The company’s delivery person can now more easily execute daily requirements using the Dex Pro+ versus a forklift, due to its higher level of maneuverability, with allows closer, easier access to shelving and storage locations. Visibility also improves, in comparison to lift trucks with masts, and the operator can easily step off of a low platform. In addition, loading the vehicle’s attached trailer can be done right at the UPS truck. It’s less strain for operators and time savings for operations.
“Since we’ve started using the Dex Pro+, the time it takes to deliver parcels throughout our facility has been nearly cut in half,” adds Stimpson. “It provides us a high degree of value that we’re really pleased with.”