Learn more about the Flexpipe system and its applications with Continous improvement, Kaizen Blitz, Lean Six Sigma, 5S and more.
How to optimise material Flow with a Tugger Cart system?
When companies need to safely move loads, equipment, or machinery from one location to another, they often turn to tuggers. Some tuggers are simple hand-held carts or trolleys that allow operators and employees to drag, pull or tug raw materials, consumables, and finished goods. Other tuggers are heavy-industrial machines capable of pulling upwards of 100-plus metric tons.
A Simple Material Handling Solution
Tuggers are an ideal material handling solution for replacing forklifts. Whereas a forklift can only transport one load at a time, a tugger can transport several carts and, therefore, several loads. Instead of using a one-load-at-a-time forklift, companies can link multiple tow carts together and make a single trip instead of several.
A tugger is sometimes a generic term for equipment or machinery pulling or towing heavy loads. While there are thousands of industrial uses for tuggers, understanding how, when, and why these critical tools are used comes down to defining tuggers in terms of their load-bearing capacity.
We’ll explain when heavy-industrial tuggers and towing equipment are used, what warehousing, distribution, and retail locations use, and what solutions are best suited for lean manufacturing environments. The goal is to understand why tuggers are the perfect material handling solution when needing to move multiple loads.
Companies within the aerospace, automotive, construction, and rail industries rely upon battery-powered, motorized, and walk-behind tuggers to ensure the safety of operators and employees. These tuggers can move or pull anywhere from 1000 lbs to 100 metric tons.
So, where do you see these heavy-industrial tuggers? Any time you take a flight for a business trip or vacation, you’ll see these commercial tuggers – often called tow tractors, aircraft caddies, aircraft walkies, or towers - moving loads from one location throughout the landing strip to the next.
These solutions move passenger luggage, shipments, and fuel to and from aircraft. They’re also used to move aircraft themselves, provided the aircraft’s load doesn’t exceed the pulling or towing capacity of the tow tractor or tugger.
Photo credit: DJ Products Inc. AircraftCaddy and Railcar Mover
It’s this type of towing capacity that is used within multiple industries. The rail industry relies upon heavy-industrial tuggers when needing to repair rail cars and locomotives. The construction and automotive industries also use these material handling solutions. However, these applications typically involve moving a single heavy load at a time, such as a rail car or plane. So, what about when needing to pull, tow, and carry multiple loads?
Tuggers for Warehousing and Distribution
Imagine what it takes to move finished goods inside an expansive warehouse and distribution location like Amazon. Think about the distance that needs to be covered to maintain and replenish inventory skews and how often those distances are traveled in an hour, day, week, month, and year. Now, think about how much it would cost companies to replenish that inventory using only a forklift.
Extensive warehousing and distribution facilities save money and time by keeping their forklifts for loading and unloading new shipments while relying upon tuggers to transport those loads throughout their facility.
Battery-powered and motorized tuggers are highly-engineered machines capable of pulling multiple heavy carts linked together. This allows distribution and warehousing facilities to transport large quantities of materials, semi-finished parts, tools, and finished goods long distances. Forklifts are used to remove incoming shipments from trucks while the tugger carries multiple loads throughout the warehouse.
Hand-Held Tuggers and Electronic Tuggers for Retail
Depending on the retailer’s size, they may use small battery-powered tuggers such as DJ Product’s WagonCaddy.
This simple cart can carry upwards of 3000 lbs, making it ideal for moving parcels and products to store shelves.
It’s also an ideal solution for moving pallets and incoming shipments to and from the warehouse. These walk-behind solutions ensure operators and employees are positioned behind heavy loads so that any unforeseen spillage or fall won’t injure warehouse and store employees.
Tugger Solutions for Manufacturers
Tuggers are a critical material handling solution for manufacturers. They help to transport multiple loads at a time, allowing tugger operators to drop off essential materials and tools at individual workstations while transporting finished goods back to the warehouse.
As is often the case with lean manufacturing, the emphasis must be on minimizing transit times. This means manufacturers must plan their transit and delivery routes well in advance.
The journey starts within the warehouse, where tuggers either take loads from stocking shelves or take them right from the warehouse docking station.
Next, clearly-defined delivery routes ensure the tugger can pull all carts safely to their destination.
The goal of the tugger is to transport the loads to the designated replenishment area, such as a kitting location or a lean manufacturing workstation.
A staging location must be identified outside these lean manufacturing work cells so that operators and technicians can quickly and safely unload the materials, consumables, and semi-finished goods.
Warehouse or Docking Station: Make sure your loading and unloading procedures and processes for incoming and outgoing shipments are clearly defined. You may choose to use the tugger and tow carts immediately after shipments are unloaded at the docking station. You may also be able to have your suppliers provide deliveries that can easily be broken down for separate locations within your warehouse or when moving parts out to lean manufacturing work cells.
Delivery / Transit Routes: Take time to properly lay out your transit routes. Be mindful of high-traffic areas where two or more tuggers may intersect during transit. Split your routes up. Ensure directions are clearly marked along each of the paths. Safety during this process is of paramount importance so use clear markers that operators and technicians can easily identify.
Designated Unloading Location / Part and Material Staging: You can easily combine both of these into one area. However, if you do, ensure you’ve identified how far tuggers can advance to unload the materials or semi-finished goods from the tow carts. Your unloading processes should be well explained. Again, it’s about ensuring the safety of operators and technicians so that material and parts can quickly, easily, and safely be unloaded beside the lean manufacturing work cell.
Transit Route Back to Warehouse: This is why clearly outlining transit routes and directions is so important. It ensures minimal traffic jams and free passage for each tugger during transit. Ensure your delivery/transit route to and from the warehouse is free of obstructions or areas where the tugger and its carts might come into contact with equipment and machinery.
Tuggers and Flexpipe Tuggable Carts: Perfect Combination of High-Load Capacity and Flexibility
Any time a manufacturer pursues lean concepts, they must balance their need to increase production throughput with the importance of ensuring a safe work environment for employees. After all, there are no benefits to lean manufacturing if employees, operators, and technicians start missing time due to severe injuries.
While lean manufacturing aims to reduce the impact of idle time, minimize work stoppages, reduce cycle times, and increase production throughput, the ultimate goal for any company pursuing lean manufacturing is to accomplish all these benefits without putting operators at risk. This means optimizing your tugger and tow cart combination.
Choosing your tugger comes down to defining the loads and the weight they’ll transport. You never want to go too low on your weight estimate. A good rule is to take the number of stops your tugger will make during transit from the warehouse to each unloading area. Next, you’ll need to calculate the estimated weight of each drop-off of material and parts at a given lean work cell or kitting area.
Once you’ve chosen your tugger, you’ll need to choose your tugger carts. You essentially have two options. The first involves choosing fixed carts that are either welded or manufactured to specific dimensions.
Your second option is to choose a tube and joint system like Flexpipe where you can make your own scalable and modular carts that can easily be adjusted or modified as you see fit.
Fixed Structure / Welded Carts:
At some point, the weight, size, and configuration of what your tow carts carry to and from the warehouse will change. That change can be an internal decision made by your company or one made by your customers. It can be as simple as changing the design of your finished product or winning a new contract or bid.
When that change occurs, you’ll need to either change your tow carts and buy new ones or refurbish and repair your existing fixed carts. Either way, it’s an expensive change. Repair and refurbishment can take weeks, if not months, and involve a substantial amount of money. Purchasing new tow carts is even more costly.
