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New President and COO

Liftomatic Darren Berg

As a growing material handling company, we’re excited to announce that E. Darren Berg has been appointed as President and Chief Operating Officer. Darren s previously served as the VP of Sales and has played a major role in developing Liftomatic’s sales, marketing, distribution, and overall strategy. For example, in the last few years, Darren has focused on customer support and satisfaction. “Through prudent investment in new technology and skilled staff, we’ve continually improved our customer experience during the past few years.  I believe  that  investment will increasingly pay large dividends to our company in  the next decade as we roll out new product and new technology to a large base of existing customers and to new clients as well” Berg says.

Furthermore, as a well-established drum handling company, the products and services that we offer were developed to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations and to effectively lead the industry. At Liftomatic, we understand that our customers are also managing time, budgets, and various challenges. We’re thrilled to be able to work with our wide range of customers in a way that addresses each of their needs. As Darren says, “When someone calls, emails or starts a web-chat with us, their time and experience is paramount to us. They have ‘chosen’ to contact us.   I want every single customer to leave a contact session with us feeling that they are the only customer we have.  If we do that- our business will be rewarded with another 7 decades of success”.

At Liftomatic, we couldn’t be more excited for the New Year and to have Darren serve as our President and COO. