Change to premium forklift tyres reduces costs and increases productivity

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Change to premium forklift tyres reduces costs and increases productivity

Switching to Trelleborg’s latest Elite XP premium-quality resilient tyres on its fleet of counterbalance trucks has more than doubled the life of the standard tyres used previously by one of the UK’s most successful foundry businesses, and considerably reduced fork truck operating costs.

Working around the clock in a foundry which manufactures cast iron products for customers all over the world is one of the toughest operating environments for a forklift truck and the tyres which it runs on. With a variety of surfaces from smooth concrete inside newly-built warehouses that store finished components to internal foundry roadways, the operating environment at Wm Lee Limited’s site at Dronfield near Sheffield is exceptionally challenging for any tyre.

Part of Castings plc, the largest foundry group in the UK, Wm Lee has an annual production capacity of 45,000 tonnes. Employing 350 staff, the business manufactures a wide range of components, using Grey Iron, Spheroidal Graphite Iron (S.G.I), Silicon Molybdenum Iron (SiMo) and Austempered Ductile Iron (A.D.I.). These range from differentials, steering knuckles and turbocharger housings for the automotive and haulage sectors, to components for the rail industry, parts for trailers and general engineering components such as mounting brackets for agricultural machinery and valve housings.

Wm Lee’s fleet of seventeen Cesab Drago 200 lift trucks is replaced every five years, although in this harsh environment nothing looks new for very long. The largest model in the range of counterbalanced trucks designed for general purpose handling duties in confined spaces, the D200s are in constant use for a range of tasks, from unloading raw materials, to moving crates full of castings between production areas, to loading finished products onto lorries for dispatch all over the world.

With a maximum load capacity of 2000kg and the ability to travel at up to 18 km/h, the hydrostatic-drive D200s are equipped with 23x9-10-6.50-10 front and 18x7-8 rear tyres, those on the front axle being amongst the largest in this class of trucks to provide optimum load stability, operator comfort and manoeuvrability on uneven ground.

With its low centre of gravity, this very stable machine utilises two independent high-power front wheel hydraulic motors driven by a hydrostatic pump coupled to the engine. A key part of the performance comes from the tyres and having run budget tyres on its previous forklift fleet, Wm Lee switched to Trelleborg Orca standard-grade tyres which provided much-improved performance, but at a competitive price.

In 2017, Andrew Hodkin, Regional Sales Manager (North) for Trelleborg Industrial Tyres UK Ltd, who has dealt with Wm Lee Ltd for 20 years, felt that the company’s recently-introduced Elite XP tyre might provide a more cost-effective solution and arranged a trial of the tyre on several machines. Working with Paul Slowe, Purchasing Manager, and Ian Marsh, who has been the company’s Works Engineer for the last 38 years, they monitored the wear of the two tyre types over an 18-month period.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The Elite XP has been engineered by Trelleborg to meet the key requirements of today’s materials handling equipment, its square footprint providing excellent stability and maximising the contact area to ensure even wear characteristics and optimum tyre life.

This latest tyre features the Trelleborg Pit Stop Line wear indicator, which ensures that users obtain maximum whole-life value by always replacing them at the right time and being able to minimise forklift downtime. The indicator also provides customers with the reassurance that their tyres remain safe to use.

“This is a very cost-focused industry and so any expenditure has to be fully justified by increased performance or working life,” Purchasing Manager Paul Slowe explains. “To remain competitive, we must strike an optimum balance between fitness for purpose, price and quality, while also fulfilling our Duty of Care to our employees in terms of their safety and comfort.

“Trelleborg’s Elite XP tyres do carry a premium compared to standard tyres, so from my point of view as Purchasing Manager I had to ensure that using them instead of a standard tyre would not simply add to our costs. Having dealt with Andrew (Hodkin) for over 20 years I was prepared to listen to his expert advice and as a business we agreed to trial them on the basis that if they did not achieve the increased life to justify the cost premium then we would not pay for them.

“Depending on production requirements, this site operates continuously and each of our lift trucks averages 60 to 100 hours per week. All the machines do much the same jobs and carry up payloads of up to two tonnes in a very challenging environment, so it is a tough test of any product.

“The D200 forklifts are rear-steer machines and as a result its rear tyres tend to wear significantly more quickly than the tyres on the front axle. Previously, the standard rear tyres were lasting three to four months but switching to the new Elite XP design has extended that to approximately nine months, about two and a half to three times the operating life, so the change has been well worth the slight additional cost. The other benefit is that using this premium product has reduced the number of times that tyres need changing, so there’s also a saving in call-out charges and machine downtime.

“The Pit Stop Line is an excellent innovation, because it is so visual,” Paul adds. “The driver can easily see when tyres are coming up for change because the tread in the centre of the tyre changes colour, from black to orange. Instead of Ian Marsh, our Engineering Manager, having to continually inspect tyres for wear, operators can tell him as soon as they see the orange band, which gives us plenty of time to arrange for them to be changed.”

Designed to run on both internal combustion and electric trucks, the Trelleborg Elite XP is available in the standard black compound or a high-performance non-marking compound for use in applications where floor care is essential, with special compounds on request.