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Handling sacks with the Vacuum Tube Lifter JumboSprint

Supplier: Millsom Materials Handling
28 August, 2012

The vacuum tube lifter JumboSprint is the ideal tool for handling plastic and paper sacks. In the case at hand, it relieves employees and increases productivity by palletising granulate sacks quickly and ergonomically.

The demand for ergonomically sound workplaces and processes in areas requiring loads to be handled manually always raises the same question: what loads can employees lift without jeopardising their health?

An answer to this is contained in the European directive on the minimum health and safety requirements for the manual handling of loads. It sets the limit value for using a lifting aid at 30 kg for adult men.

However, the directive also states certain influencing factors can lead to a lowering of this limit, e.g. when the load is unwieldy or balanced unstably, when there is a vertical distance to be overcome between the point where the load is picked up and where it is put down, when putting down the load requires a turn of the upper body or when the activity is frequently repeated.

If the goods to be transported are sacks filled with bulk materials, several of these factors apply at once. This is why Polyone Th. Bergmann GmbH in Gaggenau, Germany, the world-leading compounder in the area of technical thermoplastics and thermoplastic elastomers, decided to introduce ergonomic aids for handling 25 kg sacks. 

Lifting, moving and depositing: approximately 240 sacks are palletised per shift and station

The produced granulates are metered and mixed, then filled into plastic sacks of 25 kg total weight each. The filling machine consists of one-man stations where the empty sacks are slipped on, filled and then sealed.

Finally, the filled sacks are manually moved and stacked on pallets set up for the purpose. This results in a rotary movement that places an increased strain on the spine, combined as it is with varying stack height and the frequency of the process - after all, we are talking about approximately 240 sacks per shift and station.

Given that the filling machines are operated in three shifts, this affects three operators per station. Not least for that reason, the responsible managers at Polyone began searching for a solution to their material flow problem.

During the K trade fair for plastic processing, plant manager Werner Ernst contacted vacuum technology specialist J. Schmalz GmbH and described his company's requirements.

The Schmalz system consultant proposed a vacuum tube lifter from the JumboSprint series. After clarifying all technical details and a test run, Ernst was convinced. He had a complete handling system installed at each of the filing machines, consisting of a vacuum tube lifter JumboSprint 35 with sack suction pad and a slewing wall crane with a jib length of 4000 mm.

The maximum load of the complete system is 35 kg. The powerful blower that generates the vacuum evacuates the system within seconds. This means the sack can be securely gripped and the lifting function is essentially available immediately.

This results in a safe and fast work process. At the same time, the operator is relieved of the weight of the sacks and the rotary movement towards the pallet is carried out at a comfortable height. 

Load relief for the operator: Vacuum tube lifter JumboSprint

The system creates a smooth workflow without interruptions. The operator activates the vacuum generator, moves into the gripping position, puts the tube lifter in place, moves the sack and sets it down at its precise position on the pallet. Operation is ergonomic due to the combined operator and holding handle.

To deposit the sacks, the handle is simply pressed into the lowest position and the tube lifter moved slightly to the side. On the suction pad, a foam rubber sealing lip perfectly seals the unstable sack material. A distance plate ensures the plastic foil is not drawn into the suction pad - this could lead to a breakdown of the vacuum.

A dust filter protects the blower from dirt. These features guarantee a high degree of operational safety and availability. 

A visit to Polyone shows the desired effects with regard to easing the workload and sack handling rationalisation have been achieved.

The employees have experienced a significant relief, leading to increased motivation and therefore better performance. Handling is not only ergonomic and back-friendly, but also faster.

Because vacuum handling is extremely gentle, there is no risk of damage to the sacks, even at high working speeds. The fact that it can easily be used in continuous three-shift operation shows how robust and durable the whole handling system is. Polyone is already using eight of these systems.

Plant manager Werner Ernst is exceedingly satisfied: "The Jumbo vacuum tube lifters are impressively fast and easy to operate. For that reason, we are planning to acquire two more devices."

The Polyone example shows that a sense of responsibility towards employees and investing in a lifting aid will pay off in any case.