In most manufacturing processes and environments there are often several areas where large, awkward, and bulky products must be handled by an operator, machinist, fabricator, or assembler. Trying to manage these with manpower alone can be dangerous, labor intensive, and potentially costly.
Rather than risking damage or injury when moving large and heavy objects, more and more companies are turning to ergonomic industrial lift assist systems. A lift assist is a device that assists an operator in moving and manipulating a heavy or awkward work piece, allowing them to carry out the operation in a safe and ergonomic manner.
Before we get into the benefits, let’s take a closer look at what makes up a good lift assist system.
Components of a Lift Assist System
The crane of your lift assist system will help determine how much you can lift and the area that your lift assist can service. There are several different types of crane systems available and each has their own use and benefits. Some examples of common cranes include articulating jib, sliding jib, beam or wall mounted jibs, and workstation bridge cranes. One thing to keep in mind when considering a crane is the capacity. More than just the weight of your product matters. Since your lift assist will be suspended from the crane, it must be rated to support the weight of your product, your lifting device, and your tool as well.
The Lifting Device
Different lifting devices have different benefits, features, capacities, and ranges. They are broken into two categories, rigid and non-rigid. Rigid lifters would include devices such as the TorqLIFT, StackerLIFT, and the KickLIFT products from our manufacturing partner AIMCO Manufacturing. Non-Rigid lifting devices would include air hoist, air balancers, electric hoist, or intelligent lifting devices like the Gorbel G-Force. With so many options, it can be difficult to decide the best lifting device for your application. However, a Bastian Solutions Engineer can help you determine the best lifting device to suit your needs.
The final and most important part of your lift assist system is the tool or end effector. This will be the piece that interfaces with your product and will do the actual grabbing or manipulating. Every tool is different because they are custom designed to fit your product and application needs. For grabbing, the tool can have a gripper system, a vacuum system, or a magnet for ferrous materials. If manipulation is required for placing your product in a different orientation, 3 different movements can be achieved: a tilt, a roll, or a yaw. See the below image of these movements.
Now that we understand the basics of a lift assist system, let’s explore how these systems could benefit your manufacturing process.
Although there would be an initial investment, when a lift assist system is applied correctly there is a good potential for overall cost savings. These can come in the following ways:
- Reduced Scrap – When operators can move and manipulate parts in a safe and ergonomic manner, there is a decreased chance of breaking or damaging your product – which will reduce your overall scrap production of parts.
- Grants – Some state governments offer incentives in the form of grants for taking steps to improve the health and safety of your employees. Some of these include Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington. Check with your local and state governments and see what type of grants may be available to you for health and safety initiatives.
- Workers Compensation Claims – According to the NCCI, the average cost for workers’ compensation claims in 2015-2016 was $39,424. These types of additional costs can really damage the profitability of your operation. If your employees are moving heavy or awkward parts by hand, this can increase the chance of injury. A well-designed lift assist system can reduce this chance of injury to your employees and reduce the potential for workers’ compensation claims.
In today’s manufacturing world, labor needs seem to be at an all-time high. This has led to a large push to automate or repurpose labor into other needed areas. If you have an operation that requires heavy products to be lifted and/or manipulated, this could take multiple operators to safely get the task done. Expand that through a three-shift operation, and the amount of labor for that task grows quickly. However, if a well-designed lift assist system is applied to the application, what once took 2-3 (or sometimes more) operators can now be done by just one. This will allow you to repurpose the other employees into needed areas. Again, if you expand this across a three-shift operation, you could see a significant reduction in your workforce requirements.
As previously mentioned, this also reduces the risk of injury for your employees. This leads to not having to fill positions if the injured employee has a lost time incident.
Increased Production Throughput
In most cases, when an operator is lifting or manipulating a heavy object they will do so at a slow pace. Not only is each cycle slower due to the required physical demands, but throughout the day fatigue will set in from repeated strenuous motions. This results in an increase in cycle time and an ever-increased risk of injury. A well-applied lift assist will not only increase your throughput rate from cycle to cycle, it will also increase the throughput and overall productivity of the operator for the duration of the day by eliminating fatigue. This will allow you to increase the overall throughput of your operation with a potential for less labor demand.
With this basic knowledge of lift assist systems, think about your operation, where this may be applied, and the potential benefits. Does a lift assist system make sense for you? With some basic information about your operation, a Bastian Solutions engineer will be able to help you determine if a lift assist system is justified. If you are interested in a lift assist system for your facility, contact us today and we will be glad to assist you!
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