Get a Grip: Jumbo Glass and Safety Drive the Trends in Handling and Lifting

By Ellen Rogers

Given the growing focus on jobsite safety, combined with increasingly complex glazing projects, the market for glass and glazing handling and lifting equipment has seen significant expansion and change in the last few years. Many of the industry’s new developments are being introduced due to the requests and needs of the industry. And the two key drivers? Safety and jumbo-size glass.

Lisa Hagel, marketing communications coordinator with Wood’s Powr-Grip in Laurel, Mont., says safety has been a driving force in their company’s product development.

“We introduced Intelli-Grip two years ago. It is a computer-operated controlled system that’s available on our lifters with dual vacuum systems,” says Hagel. She adds that in Europe regulations are in place that allow for the sale and use of dual vacuum lifters only, though this isn’t yet a requirement in other parts of the world. She says that vacuum lifters with dual vacuum systems provide an additional level of safety.

“In case you lose vacuum in one circuit you still have it in the other,” she says.

The Intelli-Grip is an LED screen that monitors the lifter’s vacuum and power systems, adjusts resources as necessary, and notifies the operator when something requires special attention. For example, it notifies the user if the battery is getting low or if the lifter is losing suction.

“This is probably the biggest thing we’ve done recently to increase safety and ease of use,” says Hagel.

Alan Nudi, director of sales and marketing with Ergo Robotic Solutions in Glen Falls, N.Y., says much of the products his company is developing are driven by the industry.

“Our new machines and options are brought to market by customers who demand them for specific jobs,” he says. “This year we’ve already come up with a couple new things … one is what we call the crab crawl feature, and it allows you to move the machine horizontally. It’s something we haven’t really seen in the industry. You’re able to drive the machine sideways while it is holding the panel.This adds to the ability to meet demand for complex installations.”

Nudi says trends that have impacted their equipment designs include increasingly complex installations, heavier glass and a greater demand for machines due to safety concerns.

“It’s dangerous to ask a group of people to lift 2,000 pounds by hand,” he says. “As these products become more common, the machinery requests also become more common.”

Jerry Nudi, principal with Ergo, adds that there’s also a balance between efficiency and safety.

“Sometimes, there’s just no other way [to do the installation] than with the machine. Other times, if the glass isn’t that big, it can be done by hand, but they’re giving up a bit on safety.”

He continues, “The bigger the glass gets, the more the project lends itself to the use of machines, and that gives you so much more safety. The bigger the glass gets, the more people are realizing the value of the machine.”

Given how quickly the market is evolving and the increasing demands from the glazing industry, Hagel says it’s important to understand the products and how they work. She explains that since her company only sells through distributors it’s important for them to be well-educated, as well.

“We rely on them. We provide them with information they need, inspection logs, troubleshooting guides, etc.,” she says. “We also have trainings [for both] the end users and our dealers.”

She continues, “When you’re looking for a vacuum lifter, it’s important that you know where it’s coming from, how it’s built and what goes into it.” For ex-ample, if the unit is down, are parts and tech services readily available? “Do your research and know where it’s coming from and know what’s built into that.”

According to Ali Lawton, product specialist for Manitex Valla in Bridgeview, Ill., one of the biggest developments he’s seen relates to capacity limits.

“Depending on which market their customers are in, they may request de-rated cranes. All over the country, the different jurisdictions are changing capacity limit requirements on the cranes, which enable our customers to use the units without a crane operator. For us, the challenge has been keeping up with those requirements and what the [individual] city regulations are, but sometimes customers that we rent or sell to already are familiar with their local regulations.”

He adds that many jurisdictions are also requiring training on the machines.

“The training covers topics such as the safety devices, Load Moment Indicator, maintenance and service requirements for their unit … we also point out what we suggest on a daily and weekly basis to keep their unit performing at its best,” he says.

Given the labor shortages the construction industry is currently facing, Lawton says that’s also driving more and more companies toward handling and lifting equipment.

“Everything has to do with efficiency. [Using the crane] requires fewer people than the other methods, it eliminates a lot of the manual labor, resulting in less fatigue … with the labor shortage, workers can install more units with fewer people, driving their labor costs down while increasing profitability.”


In the article The Fine Art of Digital Printing included in the June issue of USGlass magazine, a quote from Kris Iverson with Moon Shadow Glass should have read: “Testing done shows that you don’t see any noticeable fading for five to ten years in direct sunlight when printed on an interlayer and laminated between glass. The EVA (glass bonding agent) is 99.9-percent UV resistant.”

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.