Refurbishment, repair, or reconditioning is expensive and can take weeks if not months
Purchasing new fixed tow carts is more expensive than repairing what you already have.
It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to have multiple types of fixed tug carts, as depicted in the images above. This only increases a manufacturer’s costs when needing to refurbish or replace their tow carts.
[caption id="attachment_7582" align="alignnone" width="1000"] Flexpipe Modular and Scalable Tow Cart[/caption]
Modular and Scalable Flexpipe Carts:
On the one hand, you have expensive fixed tow cart structures you buy or repair. However, on the other hand, you can make your own cost-effective tow carts with Flexpipe’s tube and joint system.
Modular and scalable Flexpipe tube and joint systems are not only less expensive, but changing or modifying a Flexpipe tow cart takes hours – not days, weeks, or months. With Flexpipe, manufacturers only pay for the tubes, joints, castors, and other miscellaneous parts needed to assemble their tow carts.
The flexibility afforded to manufacturers means the costs of a Flexpipe tow cart are less, and any changes or modifications can be done in a fraction of the time compared to fixed structures.
Manufacturers pay for materials
Manufacturers can assemble their own structures at a fraction of the cost compared to fixed structures.
Manufacturers can easily change their tow carts as needed.
Empower Your Operators with Flexpipe Inc.
Flexpipe Inc. is a Montreal-based designer of tube and joint solutions for material handling. The company’s customer-centric approach and flexible piping solutions empower manufacturers to make their own material handling structures at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to get fixed structures.
The Flexpipe ergonomic solution is scalable, easily modified, and quick to assemble. To learn more about this simple system, contact us now.
About DJ Products:
DJ Products has been designing, manufacturing, and supplying electric-powered, battery-powered, and walk-behind heavy industrial tuggers and towing solutions for over 20 years. The company’s product line includes warehouse tuggers, semi-trailer movers, small aircraft tugs, pull carts, caddies, and dumpster moving equipment.
Critical Steps to Choosing Material Handling Systems
Different types of material handling solutions, equipment, and machinery are used within supply chains to move, store, protect, control, and handle materials. The goal is to ensure that materials are readily available and that parts and finished goods are properly protected during transit to and from warehouses. Material handling is a critical component for manufacturers, warehousing, wholesalers/distributors, resellers, and retailers.
What is a Material Handling System?
A material handling system includes any equipment, vehicle, standing structure, storage unit, rack, or trolley involved in storing, transporting, and protecting materials, consumables, and finished goods. For manufacturers, a material handling system should be designed with short-range movements in mind. This means that production employees should be able to easily access and move raw materials, consumables, and work-in-process parts.
Why Is Material Handling Important?
Material handling is a critical component of protecting against damage to parts, raw materials, and consumables. This not only saves companies money but also improves final product quality by reducing defects. Material handling solutions should be part of a larger company-wide program to improve a company’s storage and handling practices. Only a proactive storage and handling process can protect against unforeseen and costly part damage.
Material Handling Systems Across a Supply Chain
Material handling solutions should simplify employee access to materials and parts so that the speed of work increases. Ideally, these systems should also be easy to modify and scalable to keep up with changing requirements. Across a given supply chain, material handling solutions are heavily relied upon as a means of meeting delivery requirements with minimal product defects.
1 . Production and Manufacturing
Material handling systems found in manufacturing include carts, flow racks, racks, tuggers, shelving, workbenches, workstations, boards, and other storage solutions. Each of these systems plays a critical role in supporting production employees by supplying them with the necessary tools, instruments, parts, instructions, and consumables to complete work orders.
2. Packaging and Transportation
Manufacturers typically ship their industrial finished goods on strapped pallets of corrugated cardboard containers. Corrugated containers and customized packaging are often used as a means of protecting materials from damage during transportation. They are also the most cost-effective way of transporting industrial finished goods. Strapped corrugated pallets help keep raw materials, consumables, and parts safe during transit.
3. Storage and Warehousing
The most common types of warehouse material handling systems include forklifts, lift trucks, hoisting equipment, shelving, pallets, pallet jacks, automated guided vehicles (AVG), and even robotic handling systems. Forklifts are the all-important vehicle in warehouse management. These are heavily relied upon to move corrugated and strapped pallets, while lift trucks can position pallets on high vertical shelves.
4. Wholesalers and Distributors
Wholesalers, distributors, and bulk resellers rely upon a combination of material handling solutions. Distributors typically use forklifts, lift trucks, and hoisting equipment to handle and store shipments. These are then broken down into smaller shipments which are then sent out to retailers. The focus is to minimize costs so incoming bulk shipments are often used as a means of lowering per-unit freight costs.
Large retailers with large warehouses typically rely upon forklifts and lift trucks in addition to large shelving and storage units as a means of controlling finished goods. Smaller retailers may simply require pallet jacks, commercial hand trucks, warehouse stock carts, or small utility carts.
Problems with a Fixed Structure Material Handling System
Most portions of the supply chain don’t necessarily require customized modular material handling systems. There are instances where wholesalers, distributors, and large retail chains benefit from modular shelving and storage systems. However, manufacturers and fabricators are more heavily reliant on modular material handling systems if they want to adopt lean manufacturing, improve efficiencies, and control costs.
Unfortunately, for manufacturers, there are several inherent problems associated with a fixed material handling system like utility carts, trolleys, stock carts, or fixed shelving structures. The first issue relates to how several of these material handling solutions have welded joints or are designed and pre-manufactured to specific dimensions.
[caption id="attachment_36625" align="alignnone" width="1080"] This too heavy cart with inadequate wheels was a real source of problem for the team in addition to being a danger to their safety.[/caption]
Making any kind of adjustment to their dimensions or structure is both labor-intensive and time-consuming. This means spending a considerable amount of time having maintenance make changes. These changes often involve cutting, machining, and welding. For companies without these in-house capabilities, it means sending these structures out to third-party subcontractors.
Not only are third-party subcontractors expensive, but they can have drastic consequences on a company’s production throughput. It’s not uncommon for subcontracting to add weeks or even months for modifications to fixed structure material handling systems.
Second, as part of any continuous improvement plan, it’s common for companies to change their warehouse or shop floor layout. They may do this to reduce transit times between workstations and work cells, maximize available space, make room for a new piece of machinery or equipment, or increase their warehouse and production space to keep up with rising demand.
Once these changes are made, fixed structure systems that were pre-manufactured to specific dimensions quickly become obsolete. Companies must either cover the high costs of repair and refurbishment or purchase an entirely new material handling system.
Third, fixed structure material handling systems are by their very nature and design incapable of being flexible. They can’t be adjusted without a costly overhaul, repair, and refurbishment. This makes fixed structure material handling systems extremely problematic for manufacturers, especially ones adopting a continuous improvement mindset.
What do Manufacturers Need?
Manufacturers who adopt lean manufacturing principles need to reduce manufacturing cycle times and reduce transit times to increase production throughput. Sometimes that requires the willingness and ability to customize material handling systems for new product lines or new projects. Unfortunately, that’s not possible with fixed structure material handling.
Manufacturers must optimize their material handling systems throughout the entire production process. This means properly handing and storing incoming raw materials, while also improving the accessibility of those materials and consumables in lean work cells. Next, they need to reduce the transit times for semi-finished parts to adjacent work cells. When the entire material handling process is optimized, the company reduces waste, lowers manufacturing cycle times, and encounters fewer production delays.
