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Seriously heavy lifting

14 October 2013

One of Combilift’s largest capacity models to date - a 28t capacity Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) - is in operation at Caledonian Modular’s site in Newark. The manufacturer of modular buildings wanted a more efficient and safer way of moving finished modules from the manufacturing facilities to the storage yards.

"We wanted to address safety and product damage,” says health and safety manager Mike Jefferey. "We were sure there had to be a better procedure than deploying three forklift trucks, three drivers and three banksmen to move one module. In addition, we were having to build the modules to a heavier specification than necessary purely so that they could withstand this lifting process. Following consultation with Combilift’s Stephen Wells we identified the Combi-SC as the best solution to improve operations.”

The Combi-SC’s design allows it to cradle the load being carried, with chains and slings attached to the top and bottom of the modules from the frame enabling much gentler lifting and even weight distribution. Added safety for the top lift is provided by means of a specially designed fall arrest system. Finished modules can vary in length of up to 14.5m, in width of up to 5.5m with the largest weighing up to 28t. A series of 3-point adjustment bars on the beam offers a multitude of anchoring positions, ensuring easy handling of any sized module. Caledonian has consequently been able to implement lighter construction methods, enabling manufacturing to be more cost effective and more competitive.


Combilift engineers customised the SC to accord with Caledonian’s very specific requirements: its telescopic extending frame allows double stacking of 3.6m high modules for quicker transportation across the site. The 3-wheel, all wheel drive model is also the first to be fitted with oscillating suspension to cope with Caledonian’s very testing ground conditions. A further benefit is its low axle weight compared to the combined exerted pressure of the three 16t forklifts on the yard: this avoids the typical problems of damage to surfaces and reinstatement costs associated with the use of equipment which has a very high unladen weight.

Simplified operation

Modules are taken out of the manufacturing facilities using tugs, lifted on to the Combi-SC and transported to storage areas where they can be stacked one-on-one in rows with minimal space between them. This enables more economical storage compared with block stacking under the old system and makes retrieval of specific units much easier. 

Mike Jefferey: "Thanks to the innovative design of the Combi-SC we have eliminated the risk of product damage and have been able to rationalise our manufacturing process. We need just two operatives per load – one driver and one banksman – so can make much better use of available manpower.

"We also benefit from speedier movement of units around the site, which is now a much safer working environment for our personnel. The set up has been so successful that we will be recommending this as the way forward for the Group as a whole.”