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Autosmart: Investing in smarter handling processes

Autosmart: Investing in smarter handling processes


Leading commercial vehicle bodybuilder in Ireland Drumack Coachworks and award-winning lifting equipment manufacturer Penny Hydraulics Ltd, have partnered on a bespoke loader crane project for Autosmart franchisees to enable them to handle drums of cleaning products safely and efficiently on and off their vehicles.

Autosmart is the UK and Ireland’s largest manufacturer and distributor of professional vehicle and food processing cleaning products for trade customers. The company’s customers come from a wide range of industries, including; car dealerships, valeters, hauliers, vehicle rental companies, bodyshops, agricultural dealers, coach and bus operators, plant hire and construction and food processors.

Setting them apart from the competition, their network of franchisees who operate 150 ‘mobile supermarkets’ visit customers wherever they are, bringing their full range of products, including over 300 specialist vehicle cleaning and maintenance chemicals, whilst offering expert local support and service. In addition, their unique detergent top-up system means customers buy as much or as little detergent as they need, saving on expensive packaging costs – and helping to save the environment too. Continued product innovation and development is at the heart of the company’s success. The Autosmart team works closely with industry experts and laboratories worldwide, to stay ahead of new market trends and customer requirements.

Multiple times a day, an Autosmart franchisee will need to load and unload barrels of cleaning products on and off their mobile showroom in order to fulfil deliveries. Manually handling barrels up to 300kg in weight is no easy task and traditional ways of moving the barrels rely heavily on potentially dangerous manual methods. By investing in mechanical handling aids, Autosmart network of franchisees are taking proactive steps to reduce the risk of an accident and resulting injury - this is done by removing the potential cause.

Following consultation with Penny’s specialist crane engineers, appropriate work equipment for the task in hand was quickly specified. In order to meet the unique needs of Autosmart, a bespoke product was developed by Penny’s in-house team of crane engineers. The initial designs having been approved, led to the first prototype unit being manufactured at Penny’s manufacturing plant in Derbyshire.

The crane was based on a tried and tested crane design called the CC250. The CC250 is a lightweight, corner mounted crane for loading plant, signage or chemical drums and it’s ideal where space is at a premium. Perfect for mounting inside pod style mobile workshops, or even on headboards between the cab and the body. Given the bulky nature of the chemical drums, combined with the restricted space within the back of the Autosmart mobile showroom, the CC250 design was ideal. The CC250 however, having a maximum working capacity of 250kg, did not have the necessary power to lift up to 300kg as required for the project.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Penny’s design engineers modified the CC250 design to give it the necessary strength to easily cope lifting the 300kg barrels. Whilst enhancing the design with high strength materials, it was necessary to keep the product weight as low as possible - as close as possible to 20kg which is the product weight of the CC100. It was essential for Autosmart to be able to have the equipment installed with limited impact on the overall vehicle weight. A low product weight would leave more carrying capacity for optimum operational flexibility and productivity. Although this helps with all types of vehicle it is especially useful for those in the 3.5t and 7.5t classes where remaining within the overall weight and carrying capacity limits are always of concern to operators.

“The new CC300 comes with some fantastic features that will enable Autosmart to work more productively and safely moving forwards,” said Penny Hydraulics Area Sales Manager, David Jones. “One-man operation is possible via an easy to use wanderlead control and the crane comes with a durable high-speed hoist too, meaning it’s suitable for down hole handling when needed. Built in overload protection is a key safety feature that stops the operator being able to lift a load higher than 300kg. What’s more, the CC300 is fully demountable – this is a key point as this retains flexibility for Autosmart franchisees.”

The crane was designed with ease of installation very much in mind. Following manufacture, Penny Hydraulics dispatched the cranes on a supply only basis to Drumack Coachworks in Ireland. Drumack Coachworks, who have over 35 years’ experience in commercial vehicle bodybuilding then installed the cranes. To date, over 23 cranes have been fitted.

Beyond installation of the cranes, in England it is a legal requirement under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) for lifting equipment to have a Thorough Examination and test by a competent person before it is put into service and Drumack Coachworks will carry out this important test following the installation. The equipment must also be tested at regular specified intervals during its life. For peace of mind that the cranes are maintained and safe for use, Autosmart franchisees may utilise Penny Hydraulics Service Division.

The latest health and safety legislation requires that all employers ensure that all employees using or supervising the use of work equipment have received adequate training in method, risk and precautions associated with that equipment too and Penny Hydraulics always suggest an ALLMI accredited training course. ALLMI is the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers & Importers, the UK’s only Trade Association exclusively dedicated to companies involved in the manufacture, importation, servicing, testing and use of lorry loaders.

“ALLMI accredited training is one of the best steps that employers can take to help ensure crane operators are both competent and confident using the equipment and we would always recommend this as the next best step for operators prior to the crane going into operation.” Said David.

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