The Benefit of a Modular Material Handling System
A modular material handling system is one where employees can make immediate changes to the structure’s layout without encountering extensive delays. These solutions typically include modular piping and tube and joint systems that can quickly be cut, extended, and joined in a fraction of the time compared to a fixed/welded material handling structure. Sometimes these changes can take no more than a couple of minutes.
Unfortunately, adjusting fixed material handling systems typically involves a substantial amount of industrial cutting, machining, and welding which can take days and weeks to complete. Modular systems are cost-effective solutions that are easy to assemble and disassemble without having to worry about extended lost time.
Improving Material Handling for Manufacturers
There are two essential criteria for optimizing material handling across the entire shop floor. First, a material handling structure inside lean work cells should be designed for minimal worker movement. This means parts, tools, materials, consumables, and semi-finished parts are easily accessible to production employees from within their work cells.
Second, the material handling equipment outside the work cell should be just as functional and easy to use as those inside the work cell. This ensures that transit times to move work-in-process parts to the next lean work cell in the production process are minimized.
When both the inside and outside of all lean work cells have optimized material handling structures and material handling equipment, it has the cascading effect of lowering production cycle times across the entire shop floor. After all, a single delay from a production work cell causes the next cell in the chain to experience delays until eventually, every chain in the process is behind schedule.
What can we build with a Modular Material Handling System?
There is simply no shortage of modular material handling systems that companies can make on their own using pipe and tubing systems. These products are perfect complements to a company’s constantly changing manufacturing environment. Without these modular piping solutions, companies would be faced with the high costs and delays of fixing, repairing, refurbishing, and re-welding older material handling equipment, or worse, having to purchase new ones.
Modular and Scalable Flow Racks
Most often associated with inventory and warehousing, material handling flow racks can also be placed in, or immediately outside of, lean manufacturing work cells. Having materials, parts, and consumables stationed in flow racks adjacent to work cells eliminates wasted transit times for employees from the work cell to the warehouse and back again. In essence, these material handling flow racks can sometimes act as small inventory retainers so that employees don’t waste time walking long distances for the materials they need to finish a work order.
Flow racks have an inclined design which makes it easy for employees to access the materials and parts inside production bins. Modular material handling flow racks empowers manufacturers to make relatively quick adjustments to the flow rack to account for a larger bill of materials. This could involve disassembling a portion of the flow rack to add more levels to handle more bins, or widening the length of each rack.
Modular and Scalable Carts
Carts have a multi-purpose function as material handling equipment. First, they help warehouse employees manage, move and store incoming shipments while also helping to prepare outgoing shipments.
Second, they are often essential for moving semi-finished parts and assemblies to and from separate work cells on the shop floor. Sometimes those semi-finished parts can be quite large, wide, or long. Third, they are ideal solutions for moving multiple production bins, parts, and materials for different work orders to different shop floor locations.
While carts have multiple uses, a modular and scalable cart built with tube and joint systems expands those uses and benefits ten-fold. Manufacturers know that nothing is static or stationary on the shop floor for long. Being able to adjust a cart’s size, height and width isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity. Modular piping solutions empower manufacturers to adjust to any change in requirement.
Modular and Scalable WorkStations
Workstations are the all-important building block of any lean manufacturing work cell. A poorly-made or badly-designed workstation leads to endless wasted time as employees search in vain for poorly-placed parts, tools, instructions, bins, materials, or work orders. All this wasted time reduces operational efficiency.
If the workstation isn’t designed or structured around 5S principles (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) or worse, is not movement-friendly, then it’s no longer a lean workstation.
As important as a clean workstation is, it’s nowhere near as important as being able to adjust the workstation with modular piping solutions. Invariably, the workstation’s design will need to be changed, or modified at some point, and a fixed structure workstation is extremely difficult to adjust without encountering wasted time and high costs.
Modular and Scalable Racks
Racks are critical for holding inventory within warehouses. Not only do racks help to protect inventory, but their loading capacity means they can hold inventory for long periods. A higher loading capacity means each level protects the inventory on that level and each subsequent level beneath it.
It would be great if you only needed one type of rack with perfectly spaced levels that never need to change, but that is rarely the case. This is why a modular and scalable rack is so important.
Tube and joint systems allow you to create a tailor-made rack with individual levels you can adjust. Since inventory costs are typically based on warehouse square footage, a modular rack system allows you to free up valuable warehouse space, thereby reducing warehousing and inventory costs.
There is nothing more costly or time-consuming than having to change a fixed warehouse racking system. Modular racking can be made to fit the exact size and space you need to store materials, parts, and finished goods and are scalable and adaptable to support any change.
Types of Materials used to build a handling system
There are material handling systems that are pre-manufactured to specific dimensions and made with different types of materials. Ultimately, understanding the pros and cons of these materials is needed to better understand if they are viable solutions for your handling needs.
Aluminum is a lightweight, high-strength, and durable material that often has strong corrosion resistance. It is often used in manufacturing material handling equipment provided the aluminum is properly taken care of. Unfortunately, that is often the problem with a material handling structure manufactured from aluminum. Should that aluminum get stretched – which will eventually happen – then the aluminum’s surface layer will oxidize and corrode.
It’s also not uncommon for aluminum to experience water staining with high magnesium-aluminum alloys staining the most. While this doesn’t necessarily degrade the material’s properties, it is an obvious eye-sore that is less than appealing. Just imagine customers seeing water stains on every single aluminum material handling system you have.
There are plenty of material handling systems that are welded. Unfortunately, these welded structures make the structure’s physical dimensions permanent. Any pre-manufactured or fixed material handling equipment is not easy to adjust or change. In fact, they aren’t designed or supposed to change.
These structures have a role to play for companies like distributors, retailers, or resellers who offer high volumes through a small number of product lines. If these product lines rarely change, then welded structures might work. Unfortunately, business change is commonplace, and welded structures aren’t just expensive to purchase – they’re expensive to fix and replace.
Standard Hardware Store Structures/Shelving:
An argument can be made for hardware store storage and shelving systems. They do play a role in inventory management. However, that role is extremely limited. It’s not uncommon for warehouses to have small shelves that hold small consumables like tape, hammers, nails, scissors, labels, etc. Unfortunately, that’s about it. These systems do not have sufficient load capacity on each shelf which means weight distribution across that shelf is very limited and extremely problematic.
While rarely used, some companies create material handling equipment, workbenches, and workstations out of wood. Unfortunately, this is neither a good material nor a stable material to withstand the heavy loads and repeated use so common in warehouses and production shop floors. Gradually, over time, wood rots, especially when it’s exposed to humidity. As the rot propagates, the wood degrades even further and becomes weaker until eventually, it cracks or breaks. Even in a temperature-controlled warehouse, wood shelving is not a long-term viable solution.
Modular Material Handling Solutions Check all the Boxes
Companies nowadays have multiple concerns. It’s not just about making a good product, building a brand, and keeping customers. While each of these is important, there are other issues today’s companies are starting to take more seriously. Fortunately, a modular material handling system can address all these issues and more.
Ergonomic and Safe Solution
Employee absences due to work injuries are extremely expensive. The typical manufacturer covers $1,000.00 of additional costs every day an employee is injured. When employers adopt ergonomic principles, it immediately has an impact on employee engagement. Their efficiency, productivity, and attendance all improve. In return, companies don’t have to cover as many costs for absences due to injury.
For many industries, a modular material handling system is part of their overall ergonomic strategy. These are the companies that will incorporate anti-fatigue matting solutions inside work cells to provide improved impact resistance for employees. When tube and joint solutions are used alongside anti-fatigue matting solutions, then companies can easily adjust and cut both to accommodate the other.
