Enter the third dimension
Attollo - Electrolux
Since it sold its first vacuum cleaner under the 'Electrolux' brand in 1919, the Swedish household goods manufacturer has evolved into the world's second biggest appliance maker, and is today Australasia's leading major household appliances company through its Australian and New Zealand subsidiaries, Electrolux Home Products Pty Limited (EHP) and Electrolux (NZ) Limited.
With head office in Sydney, EHP markets its products under the Electrolux, AEG, Westinghouse, Kelvinator, Simpson, Chef, Dishlex and BeefEater brands. EHP's Small Appliances division (ESA) markets its floor care products under the Electrolux and Volta brands, and its small domestic appliances under the Electrolux brand.
And following its purchase in August, EHP is now in the process of integrating into its Asia Pacific operations the Vintec business which supplies and markets a full range of temperature-controlled wine cabinets under the Vintec and Transtherm brands throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
EHP operates a manufacturing plant in Adelaide producing cooking appliances, and, until recently, also manufactured whitegoods in Orange, NSW. EHP today imports into Australia and New Zealand various products, including kitchen appliances and dishwashers from Europe that it markets under the AEG and Electrolux brands, gas and electric cooktops from China, fridges, washers and dryers from Thailand, and a range of barbecues from Japan and China.
A question of space
While consolidating fridge manufacturing from Orange, NSW, into the Thailand facility offered the company economies of scale, it also presented Electrolux with a common but still difficult-to-solve problem: how to efficiently and safely unload the tightly packed units from the shipping container.
Shipping containers are long, narrow, and relatively tall, and quite wonderful for small products packed into conveniently sized cardboard boxes. Fridges, however, are wide and relatively tall products themselves, but designed more for convenience in a household kitchen rather than with shipping containers in mind. They are also quite heavy, and very, very easy to damage, resulting in significant loss of value.
So fridges can be quite simply and conveniently unpacked, utilising a standard forklift, when they are standing next to / in front of each other. It is, however, quite impossible to remove a big, heavy, bulky fridge, lying flat in the narrow space on top of the standing-up ones in the shipping container, using conventional loading equipment.
Electrolux was thus faced with the age-old dilemma: how to enter (and unload from) the third dimension.
Look at it a different way
Electrolux teamed up with Australian forklift attachment specialist Attollo
. Attollo is a 100% Australian-owned and -operated company that specialises in the design, manufacturing and distribution of attachments for forklift trucks and other material handling equipment.
The company started nearly 40 years ago in Brisbane (1979). Attollo works with both local and international manufacturers and suppliers to incorporate the latest in industry best practice. Attollo is also the Australia and New Zealand member of Kaup's global distribution network. Kaup (based in Germany) is the world's largest independent network of manufacturers and distributors of attachments for forklifts.
Electrolux and Attollo, with input from Kaup, started working on an attachment that would be able to grab, pull and turn a fridge that has been slotted into the narrow space above the standing-up fridges already in the shipping container, lying on top of them.
The specific brief Electrolux provided Attollo
focused on the requirement to maximise and increase utilised freight space within a standard 40-foot shipping container for fridge imports to Australian ports from Electrolux operations within South East Asia (Rayong, Thailand).
The engineered handling equipment had to allow for a safe and efficient unloading process coupled to a forklift truck, without presenting a significant risk of the operator causing damage to the fridge being handled, or to the ones in the container.
Managing Director of Attollo Australia, Stefan Marschner', commented: "When Mick (Mick Singh, National Service & Logistics Manager at Electrolux) came to Attollo with his idea, our first challenge was to rethink our conventional approach to designing attachments."
The two key areas that forced us to challenge our approach were:
- Combining the number of functions the scope required into a single attachment (Pull on and pushing off the load, retaining the slip sheet, rotating and stabilising the upper fridge as well as sideshifting the whole attachment).
- Manufacturing this complicated attachment whilst staying in the tight spaces of the shipping container.
Fortunately, in Attollo we have like minded people that see these obstacles as opportunities and not road blocks. We knew Electrolux's dilemma was a growing need within our industry and we were excited to take this challenge on.
We quickly came up with some brief concepts and a unloading schematic that we could run past Mick and his team. One of the main drivers to the success of this type of work is ensuring you are able to collaborate with the people who matter. This includes all stakeholders from upper management, WHS, the supply chain and the forklift drivers themselves. One of the reasons why we decided to take this project on was Mick's enthusiasm and vision of what Electrolux needed. From my initial meeting I knew we shared the same drive and understanding of what was required to see this project through.
After many meetings we took the feed back from both Mick and various stakeholders to come up with a design that ticked every box.
Some of the innovations that came out of this unit has changed the way our business looks at how we approach challenges in the future.
Problems? Yes - and solutions
The major obstacles encountered by Attollo were the geometrical restrictions of the entry way of the shipping container. Attollo's engineering team had to refine its approach to ensure the unloading process could be implemented without compromising product packaging, safe handling operations and attachment integrity. In addition, Attollo worked with Electrolux to develop a container unloading pattern that ensured these key requirements were made feasible.
To overcome these obstacles, Attollo had to design a specialised pantograph/stabilising assembly that allowed a horizontally-stacked fridge to be extracted from within the tight confines of the shipping container. The forklifts were also fitted out with LED lights and cameras, which made them even more efficient, as well as safer. Once the fridge was out of the container, it then had to be rotated 90 degrees to allow for standard handling to occur. Attollo, together with Electrolux, were able to design and manufacture what is, they believe, the industry's first specific solution of its kind in the logistics industry.
Rotating Dual Push-Pull Clamp
Putting the metal where it counts
Few of the key Attollo employees involved with the Attachment, including Pat Sheehan (2R) Chief Designer.
The new forklift attachment is a 'rotating dual push-pull clamp'
. The attachment is powered hydraulically from the lift truck, and, due to the required multiple functions of the attachment, it does require an electrical switch/solenoid to split/share one of the hydraulic functions powered by the lift truck.
The finished attachment
weighs approx. 1,500kg and mounts directly to the lift truck's ITA Class 2 mount. It features a quick-disconnect mount for ease of removal to another lift truck if required. The physical dimensions are 2,150mm (w) x 814mm (h) x 1,700mm (d), and the attachment has a capacity rating of 500kg @ 500mm load centre.
Watch the latest video here!
'Attollo Rotating dual push pull Clamp in action'
In comparison to traditional lift truck attachments, the internal hydraulics of the attachment are complicated due to the following functional requirements:
The proof is in the pocket
- The rotational feature is driven via a gear box and an oil motor.
- The push/pull feature is entirely cylinder-driven and incorporates a sequence valve that, depending on cylinder stroke, will alternate the push/pull function. The slip-sheet gripper is controlled through specific pressure settings to enable control of two physical functions with a single hydraulic function.
- The clamp function is also cylinder-driven and includes a specific pressure setting via cross-port relief. This is included to ensure there is no product (fridge) damage, in conjunction with a load-holding or counterbalance valve to ensure the fridge can't be released during rotation.
And the new lift truck attachments are now employed in unloading annually about 300,000 fridges from containers in Electrolux Distribution Centres in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and, soon, Auckland, New Zealand, before conventional transport to local retail outlets.
Electrolux has calculated the company will be saving about $700,000 a year with a 30% increase in productivity utilising this new fridge-handling and stacking process. An additional benefit is environmental, reducing container movements on Australian roads by several thousand per year, representing hundreds of trucks off the roads every year.
For more information visit www.electrolux.com.au
P: 07 3888 1277
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