Big Moves: How to Transport Glass Handling Equipment to the Jobsite

By Jordan Scott

Once customers establish a glass lifter or handler’s capabilities, the next question many ask relates to how the machinery is transported to their facility and the jobsite. While the answer depends on several variables, including the size of the equipment and its distance from the jobsite, lifters and handlers need to be protected properly during both transport and storage.

Given the increasing sizes of building materials, demand for large vacuum lifters has also grown, according to Barry Wood, vice president of marketing and commercial development for Wood’s Powr-Grip (WPG), based in Laurel, Mont.

“This is mainly in glass but includes insulating metal panels, too.  Transporting vacuum lifting equipment to a jobsite requires planning and coordination,” says Wood.

Shipping Concerns

Engineers and shipping experts at WPG work together on larger products to determine if special crates or parking stands need to be created for shipping and storage purposes. Large crates have been built to transport the company’s counter-balancers and lifters, including a 32-vacuum-pad lifter.

Daniel Meuchel, WPG design engineer, currently is designing another lifter that extends to 30 feet wide for use at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. He estimates three tractor-trailer flatbeds will be needed to transport the lifter to the jobsite.

“Since such equipment is shipped in its most compact form, and therefore economical configuration, the accompanying instructions and photos must be clearly written and visually helpful for ease of assembly and use at the jobsite,” he says.

Rick Bigbee, vice president of sales at Bailey Crane & Aerials in Muskego, Wis., says his company always ships its products on a boxed truck to protect them from the weather.

How to Load

Bryan Strobel, WPG’s new product development engineering manager, advises that smaller equipment with a capacity of up to 1,400 pounds often can be loaded manually and hauled into the bed of a light truck. Some of the company’s smaller lifters come with specialty cases to keep the equipment protected during transport and storage.

Strobel recommends that a forklift or crane be used to load and unload larger equipment into a trailer or truck bed.

Steven Brooks, national sales director for SmartLift US in Frankfort, Ill., says companies need to keep a machine’s weight in mind when loading it into a trailer with a ramp system.

“Most machines on the market have a wider front wheel system with a narrower back wheel. Companies need a trailer with a solidly designed ramp to get a machine in that way,” he says.

Making Moves

There are multiple options when it comes to transporting lifters/handlers to the jobsite. Companies can put smaller models in the back of their sprinter vans, glass trucks or enclosed trailer.

Brooks says if a machine is meant to be operated only in indoor conditions, it should be transported in an enclosed trailer or protected in a box or wrapping. Models meant to be used on the jobsite can be transported in either an open or enclosed vehicle.

Bigbee recommends that companies with smaller lifters and handlers transport them in a single axel vehicle. For larger equipment they should consider using a two-axel vehicle. These vehicles can be used in rental situations and for short hauls, he says, adding that an enclosed vehicle is better when traveling farther distances.

Equipment Protection

Once equipment has been placed in a vehicle for transport it needs to be secured, according to Brooks, who says that all SmartLift machines come with strap points to tie them down so they don’t move around and get damaged or cause damage to the vehicle. Bigbee adds it’s important to secure the boom with the glass attachment parts so it doesn’t bounce and bump into anything.

Strobel says it’s important to protect a machine’s vacuum cups to ensure the equipment works properly when lifting heavy glass.

“Lifters need to be protected and maintained once they reach the jobsite to ensure their performance. For example, the reliability of vacuum pads is dependent on the condition of their sealing edges, so it’s important to prevent any damage during transport and storage. Generally, this means making sure pad covers are used when a lifter is not in use, whether it’s suspended or sitting flat on a surface,” says Strobel. “A lifter also should be secured in its shipping container to keep it from shifting during transport. Additionally, most vacuum lifters are not designed to be watertight and should be covered during transport and storage — or stowed in water-resistant cases or crates, when possible.”

On the Jobsite

Using lifters and handlers on the jobsite involves several different obstacles. For example, Bigbee says glazing contractors need to keep in mind the weight that the construction elevators can hold.

“A lot of the outside construction elevators hold 4,000 to 5,000 pounds,” he says. “At Bailey we’ve designed a couple of machines to fit in those elevators to make sure they aren’t overloaded.”

He also explains that handling equipment is meant to be used on a flat, hard surface. He recommends placing  the equipment on a delivery platform or sidewalk once it’s been removed from its vehicle. If needed, a company can remove the equipment with a forklift and bring it to a paved part of the jobsite.

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