Ergolift facilitates safer picking and lifting
Mechanical devices that simplify our warehousing operations have long been the name of the game at H.Essers. With warehouses reaching maximum volume and the variety of imported and exported goods increasing, our team in Genk decided to take an innovative approach to the heavy lifting involved in order picking. They designed a system that – quite literally – works for us: the Ergolift. Robin Ceunen and Michiel Mannens are happy to explain.
Optimizing logistics services means rolling up your sleeves whenever needed. However, many goods in our warehouses weigh up to 40 kilograms a piece. Handpicking orders and carrying them in and out of storage racks would be a physically demanding task. “At H.Essers, we believe in safe working conditions, and ergonomic improvement is one of our main goals in that area”, says Robin Ceunen, Supply Chain Innovation Expert. “We’ve got plenty of mechanical tools at the ready to help us work quickly and more safely: forklifts, packing stations, drum clamps, and even an ergonomic pallet stripping machine. But pulling heavy items from storage racks was something our operators needed some help with. That’s why we came up with the Ergolift.”
Simply stated, the Ergolift is a mobile lift that operators can use to navigate towards the storage aisle and aim at the product they need to pull. A crane attached to the lift helps them reach the right pallet and two powerful suction cups will grab the product in question, after which the lift brings it up or down. “It’s not a completely new invention”, Michiel Mannens, Process Engineer, states. “We can use forklifts, but they pull entire pallets. We needed something that could move around and reach into warehousing racks to pick single products. That’s why we teamed up with Logitrans and TAWI. They helped us start the design process for the Ergolift.” We are testing the Ergolift in a warehouse which contains a great number of differing products and will therefore present the Ergolift with some real challenges. “This way, we can rest assured that it will be relatively easy to implement in our other warehouses in the future.”
As we speak, the H.Essers team is already moving on to its third Ergolift. “We are still in the middle of a test phase and have been using the previous versions to see how the machine is functioning and how we can optimize its technology”, Robin says. “For example, we discovered that it was rather slow in actually picking up the product. We made the necessary improvements to the Ergolift, also in terms of reliability and user-friendliness.” Michiel agrees. “Parts that needed to be sturdier and stronger suction power were some of the requirements as well. But it’s quite normal to go through these stages. Whenever you’re pioneering with a new machine, you need to work through a number of initial issues. This way, the greatest advantage is that the machine is adapting to us, not the other way around.”
With the newest Ergolift arriving in March, Robin and Michiel can tell that the warehousing teams are warming up to the device. Michiel: “The demography in our group of employees is quite varied, so we noticed how the older colleagues were more inclined to use the Ergolift at first. But that’s changing as well. Younger colleagues as well as new employees joining our team are happy to see how paying attention to safe ergonomics is part of our work ethic. Helping everyone feel safe and capable in the workplace – that’s part of the inclusion that we are keen to promote.” Robin is noticing the same trend. “As the Ergolift is improved and extended, and we are adjusting the logistics flow within the warehouse to further optimize its range of motion, the enthusiasm amongst team members is increasing”, he says. “I’m glad we can invest in the health and safety of our valued workers. After all, caring is part of our core values, and this is just one of the ways in which we are working hard to reach our sustainability milestones. One lift at a time.”