By Jenn Schneider
You’re in the market for a material handling product, something that can help your employees move those loads quickly and safely.
You surf the web and flip through catalogs, but how do you start to narrow your choices? The same way best-in-class manufacturers create innovative products—research, testing and knowledge.
The R&D behind a material handling product starts in the field — it’s how engineers “get smart” about the consumer and an industry need.
“It’s important first and foremost to research the end-users and gain knowledge into the marketplace you’re trying to penetrate. It’s about listening to the needs of your customer,” says Scott Singleton, Global Business Team Leader — Material Handling at Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP).
“We go directly to our end-users and get their take on what would work for them and what wouldn’t. We listen, watch, ask, and listen some more,” adds Singleton.
“Once you know your customer, that’s when you’re in the position to identify any unmet needs that may affect productivity, efficiency and ease-of-use.”
“Through our interviews and research, we recognized early-on that our expanded and redesigned heavy-duty material handling product line needed a handle that could significantly reduce the risk of fatigue and on-the-job injuries,” said Bob Tokash, Senior Product Engineer for Rubbermaid Commercial Products. “And that’s what led us to an integrated variable grip-height handle—it was designed to not only improve maneuverability, but to help reduce muscle strain regardless of your height; this is just one example of how product research can have an impact on worker safety.”
“For our line of material handling solutions, we spent days at various home centers investigating different ergonomic handle styles on lawn mowers, tilling machines and other types of pushing devices with handles,” said Tokash. “The result, a combination of different handle aspects were chosen and combined to establish the final handle designs for our trucks and carts.”
According to Tokash, there was a laundry list of testing that ranged from not just weight load thresholds, but to examining several different sizes of power drills to establish a drill holder feature that would accommodate just about all drill sizes.
Our research also led to obvious deficiencies among metal and wood material handling decks. “As a result, our Duramold decks were engineered for all of our heavy-duty trucks,” said Tokash. “Our Duramold decks are formed from a precision engineered resin and metal composite structure that is lighter then typical metal and wood products without sacrificing strength, allowing end users to put their effort into moving their payload not their truck.”
“And from the maintenance side, our Duramold decks won’t warp, dent, splinter, rust
or rot,” added Singleton. “And virtually maintenance-free, its resilient surface absorbs impact and is resistant to most chemicals, impervious to water damage and easily cleaned.”
When it comes to testing material handling products, it’s all about being able to endure the harshest environments under heavy loads, and providing a product that’s rugged, durable and tested tough from static loads, fatigue, and impact/drop tests to cycling/wear tests.
Endless hours are spent testing various weight-loads on product, as well as caster performance in a variety of environments. Some manufacturers have been known to use more than 136,000kg of weight to test a product line. For instance, “threshold” testing (a test designed to simulate going over a threshold as you would move materials around a facility) for one product can take up to 10,000 cycles — that equates to 24km of actual distance on one unit.
And partnerships are everything — know what you’re buying and from who. When looking to purchase material handling equipment, it’s always smart to go with an industry-leading manufacturer you can trust — one you can count on for breakthrough innovations and with a history of long-lasting products that can meet your most demanding needs.
Those material handling manufacturers are the ones that have invested the time in research and testing to not just develop a product, but a set of solutions to help you succeed at your work and in your career.
*Jenn Schneider is a member of the material handling marketing team at Rubbermaid Commercial Products, LLC.
Ph: 03 8762 4227