Fibreline: All goods lifts come in threes!
Fibreline Ltd is a business to business organisation with a long and distinguished history. Founded in 1982, the company pioneered the use of carded synthetic fibres in upholstery cushions. Today, the company has grown to be the largest independently owned upholstery cushion fillings manufacturer in the UK, priding itself on offering customers unparalleled quality in fibre, foam and feather fillings, as well as feather cushions and combination products.
Operating from their 50,000 sq ft facilities in Keighley, West Yorkshire, Fibreline employs over 140 people and the company is growing fast! Supporting this growth, the forward-thinking owners consistently invest in new technology in all areas of administration, production and warehousing in order to ensure optimum productivity - to gain that all important competitive advantage in what is a highly competitive industry.
In 2016, business was booming and the warehouse was bursting at the seams with stock. Left with the quandary of whether to relocate to larger premises, or adapt their existing site to cope with the increased demand, the business owners decided to stay put and invest in a mezzanine floor to maximise the vast amount of wasted space within their existing building.
“If a warehouse has available head room in the building, typically 5000mm or more, mezzanine floors can be installed to give extra floor space,” said General Manager of Penny Hydraulics Goods Lift Division, Jocelyn Cole. “Typically manufactured from steel, a mezzanine floor is made up of main beams, purlins, columns and decking – they’re a great way to increase useable space if you have the available head room in your facility, whilst at the same time adding value to the property.”
Offering such benefits, it’s not then surprising that mezzanine floor manufacturers have seen a surge in business over the past 10 years.
“Things really took off for the mezzanine floor manufacturers at the time of the last recession,” said Jocelyn. “In a time of major financial uncertainty, business owners were reluctant to invest & move into larger premises to support expanding operations - they were desperate to find ways to better utilise what they already had until the financial climate stabilised. Mezzanine floors offered a quick and easy solution, enabling warehouse owners to double, triple and even quadruple useable space within their buildings and it wasn’t long before others followed suit. Mezz floors are now a staple for pretty much any warehouse, store, retail outlet, factory, or workshop.”
It has been said that solving one problem can causes anothe and that’s certainly the case for many business owners who have a mezzanine floor fitted for the first time.
“Following installation, business owners are often left with a serious challenge,” said Jocelyn. “How am I going to transport goods safely and productively between the different levels?”
Moving heavy, or bulky goods manually up and down flights of stairs between ground level and a mezzanine floor is no longer considered acceptable practice in the workplace. Business owners must adhere to Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992, as amended in 2002. The Regulations apply to a wide range of manual handling activities, including lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying and outline what steps employers may need to take to protect employees from the risk of injury through manual handling tasks at work. The Regulations clearly outline the need to ‘avoid the need for hazardous manual handling, so far as is reasonably practicable.’
“One of the easiest ways for business owners to comply with the Regulations is to supply their employees with suitable work equipment for the task in hand such as a mechanical handling aid,” said Jocelyn. “Lifting equipment helps to keep manual handling to a minimum by mechanically lifting and lowering large, heavy and bulky loads for safer handling - they offer the additional benefit of improving work efficiently too, ensuring maximum productivity thanks to smarter, lean working practices.”
Fibreline are certainly not ones to miss out on the chance of safer and leaner working - having seen Penny Hydraulics goods lifts elsewhere, they contacted Penny’s Goods Lift team to design and manufacture a 500kg capacity lift to transport their stock items between ground level and their new mezzanine floor within their warehouse.
In an effort to not ‘re-invent the wheel,’ the Penny engineers based the specialist goods lift for Fibreline on a standard brochure lift called the MezzLift Pro, making some minor design alterations, such as a bespoke platform size to suit the application exactly. The MezzPro is a goods lift which enables users to move goods such as trolleys or pallets safely and efficiently to a mezzanine floor within buildings.
“The Fibreline specification lift has a maximum working load of 500kg and an opposed mast for minimum platform deflection, said Jocelyn. “It was essential that the lift worked quickly so that deliveries could be handled efficiently, so the lift was designed to work at a speed of 0.15 metres per second. The platform was supplied in a bespoke size at 1700mm x 1100mm and was built with a travel height to fit the distance between ground level and the mezzanine floor precisely.”
Safety of all lifting equipment is key - the lifts were supplied with electrically interlocked 2000mm high double gates for optimum safety, with further safety features incorporated into the design including an emergency stop button fitted at all control stations, an anti-slip platform surface and hose burst protection. The lift was CE marked and built in conformance with the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, Lifting Operation s& Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and The Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, giving Fibreline peace of mind that all safety considerations were considered.
Since the lift was floor mounted and self-supporting, this meant that no structural changes to the buildings were required, such as lift pits.
“This makes installation quick and simple – we were able to install within just two days.” Said Jocelyn.
Comprehensive project management helped the project move on schedule through the design, manufacture and installation phases of the project. In addition, Penny’s mezzanine floor lifts being manufactured in the UK allows both standard and bespoke designs to be installed within short lead times and this was key to Fibreline as they needed to get the lift installed quickly to support a sudden spike in business - the lift was manufactured within just 6 weeks. Fibreline also took advantage of Penny Hydraulics’ operator training and planned maintenance programmes, ensuring that the lift is kept Thoroughly Examined at regular intervals in accordance with Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
In December 2016 and following the success of the first lift project, Fibreline contacted the Penny engineers to specify a further lift for a different department within the building. More complex than the original lift, the new location introduced some unique challenges.
“The second lift was a 500kg capacity unit, but was downrated to a working capacity of 200kg due to a large bespoke platform size of 2500 x 1300,” said Jocelyn. “A major challenge with the new lift was that the roof was angled so we had to adjust the guard frames to suit the roof and also allow for the maximum gate opening at the upper level.”
Having their dedicated production facility in the UK meant that despite the challenges, Penny’s could engineer and manufacture a lift for the application, also accommodating bespoke requirements such as platform side guards at 1400mm high and an adjustable top guard so that operatives can pack sections of foam under the guard to allow more product to be loaded into the lift each cycle.
As Fibreline continued to grow, the requirement for a third lift quickly materialised and in August 2017, a further lift was installed! The third lift also benefited from bespoke elements.
“The latest lift offers through loading on the narrow edge of the platform at ground level and single entry at the upper level to suit the mezzanine floor,” said Jocelyn. “This lift has single gates as opposed to the standard double gates and also has angled platform barriers at each end of the platform to stop the trolleys from moving on the platform.”
With such great success on the lifting projects to date, both Fibreline and Penny’s look forward to working together in the near future as Fibreline continue their efforts to create a safer and more productive working environment for their growing business.
“From initial project conception, through to final commissioning, Penny Hydraulics have been both fully appreciative of our requirements and professional in providing bespoke solutions,” said General Manager at Fibreline, Ged Bishton. “The three Goods Lift projects undertaken so far, have provided a safe, flexible and reliable method of transporting goods to and from mezzanine floor level. This in turn, has greatly increased the usage and general benefit of each mezzanine. With an ever-increasing demand to improve overall efficiencies, these projects have proved to be an integral part of our on-going continuous improvement program.”