Fluid Loading and Unloading: It’s Really Cut and Dry

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Here are three conveyor options to improve your fluid loading process, from simple to automated.

It’s exciting the first time; moving out of your childhood home and into your college dorm or bachelor pad apartment. You have very little to load into the U-Haul truck and more often than not, a smaller pickup truck or SUV will carry your lifetime possessions to your new home. The first night in the new place, you already have the fridge stocked, the TV on the wall, and your second hand La-Z-Boy sitting at the perfect angle for your favorite late night TV show.

The second time you move, it’s a different story. The third time you move, the story is a horror story. Assuming LEGO sets and Barbie dolls are now involved, the fourth time is an honest to goodness living nightmare.

Loading and unloading a moving truck by hand is a task that we despise in our personal lives and yet a very similar task is performed everyday across the world by thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of people. The laborious task of manually stacking or unstacking floor loaded product from a commercial tractor trailer is known as fluid loading/unloading in the material handling industry. Below are three types of specialty conveyors that greatly improve efficiency, ergonomics, and worker safety when handling this task.

The Flexible Conveyor

Flexible conveyor

Figure 1: FMH BestFlex Power 1.9” Roller Series

The flexible conveyor shares many of the same traits as the car you drove as a teenager. It was inexpensive and it transported you from point A to point B safely. She wasn’t without her quirks, however. She drank a quart of oil every two weeks, and the door hinge needed a shot of WD-40 from time to time. In like manner, the flexible conveyor is an inexpensive conveyor that reliably conveys product to or from the trailer. However, there are many o-rings, casters, fasteners, and hinge points that require diligent attention by maintenance personnel. Without this attention, the flexible conveyor can turn into an unreliable, squeaky, rickety machine.

The Drive-Out Conveyor

Drive out or reach out conveyor

Figure 2: FMH BeastReach Rigid Drive-Out Series

Continuing the automobile analogy, the drive-out conveyor is a classic muscle car. It is simple. It is strong. It stands the test of time. You have a six car garage and this baby sits in the middle with no other cars in sight. You take her out for a Sunday drive and retire her to her spacious abode until next week. She isn’t a daily driver, she has one job, and she does it in style. The drive-out conveyor has one purpose, fluid loading. Due to the fact that this conveyor works from the concept of waterfall transitions, the drive-out conveyor is only used to convey product into the nose of the trailer. That being said, this conveyor is limited to shipping dock doors only. The drive-out conveyor also requires a considerable amount of floor space, not quite a six car garage but certainly more space than the flexible conveyor.

The Telescopic Boom Conveyor

Telescopic boom conveyor

Figure 3: FMH MaxxReach Telescopic Series

I must say, the name has slightly influenced the automobile persona I chose for the telescopic boom conveyor. Let’s compare the Telescopic BOOM conveyor to a military Humvee. It’s a tough workhorse, heavy and solid. A compact unit that packs a big punch. The Humvee is slightly more complex than the muscle car, so maintenance upkeep of the Telescopic Boom Conveyor requires a little more involvement than the drive-out conveyor. A garage for the Humvee? Not required. Put him on the frontline, and he is ready for action. The telescopic boom conveyor has a very compact footprint, similar to the flexible conveyor. Unlike the muscle car, the Humvee can go anywhere: on road, off road, rain, fire, sleet, or snow. The telescopic boom conveyor can be used for both fluid loading and unloading and can even be mounted on a track so it can access multiple dock doors. However, this range of flexibility in such a compact and robust package comes with a higher price tag.

A few side-by-side comparisons for your consideration:

Cost per Unit (Lowest to Highest)

  1. The Flexible Conveyor
  2. The Drive-Out Conveyor
  3. The Telescopic Boom Conveyor

Unit Footprint (Smallest to Largest)

  1. The Flexible Conveyor and the Telescopic Boom Conveyor
  2. The Drive-Out Conveyor

Required Maintenance Frequency (Lowest to Highest)

  1. The Drive-Out Conveyor
  2. The Telescopic Boom Conveyor
  3. The Flexible Conveyor

Estimated Lifespan (Longest to Shortest)

  1. The Drive-Out Conveyor
  2. The Telescopic Boom Conveyor
  3. The Flexible Conveyor

In conclusion, there are several conveyor technologies that increase the safety and efficiency of fluid loading and unloading. Each application is different and variables such as available floor space and budget often influence the material handling equipment design. Bastian Solutions will gladly take the time to understand your application and business needs to help determine which conveyance solution is right for you.

Oh, and don’t worry about the fifth time you move. That typically involves a one-way ticket to the Bahamas with a pocket full of cash from a recent week-long yard sale. Don’t worry, the kids will come visit.

I graduated from Southern Polytechnic State University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology. With a background in sales and engineering, I have combined to two skill sets to provide a warm, yet professional presence to Bastian Solutions of Atlanta. I enjoy spending time on the water whether it be boating, kayaking, swimming, wakeboarding, fishing, or duck hunting. When not on the water, I enjoy running 5k races, produce farming, playing church softball, photographing wildlife, and spending time with my family. I play guitar and write songs, but I sing them to no one. “No one” has the prettiest blues eyes I’ve ever seen.

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