Modular material handling systems are relied upon because their surfaces, corners and the entire structure is clean, free of burs, and void of any sharp edges. This means modular handling systems are not only ergonomic but safe for use.
Inexpensive Solution Compared to Fixed Structures
Companies faced with modifying fixed structure material handling equipment incur substantial costs and delays. Changing or adjusting fixed material handling systems often involves a tremendous amount of labor-intensive and expensive work.
Simply put, modular piping solutions are easier and faster to assemble, require less expertise, and are nowhere near as expensive or take anywhere near as long as having to send fixed structures to subcontractors. These systems can easily be assembled in-house and adjusted in a fraction of the time compared to a fixed structure material handling system.
Easily Recycled – If needed
Modular handling systems aren’t just easier to work with. While having a system that’s easily customized and adaptable is a definite plus, another benefit includes the ease with which modular systems can be recycled. This is but another way for companies to showcase their environmental stewardship.
The piping and square piping is typically made from steel with a polyethylene coating or a highly-scratch-resistant paint coating. Roller tracks are made from steel or Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. Joints are also made of steel. Finally, the end caps, pipe connectors, and hinge brackets are either made of PVC or other highly-durable plastic. Ultimately, the result is a material handling solution that is scalable, adaptable, affordable, and recyclable.
Designed with Efficiency in Mind
Modular material handling solutions are designed with efficiency and lean concepts in mind. Companies providing these tube and joint systems are well-aware of how businesses need a scalable and modular solution. These structures can be assembled and disassembled in a fraction of the time when compared to other material handling solutions made from other materials. Ultimately, it’s about enabling companies to make their own changes and structures as they see fit.
Choosing the Right Solution
Choosing a material handling system comes down to defining the type of business you run, the customers you serve, and the market or industry you operate in. Manufacturers have an obvious benefit from using modular material handling systems. However, if you are a small retailer, then modular systems aren’t likely to add any benefits or efficiencies. If you’re a business that sells a few product lines and those product lines never change, then fixed structures might be a solution. However, if your business is constantly changing and continuously growing - and if you know first-hand that fixed structure material handling has not worked for you - then modular systems may just be what you need.
Why you should use AGVs on your assembly line
LISTEN: Audio Interview with Bruce Buscher
In this interview, Bruce Buscher, VP of Daifuku’s AGV group answers all the questions you may have about all the benefits of having an AGV in your facilities.
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An automated guided vehicle (AGV) is a computer-controlled vehicle used to carry or tow materials in a manufacturing facility. In this video, Bruce Buscher, vice-president of Daifuku’s AGV group, explains why AGVs are a great solution for your assembly line and how you can integrate them with your material handling system.
Why use AGVs on your assembly line?
[caption id="attachment_38318" align="alignnone" width="801"] Credit: Daifuku.com[/caption]
The biggest advantage of using automated guided vehicles on your assembly line is flexibility. Traditional assembly lines are made up of structures such as towline conveyors and overhead conveyors that are permanently attached to the floor, making it difficult to change the configuration of the line after installation. By contrast, on an assembly line made up of AGVs, the vehicles carry the materials from station to station, and the path they follow can be modified at any time to suit different production requirements. This opens up a world of possibilities for your workflow, enabling you to maximize efficiency and reduce waste.
For instance, you’re no longer restricted to following a straight line. According to the rules of circular manufacturing, straight-line processes create waste by forcing workers to travel from one end of the warehouse to the other at the end of each cycle. With an AGV assembly line, you can organize your workflow in whatever shape makes the most sense for a particular process, whether that’s a U shape or a Christmas-tree pattern with deviations for additional tasks such as quality checks and customizations.
Using AGVs also eliminates the need for a human to deliver parts to the assembly line, which means operators are more likely to receive parts at the precise moment they need them. This can help you achieve more consistent cycle times and adjust takt times as needed to meet customer demand.
How can you integrate AGVs with other material handling equipment?
[caption id="attachment_38480" align="alignnone" width="900"] Credit: Assembly Magazine[/caption]
For maximum flexibility in your workflow, it’s best to pair AGVs with a tube and joint system. Load handling frames built from tubes and joints are relatively inexpensive and can be easily configured to carry parts of varying shapes and sizes, which makes them a popular choice in many manufacturing environments. According to Bruce, the use of AGVs with tube and joint products is especially common in supermarkets and line of sight delivery systems. It’s easy to see why: to fully take advantage of the flexibility offered by AGVs, you’ll need material handling equipment that’s equally adaptable. For example, you might decide to consolidate your workflow and reduce the number of stations on your assembly line. If your load handling frames are made of welded steel, it’s going to be time-consuming and costly to replace them, whereas tube and joint frames are designed to be reconfigured at will.
Is it possible to start small and add more AGVs later on?
[caption id="attachment_38485" align="alignnone" width="835"] Credit: Daifuku[/caption]
There’s no need to overhaul your entire assembly line in one go. If you’re not sure where AGVs would best fit into your workflow, you could start by identifying areas of waste or reduced productivity (creating a value stream map is a great way to do this) and assess whether an automated guided vehicle could solve the problem. For instance, you might notice that one of your operators always has to wait for parts to arrive at their workstation before they can begin their task, which creates a bottleneck in your production chain. The solution might be to program an AGV to deliver the required parts precisely when the operator needs them. Alternatively, you could search for a way to reduce the time your workers spend moving pallets through the warehouse. AGVs can help with that, too.
In short, whether you’re looking to streamline your entire operation or make a few small adjustments to achieve a leaner workflow, AGVs are an excellent tool to have at your disposal.
About our Lean expert - Bruce Buscher
Mr. Buscher has been leading the charge to automate manufacturing and assembly processes for more than 40 years. He first started as an engineer on the plant floor and has been the VP of Daifuku’s AGV group for the last fifteen years. Bruce and his team developed a full line of standard AGV Products and Navigation Technologies to solve Assembly Line challenges and drive out costs. They have deployed AGV’s in assembly lines across all industries.
Daifuku uses AGV’s to solve basic issues such as Ergonomics, Safety, Workforce Turnover, and Cost Reductions. As the oldest AGV manufacturer in North America, Daifuku has continuously led the way in automating assembly lines over the last 100 years and doing it with AGV’s since 1962.
Borrowing Lean Manufacturing Concepts from the Automotive Industry
Jerry Collins – a mechanical engineer with 28 years of experience in the automotive industry – uses the pre-production stage as the critical first step to managing future production costs. It’s during this pre-production stage that Jerry uses modular piping systems as a way to layout his production floor and design material handling systems. This reduces costs and makes it easier to modify those handling systems (if needed) once full-scale production starts.
LISTEN: Audio Interview Jerry Collins
In this interview, Society of Cost Engineers founder Jerry Collins explains to Flexpipe project manager Temie Fessa how modular material handling systems have helped him maximize efficiency and profits.
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Find out how any company in any industry can benefit from using tube and joint systems in the pre-production stage as a way to manage costs.
The Origins of Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing can trace its roots back to Henry Ford’s infamous Model T assembly line and the Toyota Production System (TPS) of the early twentieth century. Sometimes referred to as “lean production” or “just-in-time manufacturing”, lean manufacturing focuses on increasing production throughput while controlling costs and minimizing waste.
