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Safety Solutions Drive Automation and Increased Sales

by Thomas R. Cutler   |   November, 2012

Manufacturing Insights

According to OSHA (Occupations Safety and Health Administration), Employees repeatedly move beverages from a delivery truck to a hand truck or stack. Product to be moved can be stacked to shoulder height and may need to be lowered to ground level. These lifting tasks pose an increased risk of pain and injury and should be considered hazardous unless appropriate solutions are implemented.

Bottled Water Truck: Innovation Through Collaboration

DS Waters needed a new kind of bottled water truck; the challenge was that route sales representatives were picking up one or two bottles by hand to carry to customers. "Most of the hand trucks in use by our company were designed for a lot more bottles...they aren't conducive to moving one to four bottles, so the sales representatives were carrying the bottles by hand. We knew that the best way to minimize physical stress and ergonomic risk factors usually involves mechanical aid, like a hand truck," reported Michael Belcher, Director of Safety for DS Waters.

Magline's new Trayless Bottled Water Truck proved to be the best automation and ergonomic solution because it is a lighter weight truck, made of aluminum instead of steel. Weighing in at only twenty pounds, it is about half the weight of a steel truck. The unique frame cradles the bottles for safe handling, and the bottles are kept in place without clamps or lids, rather held in by the weight and friction of the bottles themselves.

An industrial engineer, Belcher knew the ergonomic challenges the company faced due to the sheer weight and volume of product dealt with every day. DS Waters is well-known for home and office bottle water delivery, 3 and 5-gallon bottles for coolers and single serve products including case water. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the company was formed in 2005 and operates nationwide under regional names: Alhambra, Belmont Springs, Crystal Springs, Deep Rock, Hinckley Springs, Kentwood Springs, Mount Olympus, Sierra Springs and Sparkletts. Products are delivered to over a million homes, offices, convenience stores, restaurants and other locations across the United States.

Belcher shared that, "We started developing this new Trayless Bottled Water Truck 2-1/2 years ago, talking to ergonomic specialists, captured feedback from our sales representatives, and designing it in a collaborative effort with the people who deliver water every day. We have a relationship with Magline, so we went to them. Based on features we wanted and what we knew would make it safer for our employees to deliver products, the Magline engineers designed the prototype."

DS Waters tested the Trayless Bottled Water Truck for several months on sales routes, then performed some quantitative and endurance testing. Measurements included the amount of energy it took to make small deliveries on a residential route, and found that this hand truck used nine percent less energy than making the same deliveries by hand. Next the company began introducing the new hand truck on select routes in Southern California.

"The sales representatives like its light weight which makes it easier to lift off their vehicle...they like that it's maneuverable, and that it has a long handle so it's higher off the ground, and they don't have to bend over as far to remove the water bottles. They also appreciate the fact that they aren't as fatigued at the end of the day," enthused Belcher.

As an added bonus, DS Waters' sales representatives use the hand trucks to carry additional products to the customer. This increases sales opportunities for other products, like a case of bottled water or a stick of beverage mix.

Based on the pilot project, DS Waters saw a return on reduced workman's compensation and exposure to injury claims. Belcher said, "The feedback I've received has been phenomenal...with any change effort, it takes time to get people to use the new innovations, but we're already preventing injuries. As we compile the information and employee feedback, we are laying the groundwork to expand the use of the Trayless Bottled Water Truck throughout the rest of the country."

Watkins' Drivers Prefer CooLift

Similar to Belcher, Mitch Watkins knows a good automation, ergonomic, and industrial solution when he sees it. Watkins Distributing Sales and Service adopted the CooLift Delivery system three years ago and has been running its own in-house comparison with 6-wheel carts ever since. "We wanted to speed up delivery, and get more cases delivered with fewer resources, fewer trucks, and fewer people," said Watkins.

The Magliner CooLift Delivery System helps deliver more product in less time - safely and efficiently. The system allows drivers to be more productive, work safer, and stay on the job longer. Drivers are the link between a company and customers. By increasing driver retention, CooLift helps companies build and maintain valuable customer relationships.

With twenty-three years in business and three locations in Idaho-Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Coeur d'Alene-Watkins Distributing Sales and Service understood this critical relationship between driver and customer. This Anheuser-Busch distributor runs the CooLift on all of its routes, including hybrid routes to deliver standard skids to major grocery stores and CooLift pallets to convenience stores at the same time.

"Once drivers use the CooLift system they don't want to go back to the hand truck moving one stack at a time instead of thirty or forty cases on the CooLift. Because more CooLift pallets can be placed on bigger equipment, it is faster at the point of delivery; one truck can handle more cases than the traditional side-loaded trucks. When we converted over, we were able to take six routes and make it five in one another situation...twelve routes went down to ten using the CooLift system. Fewer trucks on the road mean a smaller fuel bill and less of a physical impact on the driver. The first time the driver touches the case is when he's putting it on the floor. It greatly sped up the point of contact at delivery. It made it easier on the driver, so it's a win-win for us," reported Watkins.

The hydraulic lifting system allows steady, stable raising and lowering of products without manual lifting. A Pump back-up system is provided in case of power outage. The six-wheel design center tilt design allows drivers to move loads easily over thresholds and bumps. Rear swivel non-marking casters provide 360-degree maneuverability in store aisles and 85% of coolers. Extruded aluminum frame is strong and lightweight; Magline has ensured that the unit has a clean, professional look while ergonomic handles offer exceptional control and comfort. The 24-volt battery system may be charged from a standard wall unit or onboard a properly equipped delivery vehicle. The battery cannot be overcharged and a fully-charged battery will last through a typical delivery day. Hydraulic dual wheel disc brake system provides both speed and holding control; it allows drivers to slow, stop or retain up to a 1,500-pound load safely and easily.

Ultimately the value in these ergonomic material handling automation solutions is to reduce the risk of pain and injury, eliminating hazardous movement, increase efficiency, increase sales, and implement the most appropriate automation and safety solutions.
Thomas R. Cutler is the President & CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler, Inc., ( Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 4000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, Online News Association, American Society of Business Publication Editors, and Committee of Concerned Journalists, as well as author of more than 500 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. Cutler can be contacted at See More Details.

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