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Today's challenge in the converting workplace is to balance business objectives with health and safety requirements, writes Philip Fletcher, of Arrowhive, UK agent of Schlumpf

Commercial objectives dictate that equipment is fully optimized. Speed of throughput, minimal downtime and minimal waste are high priorities. Converters must, however, protect their most valuable assets – their employees, and products during transportation for storage and eventual shipment to the customer. Injuries, particularly back injuries through mishandling of loads at work, affect some 2.5M British workers alone.

Lightweight yet rugged, ­converters want both qualities in shafts. Airshafts need to be handled and loaded into roll cores, sometimes several times during a shift. And, in the case of steel shafts, which can be cumbersome to handle, there is the risk of on-the-job injuries and even the probability of damage to the shaft through mishandling.

Lightweight carbon fibre composite shafts, although often easier for the operator to handle, can also be problematic in that they generally have a lower resistance to repeated shocks ­ and therefore still require careful handling. They are also not necessarily suitable for every processing requirement.

Ergonomics

Tighter legislation regarding the amount of weight that is permissible for an operator to lift; heavier fines for companies that fail to comply with Health & Safety edicts, faster just-in-time processing/commercial requirements, and bigger roll sizes resulting in larger shafts place ever-greater demands on converters. These issues can now only be resolved by integrating ergonomically designed shaft and roll handling systems in with the process.

Schlumpf markets a wide range of shaft and roll handling systems for the UK and Eire converting and graphic arts industries. The roll handling systems comprise portable, stationary and hoist based systems, while the shaft handling systems are available in a number of configurations.

Flexibility

Shaft handling equipment available includes the Schlumpf ESH-1000-P portable shaft handling machine. This makes inserting, extracting and transporting heavy shafts safe and easy. It reduces operator fatigue while minimizing product damage. The machine is 24V DC battery operated and its flexible design means that enables it to be used with many shaft sizes and types.

To keep up with shorter and speedier converting runs, which require frequent starts and stops and material change-overs, it has become necessary to speed up safely the lifting, turning, loading/unloading and transporting of rolls. These processes, often tiresome and carried out without much enthusiasm by plant personnel, must also be undertaken in a manner that avoids product damage.

The company offers 10 portable, stationary and hoist based systems. They include electric roll turners, manual roll turners, roll handling machines and automated/mechanical roll centre lifts. Included are the RH/A automatic mechanical roll centre lifts, which offer hands-free actuation and retraction for stacking applications for rolls with heights greater than the operator¹s reach, or for lifting multiple rolls.

Three mobile roll handling machines are also being supplied, These range from the ERH-300-P, a low cost handling machine for labels, packaging applications and light weight duties, to the ERH-1000-P and HRH-1000-P – powerful and ruggedly constructed machines for handling roll weights of upto 450kg.

The ERH-1000-P is the most advanced machine in the portable roll handling range. It features 24V PLC controls and all- electric lifting and turning functions for quiet, fast and efficient operation. The modular all-steel frame may be customized and is equipped with a quick-change mandrel holder for three inch to 12in cores.

The HRH model differs in that it incorporates a hand operated hydraulic lift mechanism and operator controlled gravity lowering. A non expanding probe handles all core sizes and lengths. It is ideal for those on a more limited budget.

More information from Philip Fletcher, Arrowhive Equipment – TEL: +44 (0)1491 682044. EMAIL: arrowhiveequipment@btinternet.com