With lean manufacturing, companies can increase production throughput without sacrificing their cash position or purchasing excessive inventory. Unfortunately, a large number of companies use some lean concepts while never fully implementing others.
Using Modular Piping for a Mocked Assembly Line
Instead of using lean manufacturing principles during the pre-production stage, several companies only adopt lean concepts long after production has started. Unfortunately, this puts them in a read-and-react position where unforeseen changes in product designs force them to make haphazard and extremely costly adjustments. However, Jerry took an entirely different approach.
Jerry and his team used modular piping solutions to create a mockup front axle and rear axle assembly line for General Motors. As stated by Jerry, “long before we purchased any equipment, we created a whole facility with modular piping and decided early on how our material handling systems would be structured.” This included using tube and joint systems to create mock machines and equipment in order to create a visual presentation of both on the shop floor.
They also used modular piping to create trolleys to test the transit times between work cells, all the while looking for any possible obstructions. They then created temporary structures in order to simulate how future material handling systems would be positioned beside work cells, equipment, and machinery.
Making Immediate Adjustments within Minutes – Not Days or Weeks
[caption id="attachment_38507" align="alignnone" width="1440"] A dedicated material handling shop will allows you to modify quickly and on spot structures that need adjustments.[/caption]
Jerry and his team of engineers chose modular piping solutions during the preproduction stage because of how easily it was to make simple changes. Some of the changes they made to their mock layout took mere minutes, something that is completely impossible to achieve with fixed material handling systems. As Jerry stated, “companies need to plan their material handling systems early on so they can maintain and improve upon their profits margins later.”
Ultimately, the tube and joint solutions replaced all of their larger, fixed-structure material handling frames. According to Jerry, making a single adjustment to their older material handling structures involved sending their heavy-duty racks to “a third party for welding and adjustments which could take weeks and months, whereas if you have a product like Flexpipe, it can be done in an afternoon.”
For Jerry and his team, adopting modular piping systems during the pre-production stage ensured everybody was comfortable with using the solution once production began. So, what are the inherent benefits of using modular piping during the initial pre-production stage?
Adopting Lean Principles in the Pre-Production Stage
Adopting lean concepts in the pre-production stage by using tube and joint systems has three primary benefits. First, it amalgamates the costs associated with laying out the entire production floor for equipment and machinery, while totaling the costs for standing structures, workbenches, shelving, trolleys, flow racks, boards, etc.
This provides companies with a complete picture of their costs. It also allows companies to decide upon how much actual square footage they need for manufacturing. They can avoid the extra costs of leasing/buying too much production space, or conversely, avoid the high costs and delays that come from not having enough production space.
Second, using modular piping solutions in pre-production helps to simplify workflow. Companies have a much easier time choosing which modular piping solutions are needed for all their T-shaped, U-shaped, and S or Z-type work cells. This allows them to maximize the transit times between production work cells, equipment, machinery, and other standing structures. It also helps them choose ideal locations for inventory and part storage.
Third, by adopting tube and joint systems in the pre-production stage, employees are better able to make quick modifications to standing structures and material handling systems once production begins. No more waiting on welding or having to send out heavy-duty racks to third-party suppliers for modifications that may take weeks or months. Instead, with tube and joint systems, the employees can make the changes themselves.
Modular piping is a product designed with lean concepts in mind. Making changes to modular material handling systems is faster, simpler, and far less expensive when compared to fixed-structure systems.
Simple Steps to Using Modular Piping During Pre-production
Again, any company in any industry can use the same approach. It simply comes down to using the following four steps.
1.Use Spaghetti Diagrams to Define Workflow
Spaghetti diagrams allow you to map your workflow so that you have a visual presentation of how physical parts move between part storage, material handling systems, work cells, equipment, and machinery. The goal is to have a sequential process where the parts move naturally and employees aren’t required to walk extremely long distances to move those parts to the next chain in the process.
2.Gather Information About Machinery & Equipment
Defining the physical size of equipment and machinery is an important aspect of maximizing available shop floor space. You’ll need to define the physical dimensions of equipment and machines and visualize how they will be laid out on the shop floor.
3.Define Number of Material Handling Systems
Once you’ve defined the areas of your shop floor occupied by machinery and equipment, it becomes easy to determine the number of material handling systems you’ll require. To help you in the design of those systems, Flexpipe has created the Flexpipe Creator Extension, an innovative software-based solution that allows you to simplify your designs.
4.Simulate Transit Times
By now, your shop floor should be mocked up with locations for equipment, machinery, standing structures, work cells, and material handling systems. A proactive final step involves simulating transit times between each of these structures to ensure that there is sufficient space for employees to move parts and that the distances they travel aren’t too far.
Flexpipe: Make it Work For You
Flexpipe is an industry leader in tube and joint systems with a strong North American footprint. Long recognized as an innovator, Flexpipe is well-known for its affordable modular piping solutions (30% less expensive) and its customer-centric approach to customer service and after-sales support.
Four Benefits of Karakuri in Lean Operations
The term Karakuri -or Karakuri Kaizen- is derived from the Japanese word meaning machinery or mechanical device used to assist a process with limited (or no) automated resources. Its origins come from the mechanical dolls in Japan that essentially helped lay the foundations of robotics.
Instead of being controlled by software or a computer, the basis of its functionality lies entirely in the overall design of the device. This can range from the simple use of gravity to the use of springs, weights, pendulums, etc.
Many facilities and operations are coming to the conclusion that mechanical automation is the only way to go, as Karakuri Kaizen can provide advantageous and relatively inexpensive solutions that can improve operational processes. This can be achieved by using the "Kaizen" approach, which is based on the idea that the "Kaizen" approach is the only way to improve productivity and reduce costs.
Example of the use of Karakuri in Lean Manufacturing
Karakuri is one of the many tools associated with Lean concepts and methodology. Using its fundamentals allows you to dive deeper into business process improvement, but from a cost reduction perspective - it will ultimately allow you to find innovative solutions with a smaller budget. This is why Karakuri Kaizen is commonly used in Lean Manufacturing. Consider this example:
Toyota had identified an inefficient process within its automotive assembly line in which operators were pushing their material/tool carts by hand. This was resulting in lost productivity and an overall extended production cycle time. So Toyota developed a Karakuri-style cart that can be mounted on the car's engine. Once a car is finished, a weight is released that allows the cart to move to the next vehicle. Toyota also incorporated a tray with parts placed on the fender that allows operators much easier access to materials and tools. Removing non-value-added steps as Toyota has done will progressively reduce process times and allow your operation to produce more, in less time.
Want to know all the ins and outs of building a karakuri structure? Esteban lived the experience and can tell us all about the trials and errors Here is his story
Four benefits of Karakuri in Lean Manufacturing
Taking an approach like Toyota, one of the world's largest automakers, can provide substantial benefits to a facility attempting to move to a more Lean approach. Using Karakuri Kaizen can provide you with the elements necessary to maintain a competitive edge within your industry.
• Cost reduction - As mentioned throughout this article, Karakuri Kaizen enables significant cost reduction in a variety of ways. By reducing production cycle time and lowering automation and overall material costs as processes are optimized, operations will be able to reinvest in themselves more, as their bottom line will be positively impacted.
• Process improvement – In synergy with other Lean concepts, Karakuri reduces the overall cycle time by "automating" the process with a device, instead of relying on manual movement. Like the Toyota example, breaking down the process and locating non-value added steps will help determine which elements would benefit from innovative Karakuri solutions and structures.
