Every minute counts at ELA Container where mobile buildings must be loaded and unloaded quickly in the depot so that they can be used for office and school buildings, sleeping quarters and kindergartens, plus as bank branches, sanitary facilities, treatment and storage rooms.
Hyster heavy-duty forklift trucks transport the mobile buildings with a specially developed spreader, which can also accommodate containers that do not conform to the standard dimensions of sea containers.
Across 12 locations in Europe, ELA uses 16 Hyster heavy-duty forklifts, including seven H16XM-6 trucks, for transporting containers. Reportedly the key is the custom-made spreader, developed by Hyster Europe to precisely reach into the corner of the ELA container and lift the unit up. The container corners were developed by ELA, so differ significantly from the ISO corners usually found in standard sea containers.
ELA Fleet Manager, Holger Schwenen, stated: "The rugged heavy-duty forklift trucks pick up the containers, bring them to the service or cleaning areas, and make sure that the units are prepared for the next customer. Both loading and unloading the containers from the truck and transporting them around our company site require care."
The solution developed by Hyster Europe makes it possible to reliably lift and transport the containers without damaging the delicate side walls which contain supply lines for water and electricity. In addition, special protection is used to prevent the surfaces on the top and bottom of the containers from being scratched.
Thanks to the intelligent design of the spreader, containers of different lengths, heights or widths can be picked up easily and quickly. It is possible to set the spreader to container sizes between 5,015 and 10,000mm in length with a depth of 2,500 to 3,000mm.
Schwenen added: "In 2001, we used our first Hyster® big truck - a 12-tonne truck with a spreader - to transport the mobile building units in our depot. The advantage was that the container could be picked up precisely and the holding device secures against unintentional slipping."
“In addition, a camera now supports the forklift driver with the exact positioning of the spreader. In the past, we simply lifted and transported the containers with the forks so depending on the size, it could feel quite unsteady.”
Founded in 1972, today ELA has more than 650 employees worldwide, including 40 mobile consultants in the field. More than 22,000 portable units are available for hire with space solutions for all industries, including construction sites, museums, hospitals, schools, fairs or beach kiosks.
Michael Schmidt from ELA Marketing, stated: “Whether they’re used containers or tailor-made units, we construct, mobile spaces for almost any purpose that customers can either hire or buy from us, new or used. The individual customer can choose the size and layout of the rooms and the number of floors, as well as any integrated equipment.
“Our most unusual order to date was the construction of a chapel in Kalingrad, Russia.” To do this, ELA combined five ‘quality all-rounder’ units along the length. The 75 square metre building was them divided into a room for worship, a sacristy and sanitary facilities. Subsequently, the pointed roof with a cross, and the first floor, were built on site.
Holger Schwenen. added: "To transport the mobile units, we use a total of 60 company-owned special trucks equipped with a loading crane. However, the heavy-duty forklifts for transporting the containers are irreplaceable in the depot.”
In addition, several small Hyster trucks, such as the P1.6 electric pedestrian pallet truck, are used for materials handling on the company premises.
Schwenen continued: “We use Hyster forklifts because they are durable, robust and reliable, and we were reassured by the ease of both the machine and the service. ELA has been working with Thünemann Fördertechnik since 2009. They are a competent Hyster dealer, who carries out urgent repairs quickly and this is a great competitive advantage in our business.
“We are also always working on new ideas. For example, ELA plans to start using a Hyster J5.5 electric forklift. This 5.5-tonne trucks will not only suit us as it is emission-free, but also because of its compact design."
At the Hyster production plant in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the manufacturer equips the forklifts for ELA with the special custom spreader.
"We develop systems and solutions according to our customers' needs," said Arndt Reibold, Big Trucks Territory Manager for Hyster Europe, whose Special Projects Engineering Department (SPED) adapts lift trucks precisely for industry and purpose. For example, the team has previously modified a forklift with a deadweight of 58-tonnes for use in ships’ hulls. In order not to exceed the 50-tonne maximum lifting capacity of the cranes at the quay, a solution was developed so that the counterweight of the truck can be easily removed and lifted separately into the ship.
Reibold finished: "Increasing productivity and reducing the total cost of ownership for lift trucks is always at the forefront for Hyster Europe. The H16XM-6 heavy-duty forklift truck used by ELA has lower emissions compliant with Stage IV emission regulations, and fuel consumption is up to 20 per cent less than the previous product generation. In addition, the sturdy chassis and wide drive axle provide maximum stability when transporting the containers.”