Marvin Adds New Handling Equipment at Tennessee Plant

September 8, 2009
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Looking to better address the challenge of safely handling glass sheets weighing as much as 200 pounds and assembled door panels weighing as much as 500 pounds, Marvin Windows & Doors' Tennessee plant recently installed new material handling equipment from AirOlift Lifting Systems, the supplier reports.

Workers at the Ripley, Tenn., plant now use one of two manipulating systems to pick up sheets of glass from the original shipping crates and place them into door sash positioned on a horizontal conveyor. A second, larger unit is also used by workers to pick up entire door panels for installation into frames.

For many years, the manufacturer used coordinated teams of workers to lift, carry, position, and lower these components without mechanical assistance. Each person had to wrangle as much as 125 to 135 pounds of the fragile material, resulting in a steady stream of problems. "We saw numerous back injuries in that area," reports Hal Williams, the safety, workers comp and wellness manager at the Marvin plant. "And there was also a high employee turnover in that area, mainly from workers having to pick up the heavy panels and having to move them manually."

With worker safety a high priority,  Marvin made its purchase decision after inviting several vendors to present information about the capabilities of their equipment. The AirOlift system was chosen because of its flexibility, including the ability to rotate, turn, and tilt the heavy objects while moving them, AirOlift officials state. 

The equipment has been in place since early 2009, and the units are reported to make it easier, faster, and safer for Marvin workers to do their jobs. "They're performing wonderfully," says Williams, of the AirOlift equipment. "We haven't had any issues at all, no service or mechanical failure or anything like that. One of the safety features I really like is that if air pressure is lost, the manipulators will not release or drop the panel."

Williams also points to the handling equipment's ease of use, such as minimal buttons and options for the operator to choose from when controlling the manipulator. "The operators find AirOlift extremely easy to use, which is one of things I like," Williams says. "The light goes from red to green to let you know you're good to pick it up. When you release it at the other end, the green light goes back to red."

The equipment's ease of operation also made the training process relatively simple. "The AirOlift system is so simple to operate that the training cycle was extremely short and to the point," says Williams. "In fact, my team spent only about 45 minutes talking and 20 minutes doing a hands-on demonstration. Then, we just let the people work with the machine, practice with it. After a week, all six were ready to use it in actual production. In fact, they were able to teach us how to use it. I felt very good that they picked it up so quickly."

Williams says he's extremely pleased with the plant's new processes. "The AirOlift system has reduced the risk of back injuries," he says. "Investing in a material handling system shows that a company is concerned about safety."

Williams is also convinced the new equipment is delivering productivity benefits, too, but finds that metric hard to substantiate because of the plant's current, relatively low production rate. As time goes by and statistics accumulate, however, Williams is convinced the company will easily identify quantifiable productivity gains directly attributable to the new equipment.

Based in Akron, Ohio, AirOlift custom manufactures product clamping, vacuum lifting and manipulating systems for a variety of industriies. Its equipment is ergonomically designed to meet or exceed OSHA and NIOSH mandates or recommendations, officials state.