• Quality improvement – Process improvement has a direct impact on product improvement. An inefficient production process increases the chances of manufacturing defects and potential errors, so process planning and establishing the most efficient route can only further improve product quality.
• The simplicity of maintenance – Automated systems lead to increased maintenance costs, especially for operations that are almost entirely dependent on their automation. This will usually result in the need for a 24/7 maintenance team in case the system fails - which it inevitably will. Karakuri devices are easy to maintain because of their simplicity and the materials they are made of, so managers don't have to spend a fortune on a new department and team to keep everything running well.
Karakuri Kaizen provides a beneficial foundation and framework that ensures your production system continues to optimize processes and operational flow. If you are looking to improve operational efficiency, Karakuri is an indispensable tool that will improve performance and enhance the bottom line.
The mechanisms used to make a karakuri
[caption id="attachment_37825" align="aligncenter" width="871"] Le système de levier est un mécanisme couramment utilisée.[/caption]
1- The lever is one of the most important inventions of karakuri style
The lever system is a commonly used structure, especially in simple devices. It allows for easy lifting of heavy objects, as it involves a bar moving on a fixed point (the fulcrum) when a force is applied to it.
2- Inclined planes
Inclines are everywhere - they are almost impossible to avoid. Sloping roads, hills and ramps are examples of inclines we encounter every day. The incline is a simple but effective way to transport an object on an elevated surface or to use gravity to your advantage to send an object down.
3- The winch
A winch is a device that creates or releases tension on a rope or wire to adjust its length, usually by means of a crank. Winches are commonly used in tugboats, fishing boats, cranes and even rescue helicopters.
4- The spring
The spring is another element frequently used in everyday life by many people. It can be found in a mattress, an enclosure and even in a mouse trap. Springs are made of steel and are available in a variety of designs, including the coil spring. Springs store mechanical energy and release it when a restraining force is removed. One can easily picture a spring when thinking of a retractable pen.
5- Magnetic energy
It is said that opposites attract - at least that is the case with magnets. Magnets allow for attraction or repulsion and are another commonly used karakuri-style structure, especially in refrigerators and freezers.
6- The pulley system
Like the other simple systems on this list, the pulley system was a revolutionary idea used in all types of industries. The pulley involves the use of a rope or cord around a rim, which allows for the transmission of energy and motion. It is especially useful when lifting heavy objects; in this regard, the more pulleys added to the system, the more weight is distributed among them, making it easier for the user.
7- Pascal's principle
In the visual below, Pascal's principle demonstrates that a force applied at one point to a liquid in a container is accompanied by equal pressure in all directions. F1 pushes down on A1 in a smaller, more condensed area, but this equal force and pressure will be exerted in A2 and up to F2, thus illustrating the principle.
This principle is widely used in many pieces of equipment such as hydraulic systems, car brakes, barber chairs and a variety of equipment.
The first steps with the Karakuri
Like many other facilities, you may be wondering where to start. Flexpipe offers innovative solutions to your process constraints and understands the importance of having the best equipment available for maximum production efficiency. Our project managers can help you generate ideas and assemblies for your Karakuri structure to take productivity and operational efficiency to the next level. Flexpipe offers innovative solutions to your process constraints and understands the importance of having the best equipment available for maximum production efficiency.Our project managers are able to help you generate ideas and assemblies for your Karakuri structure, to push productivity and operational efficiency to the next level.
You don't have to spend a small fortune to be operationally efficient. Karakuri structures are simple, innovative solutions that are a must for any team looking for cost-saving solutions. Reduce cycle time, improve processes and production quality by contacting Flexpipe for assistance in designing and building a Karakuri structure for your facility.
Post-Covid 19 protective structures
In the current crisis, companies must quickly adapt their production. Certain security measures will be necessary to ensure the protection of all employees. You will find in this page a panoply of protective structures which want to be inspiring, simple to realize and at low price.
Why buy Flexpipe in times of crisis?
The needs linked to Covid-19 being temporary, when the pandemic is over, it is very easy to dismantle the tubes and joints in order to find them a second life!
Here are some structural ideas. All of these ideas are adaptable. Our strength is tailor-made! Send us the required dimensions and we will assist you in the preparation of your project.
Protectives separators between production employees
We design plans for you quickly.
We can pre-cut and send you kits.
We can pre-assembled structures and deliver turn-key projects.
Mass production can be put into rapid action.
DOWNLOAD ALL COVID-19 PROTECTION STRUCTURE HERE
Line guard: download this plan
Sneeze guard: download this plan
Sneeze guard: download this plan
Sneeze guard: download this plan
The next picture was sent by one of our favorite people in the Flexpipe Community! Jason Blain from Winpak who shared with us his brand new installation: sneeze guards that allows the workers to keep going in security.
And as he said, it was ”built while they were working and installed while they were on lunch. A fast but an effective build.” Quick and simple!
Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan
Sneeze wall: download this plan
Sneeze wall: download this plan
Employee / customer protection or for office workers
Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan
Sneeze screen 32x32: download this plan
Cleaning and disinfection station
Handwashing station: download this plan
Hand sanitizer rack: download this plan
LET US KNOW IF YOU IF YOU HAVE A SPECIFIC REQUIREMENT - WE WILL GET BACK TO YOU IN 24 HOURS.
WHAT CAN FLEXPIPE DO TO OPTIMIZE YOUR PLANT EFFICIENCY?
Flexpipe Modular materials handling systems can help you with implementing continuous improvement principles. Your team’s creativity can result in a 10% increase in productivity per year. It has been a proven system for more than 50 years now.
When should I draw with CAD or do a freehand sketch?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Is training your staff to use 3D CAD software to design a structure necessary for all your projects? In our opinion, absolutely not! Depending on the complexity of the required structure, a freehand sketch may be faster than a computer drawing with CAD software. Read on to know when to design a structure using CAD software versus only doing a freehand drawing.
At Flexpipe, when we need a structure for internal use, we draw by hand instead of using CAD. When we say this to clients that are using 3D CAD software, they are quite surprised!
First, we carry out some "try-storming" with sketches, and, once tested and approved, we do reverse engineering and create a 3D design. This way, we speed up the process considerably rather than waiting for the design department to model a structure that we're not 100% quite sure will work.
In 90% of cases, you'll want to change and improve the initial concept after just one day of use. A pipe and joint system will allow you to tweak and fine-tune the structure easily. If you make the design process longer, you'll end up wiping out the quick improvement advantage of the product.
In some cases, a CAD design is not what the situation calls for.
With these wise words in mind, "Problem in the morning, solution in the afternoon," we'd rather waste a few pipes and joints on a quick structural test rather than spend a long time thinking of the ideal design in front of a computer. Our motto is "Fail fast – Learn fast – Improve fast!"
Benefits of freehand sketching
One of the significant benefits is that freehand sketching is a simple solution that requires only a few types of equipment. There's no need for software or computer or special skills that require you to be in an office setting. You can draw the sketch where the action is taking place and with the people who are most impacted by the structure.
Here are other benefits of doing your project design on paper instead of using computer software:
Lower development costs: a CAD drawing can get expensive as each picture requires an average of 5 hours of staff time.
Reduces wastes, improves efficiency and saves on costs when improvements are implemented within a shorter timeframe.
Stronger employee involvement: a key for better engagement is to act fast, especially when operating with a suggestion system!
Increased employee reach because freehand sketching is easily accessible to everyone. The employee suggesting a new structure or improvements on an existing structure is, logically, the best person to do the sketch.
