A new container lifting and stacking machine, at half the cost of a traditional front-end type container loader, is set to make its mark in South Africa as it has done in other parts of the world.
The Combilift is a straddle carrier made in Ireland and imported to South Africa by Toyota Forklift, a division of Eqstra Industrial Equipment. “Bulk Handling Today” speaks to Mike Norton, national sales manager at Toyota Forklift about the features of this machine.
“One of the main drawcards of this machine lies in the fact that it is a very economical solution, not only for low volume container handling, but also for the handling of a wide range of heavy loads such as tanks, large pipes and wire rope reels,” Mike says.
“The lifting system can, for example, easily be customised to lift non-ISO standard container sizes while the standard lifting attachment for containers unit can lift 20, 30 or 40 foot containers without changing the attachments.”
The Combilift is a cost-effective solution for haulage, distribution and shipping operations with relatively low throughput levels. Its 35 tonne lifting capacity offers complete independence for the transport of containers and similar oversized loads around a site. It can stack containers two-high, lift a fully loaded container from the ground onto the trailer, from trailer to trailer or from trailer to the ground.
“We decided to bring the Combilift to South Africa after testing it extensively for a trial period of five months,” Mike explains. “You have to see it in action to understand its simplicity and ease of operation. Just a couple of demonstrations around South Africa has already resulted in two machines operating locally while a number of enquiries have since turned into orders.
“Considering that you’re getting a new machine with much more versatility in terms of configuration, and at about half the price of a heavy duty reach stacker, this is a revolutionary solution and an economical one at that,” adds Mike. “This product puts container handling within reach of many of the smaller operations who regularly have to hire a crane just to move containers or heavy loads around the yard.”
The Combilift is a hydraulically-driven three-wheeled machine powered by a small diesel engine consuming around 6-7 litres of fuel an hour compared with the 18 litres of a reach-stacker or large forklift truck. “Apart from very low maintenance requirements, the machine is fitted with solid tyres which is a much more economical option than pneumatic tyres in terms of life as well as repair and maintenance costs,” says Mike. “Another very important factor in favour of the Combilift is the low ground pressure of the unit when it’s fully loaded.
“Because all the weight of a loaded forklift truck is on the front end, we’ve had a number of instances over the years where underground storm water pipes collapse after a while when loaded trucks drive over them regularly,” elaborates Mike. “With the weight of the machine and load distributed more evenly to all three wheels of the Combilift, the chances of this happening is reduced significantly.”
Simplicity is a further key advantage. “This machine is perfect for Africa where operating conditions are usually extreme and rough,” comments Mike. “With a traditional container handling equipment, you get top-lift attachments with twist-locks which often end up being damaged and then don’t work properly.”
The Combilift system utilises straightforward chain slings which are simply attached directly to the container or to a spreader made for a specific size or type of load. Up and down lifting is hydraulic and independent, allowing the machine, for instance, to ‘tip’ a load from a container by lifting just the one end of the container. The straddling width of the machine has a side shift which is hydraulically adjusted to make it wider for broader loads or narrower to get through narrow isles.
The driver’s cabin can be fully enclosed and fitted with air conditioning. The driver also has a 360 degree view once the load is lifted off the ground, making it safe to manoeuvre the machine in confined areas. “However, depending on the type of operation we can, like we did for the machines in use locally, also fit video cameras in strategic positions on the machine if there happen to be any blind-spots in a particular operational procedure,” Mike attests.
The flexibility of this system is clearly illustrated in an application where a client had to lift and stack mobile modular office and accommodation units. The weight inside these units is distributed unevenly, making them awkward to lift and keep level for stacking. “The solution is simple,” explains Mike. “The client made a top-lift attachment frame with a variety of anchor points all over the frame. Balancing the load simply meant his staff trying different points until the best balance was achieved.
“Those looking for an economical container handling solution need not look any further,” he says in conclusion. “This system is ideal for so many applications that we foresee it creating a niche market in South Africa as it has done in Europe. I’ve been selling lifting equipment for over 20 years and this is the first product in a very long time that has me all excited about its endless possibilities.”