Industrial lifts are a great investment. Regardless of the application, many considerations should be thought out before purchasing any equipment.
By James Rimsa

Our engineering team frequently receives inquiries for industrial grade dumping systems. Typically, the application involves dumping trash into a compactor or roll-off. However, there are many other lifting needs, including loading conveyors or mixers, dumping into shredding hoppers and baler machines, to name a few. In all cases, the purpose of the equipment is to dump the product quickly and efficiently while keeping the operator safe. Lifting equipment’s first and primary goal is to reduce or eliminate worker fatigue and risk of injury. Regardless of the application, many considerations should be thought out before purchasing any equipment. In ideal circumstances, your needs can be filled by a standard piece of equipment. If not, the lifting solution must be tailored to fit your specific needs. When going custom, prepare yourself for longer leadtimes and higher costs.

What Type of Material Are You Handling?
One of the first considerations is the material being handled. Whether the material is wet or dry, liquid or solid, bagged or loose sheets of cardboard—it all makes a big difference in how the material can be dumped. Sometimes the material is dangerous (medical waste or used oil filters) and requires special considerations. Large amounts of free-flowing liquid in the bin also present their own set of challenges, as liquid pours and splashes differently than solids will. Another factor you cannot overlook is volume.

The type of equipment needed can change dramatically between one piece of equipment designed to lift a couple of times a day to another piece of equipment that lifts 50 times per hour, 24/7. High-volume equipment requires heat exchangers, larger oil tanks, etc., which can change the price of the equipment dramatically. High-volume equipment will require bigger, faster pumps to maintain a quicker pace.
Always consider both material and volume as a starting point when choosing a lift system.

Typical industrial lifter construction—steel tube, fully welded, portable or stationary—shown with optional power pack attached to the side.
Image courtesy of Perkins Mfg. Co.

Container Type
The type of container the system will work with is an essential choice. The ideal container would be commercially available off-the-shelf. The type and size of the container must suit your operating conditions, which can vary significantly from one customer to another. The bin you choose to use should fit through doorways, hallways, elevators and around machines so it can be moved easily from the collection point to the dumping device. There are many types to choose from, including 4-wheeled tilt trucks, 2-wheeled residential bins, laundry carts, pallets, gaylord boxes and assorted custom containers. What helps significantly is when only one type of container is used throughout the facility, so that the lifter device need only be compatible with a single type of container. Therefore, it would be ideal to use a type of bin that can be used by all parts of your facility. Standardizing on the bin type will pay off in the long run.

Location Considerations
Where will the dumping take place? Indoors or outdoors? What are the consequences of spillage/drips? These are important factors that must be considered. Outdoor equipment will be exposed to rain, ice, dust, etc., requiring special breather caps on the hydraulics. Indoor equipment frequently has more space considerations to worry about, such as low ceilings, tight workspaces, posts, dockside retaining walls and other complications. If the equipment is placed in a high-traffic area it may require an interlocked safety cage to help keep pedestrians out of the work zone. If the lifter device is dumping to a hopper or conveyor, what height will the material need to dump to? Is there a load edge? These measurements become critical in selecting the right lifter for the job.

Safety and Productivity
There are many options available to help enhance worker safety and productivity. All units typically require a key to start the lifting process, which prevents unauthorized use of the equipment. Some industrial lifters can have a full safety cage with an interlocked gate, while others might have a light curtain to immediately stop movement if a worker wanders into the work zone and triggers the light beam. Many systems have manual “dead-man” controls (machine stops when the button is released), which is the most common control method. However, others might opt for a system that allows the user to start the cycle and walk away. The machine will cycle through its movements and then turn off when the cycle is done. Such machines will have an e-stop button to stop the machine if needed. An array of safety options that are available include flashing strobes, sound buzzers and safety guard rails. The level of safety is usually specified by the end-user. Dense, crowded work zones tend to require more safety options than open and lightly populated ones.

Layout and Design
Before purchasing, always ask for a drawing. Companies will typically lay out the lifter in CAD, showing top or side views of the product in your working environment. This proposal will explain the specifications of the lift product, as well as show key dimensions like load edge or ceiling height. Study these drawings carefully, as your machine will be built to these prints. Double-check the key areas to make sure the unit will work as intended. In particular, double-check the cycle time, bin compatibility, weight-lifting capacity and load edge height. Always make sure to ask if there are any questions regarding the layout/design. If desired, some companies can offer CAD files that you can use to add the lift machine to your building layout. Sharing CAD files typically requires a non-disclosure/non-compete document to be signed before receiving CAD art, but it is worth it.

Getting Ready to Use Your Lift
With all these factors considered, it is time to put in your Purchase Order. You can expect custom jobs to require special terms (like down payments and a modified return policy). The leadtime on custom work can be longer than standard lifts, but this largely depends on the type of unit you have chosen and production schedules. Once shipped, your new unit will spend several days in transit on a pallet. Certain items will require a full or partial crate. Virtually all products of this nature have to be unloaded with a fork truck. Take that into consideration when arranging the shipping destination and plan accordingly. When your lift arrives, take pictures before the delivery driver leaves. If there is any shipping damage, it is important to make a note of it before you sign and accept delivery, or you can be responsible for the repairs. Fortunately, this is easy to avoid by inspecting the incoming shipment right away and reporting any flaws on the delivery paperwork.

Industrial lifters typically come ready to run, but care should be taken when commissioning a unit for the first time. A certified electrician should plug-wire the unit to the power source and confirm that the voltage is wired correctly for the motor to spin in the correct direction. Motor damage can occur if this step is not taken. Check and verify the oil level and top off if needed with clean, filtered oil. Always pre-filter oil added to any hydraulic system. Carefully remove the packaging and use a fork truck to move the lift into place. If this is a stationary unit, you will need to anchor the unit to the ground with masonry floor anchors. To do this, first double-check the dumping position relative to the hopper, which you are dumping into. Secure the lifter to the floor temporarily using a fork truck. Make sure the alignment of the lifter to the hopper is good, then drill holes into the concrete floor and permanently bolt the unit to the floor.

Finally, be sure any lift operator reads the instruction manual and is probably trained on how to use the machine. Make sure any maintenance is performed regularly, to keep the unit in great shape for years to come. This important step helps ensure that you will get the most out of your new equipment. Industrial lifts are a great investment and surely your users will appreciate the savings in time and effort that they provide. | WA

James Rimsa is Engineer Manager with Perkins Mfg. Co. He started with Perkins in 1994 and has grown with the company since. James can be reached at (708) 271-7280 or e-mail [email protected].