It's easier to think outside the box because you are making multiple drawing iterations; ideally 7 - see our 7-Ways Idea Template to Avoid Tunnel Vision article. Getting various departments and workers participating in this brainstorming process is invaluable and can reap numerous rewards, such as different perspectives and diversified work techniques.
Benefits of making a CAD drawing after a first structure is built
Most of the time, we suggest making a 3D CAD drawing once the prototype phase is over because the final result will be accurate measurements, a bill of material, and a precise cut list.
Here are some other benefits that it's essential to document, using CAD software, a project that will be reproduced:
Avoid the occurrence of mistakes or leaving details up to an assembler's preferences. It's best to stick to a final design, so each structure is identical.
Reduces the time spent cutting pipes and assembling the structure. This is especially true when making multiple copies of an existing and tested structure.
Keeps a detailed record of your structure's components if you need to build additional units in the future. Regardless of who makes the structure, the "recipe" will be the same.
Enables you to share improvements made to structures with other departments or factories to share best practices and standardize work methods.
Helps you order the exact quantity of material needed or calculate the cost of a large project.
Makes requesting quotes from pipe and joint suppliers easier. Though we hope you'll choose Flexpipe!
Better to develop a concept with CAD software for these types of structures
For complex structures with over 20 pipes and 50 joints - for example, a flow rack 60" long with five levels and a 40" depth with multiple roller tracks. A CAD design will make it easier to draw up a bill of material, reduce the risk of errors and reduce waste, and save money.
For critical structures with a heavy loading capacity exceeding 1000 lb - for example, a WIP (work-in-progress) cart that will hold parts weighing 1200 lb and is to be moved around the production floor. Calling upon the CAD design team members is a wise move as they are specialized in calculating loading capacities and optimizing work methods.
For projects bringing about resistance to change - for example, replacing workbenches that have been used for the last 15 years by new workstations. Some projects generate more passionate debate than others. In such cases, presenting a 3D CAD drawing with multiple perspectives to the team can provide reassurance, bring about product improvement suggestions, and motivate employee engagement.
Projects that require a significant financial investment - for example, new kitting carts to reduce the use of wood pallets and forklift traffic. These types of projects generally require formal approval as it takes a certain amount of time to recoup the investment. Therefore, a 3D software design will help justify the expense of key decision-makers. They will be able to visualize the project and understand its benefits.
It's essential to evaluate the scope of the structure that you want to create; that is, don't overthink the process. Large projects should be done on CAD once the prototype phase is done. Major projects should be drawn on CAD once the prototype is done. Other than that, we suggest that you encourage people to keep it simple: do a freehand sketch, start assembling the structure, and test it quickly!
A coated pipe is less than a $1 per foot, and you will be able to reuse the casters and joints if the structure does not work or has to be improved upon—but at least you'll be getting closer to a structure offering top-notch efficiency.
Why buy 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes?
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Are you wondering about which pipe length you should buy to reduce costs? Read on for details about transportation and scrap costs in the comparative study we did on eight different projects built with 4-meter and 8-foot pipes.
True or false #1: buying 8-foot pipes reduces freight costs?
True or false #2: 4-meter pipes generate fewer scrap pieces?
In 2017, we began offering 4-meter pipes to accommodate some of our customers' needs. Recently, we decided to look into the benefits of these 4-meter pipes and did some investigating of our own. Keep reading to learn the reasons why - following our tests - we recommend purchasing 8-foot pipes instead of 4-meter pipes.
We know that the industry norm in pipe and joint systems are most likely 4 m pipes because Japan's Yazaki introduced the product in 4-meter lengths many decades ago. However, when it comes to standard building materials such as plywood or timber, 8-foot lengths are most often used. This is mainly due to housing construction standards, and for reasons regarding health, safety, and freight costs.
The table below compares the cost of purchasing 8-foot versus 4-meter pipes for use in 8 different pipe and joint projects. Since most of our customers obtain 4-meter tubes from our competitors, we've since introduced Creform 4-meter pipe pricing. To round out the table, we also calculated the monetary value of scrap pieces shorter than 12 inches, since they are generally not reusable.
*Prices based on 2018 regular catalogs from Flexpipe and Creform.
According to the numbers in the table, it's safe to say that the average piping cost per project is just about the same. While the value of the scraps under 12 inches long is a little less expensive in the "8 feet" column, we can affirm that you'll get better reusable scrap pieces with 4-meter pipes.
Regarding work-related illness and injury, 4-meter pipes need to be handled with greater care than 8-foot pipes. There is an increased risk of self-injury or harm to others, regardless of whether you are handling the pipes manually or using a forklift. For these reasons, and to adhere to ergonomic guidelines, we decided to keep 8-foot pipes as our main product offering.
Drawbacks of 4-meter pipes:
Require extra-long forks to handle 4-meter pallets. This can be a waste of time for the forklift driver.
Require a more considerable amount of floor space to get the pipes out of the truck and to move non-standard pallets throughout the plant.
Require a more significant footprint or specialized racking to store the pipes vertically or horizontally.
Require a larger cutting table, thus take up more space.
Require a wood crate for handling and shipping, which is an additional cost.
May require time or money to get rid of the wood crate.
It cannot be shipped by UPS or FedEx, as the authorized maximum length is 10 feet.
Increase freight costs by 42% (see below).
As a side note to the freight costs mentioned above, 8-foot pipes can be shipped with regular carriers, while the 4-meter ones must be sent with LTL carriers.
In the chart below, you will find prices listed on freightcenter.com, which were calculated on October 25, 2018, with an $80 overlength fee. Since summer 2018, most LTL carriers charge an overlength fee on material exceeding 8 feet. We prioritize carriers offering delivery over two business days.
8-foot shipment values ; 24x96x30 500 lb
4-meter shipment values ; 24x157x25 500 lb
Drawbacks of 8-foot pipes:
Generate more reusable lengths to manage (exceeding 12 inches long).
Higher in cost if you are a one-time user and do not intend on re-using the scraps.
Require the use of AP-CNNCT or AP-CNNCT2 pipe connectors to build structured over 8 feet long - which is not always recommended!
So, to answer the first true-or-false question, which was, "Buying 8-foot pipes reduces freight costs?" The answer is TRUE: you will save on freight costs with 8-foot pipes and avoid the hassle of handling 4-meter units in the plant.
For the second question, "4-meter pipes generate less scrap?" the answer is also TRUE: 4-meter pipes reduce leftovers mostly for long structures. However, if you regularly build structures, you will be able to re-use leftovers quickly since most of them exceed 12 inches.
If you frequently work on continuous improvement projects for the plant, you are better off with 8-foot pipes.
If you use industrial pipe racking systems only occasionally for specific quantity projects, e.g., a contractor who builds new carts or FIFO rack for a client, you are better off with Flexpipe 4-meter pipes. If you use pipe and joint systems for small or in-house projects, opt for 8-foot pipes as they can quickly be shipped via courier.
We hope this comparison test was helpful to you. If you have any questions, please contact your project manager. He will be happy to provide any assistance you might need.
Shop the Flexpipe 8-foot pipes
Creform alternative Comparative Study
We have compared services, parts, technical specs, and prices from our most popular competitor.
Consult the complete Creform alternative comparative study
Top 5 tools for cutting
The plastic-covered metal tubes used for Flexpipe structures are relatively easy to cut. Throughout the years, we've tested several different tools and gotten feedback from our customers and our team about the ones they most commonly used to cut the tubes.
We highly recommend drawing up a list of all the cuts that need to be made, so you don't waste a considerable amount of time and materials. With that in mind, here's a list of 5 cutting tools we recommend, along with their respective pros and cons. You'll also find a list of tools you should refrain from keeping your workplace safe.
Estimated reading time: 3 min 34 sec.
5 - The Sawzall
The Sawzall is a portable cutting tool as it's cordless. This feature makes the device easier to use on existing structures.
Tip: If the piece needing to be cut is not already assembled, we highly recommend using clamps. Without proper support, you can end up cutting in the wrong place.
You need to know that the Sawzall can be heavy. It can also be challenging to keep stable. Make sure your arms have adequate support to maneuver the device securely. Safety can be an issue due to the sparks flying from the blades. Hence safety glasses are a must. For these reasons, the Sawzall is a tool to be used if you have no other on hand.
4 - The Tube Cutter
Tube-cutters are available in varying grades of quality and whose execution speed can vary. This tool makes clean, straight cuts and is easy to use. Given that the tube cutter is a manual hand tool, it's less dangerous, and the risk of injury is reduced. This tool is the safest among those listed in this article.
Using this tool requires a fair bit of vigor on the employee's part. For this reason, it's best to have established beforehand all the cuts needed before starting the project. Not only will this save you quite a bit of time, but you'll also cut only that which is necessary.
Tip: To avoid applying undue force to the tool, be sure to use a consistent circular movement. To do this, do not overtighten the screw knob when starting. As such, there'll be sufficient flexibility when cutting your tubes.
While the tube-cutter can be handy at times, it's not one of the quickest. We recommend using this tool for small projects.
3 - The Portable Bandsaw
The portable bandsaw is an excellent tool to use regularly. We suggest the smaller models as they are lighter. This ergonomic tool is suitable for existing structures. Another plus is that the bandsaw has a moderate noise level.
Contrary to the metal cutting bandsaw, the portable model can only cut one tube at a time. Also, the lack of adequate support can result in crooked cuts.
2 - The Metal Cutting Bandsaw
The metal cutting bandsaw is ideal for projects of all sizes. It can cut up to six tubes simultaneously—which makes it one of the most efficient tool of this list. If you are cutting tubes daily, this tool is perfect for the job.
The standard model is more than enough, and no blade lubricant is required when cutting Flexpipe tubes. This bandsaw is very quiet and is the least dangerous electric tool.
Tip: As these two tools complement each other very well, we recommend having both on hand for optimal efficiency.
You'll need to establish a location for a stationary bandsaw. As such, consider using an area that is safe and easily accessible. This bandsaw, as opposed to the portable model, cannot do cuts on structures that have already been built.
1 - The Cold cut saw
The Cold cut saw, just like the metal cutting bandsaw is ideal for projects of all sizes. It can also cut up to six tubes simultaneously—which makes it one of the most efficient tool of this list. If you are cutting tubes daily, this tool is the best investment you can make.
Just like the metal band saw you'll need to establish a location for a this saw. As such, consider using an area that is safe and easily accessible. This saw, as opposed to the portable model, cannot do cuts on structures that have already been built.
Cutting tools to avoid
Here's a list of tools you should stay away from as there is a high risk of worker injuries when using them. Besides, these tools will not provide peak performance. Remember that regardless of which one you use, wearing safety is essential.
You are now more familiar with how Flexpipe tubes are easy to cut with these four tools. Depending on how many cuts you'll need to do to complete your project, you have all the necessary information to choose the tool best suited to cutting your Flexpipe tubes. Remember that fully grasping the scope of your project as well as establishing that needs to be cut before beginning the work will prevent you from wasting precious time and material.
You don’t have the tools in house to cut your Flexpipe material? Or, the order volume is not large enough to justify the purchase of a stationary band saw? This is the opportunity to take advantage of our cutting service.
Top 5 tools for assembling
Assembling a Flexpipe structure can be an easy process and can be made even quicker if you use the appropriate tools. All Flexpipe joint sets are assembled with the same nuts and bolts. As such, you’ll just need a 5-mm hex head tool to carry out your project.
Depending on the scope of the project, it’s essential to know which tool can save you the most time and money. Here’s a list of the five tools we recommend, with their respective pros and cons.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
5 - The 5 MM Hex Key (Allen Key)
The hex key, or Allen key, is found in most toolboxes. This inexpensive tool, which is available in many stores, is perfectly adapted to carry out adjustments on existing structures or to build small projects. The hex key’s modest size enables you to work in those hard-to-reach places that other tools are unable to access.
TIP: Did you know that you can cut a long hex key into several pieces? These pieces can subsequently be used as a hex head on your drill. However, this tip does not work for impact drivers.
We don’t recommend using a hex key for assembling larger projects, as this may be painful for your hands and wrists. While the hex key is convenient, it’s not intended to be a time-saver.
4 - The Hex Socket (Dynamometric) Wrench
A hex socket wrench is a useful, light tool. One can choose a 5mm (1/4’’) unit with a preset cutting range of 2-100 inches per pound (9.8 Nm). This cutting range is the ideal strength to assemble Flexpipe structures. As such, your bolts will always be correctly tightened.
TIP: You may find it challenging to locate this preset tool, so we’ve done the searching for you! The tool is available for purchase on seekonk.com (US-based, delivery to Canada is possible).
While this tool is faster than the hex key and the T-handle, you’ll find others listed in this article that are quicker to use. You should keep in mind that a preset torque wrench is not a standard tool, and it can be challenging to find; it can be expensive, too.
If the one you are using is not preset, you’ll need to pay close attention to the torque setting. If it’s too tight, the bolt heads may become stripped, and you won’t be able to use the bolts again in future projects.
3 - The Cordless Drill
A cordless drill is a highly useful tool for projects that only require short assembly time. Given that most people have already used a drill, little employee training is necessary. Furthermore, you probably have one on hand in your facility!
It’s essential to adjust a drill before using it. You must select the “V1” speed setting: that is, the drill speed will be moderate, but with a high level of power. Failure to adequately set the speed level can lead to a wrist injury.
Also, be ready to compose with the tool’s weight when assembling a large-scale project. Speed is critical here; make sure you have the right torque setting, so you don’t strip the bolt heads and render them unusable for future projects.
2 - The T-Handle Hex Key
As a useful complement to the impact driver, the T-handle hex key is handy to tighten bolts, which are hard to reach. Its rubber grip makes it more ergonomic and comfortable than the hex key, and it is also very affordable.
As is the case for the hex key, this tool is not suitable for large-scale projects. If you do choose to use it, nonetheless, it may be painful for your hands and wrists. While it won’t provide the quickest execution time, the T-Handle hex key can prove to be useful in certain situations.
1 - The Impact Driver (Impact Gun)
The impact driver, also known as an impact gun, is the tool we recommend most. Why? Because it’s powerful, fast, and quite affordable. It’s best to set it at medium power for top performance.
Be sure to have the proper torque setting to avoid stripping the bolt heads, or else they will be useless for other projects. We also recommend purchasing a replacement battery, so your assembly process is not interrupted by a dead battery.
Tip about Flexpipe nuts and bolts:
All Flexpipe joint sets are assembled with M6-N nuts and M6-25B bolts. The term M6 refers to the outer metric diameter of the head, which is 6 mm.
Now that you know all the characteristics of these assembling tools, you should be able to determine which is the right tool to assemble your Flexpipe structures. Remember that it’s essential to evaluate the scope of your project correctly, so you purchase the tool that best suits your needs.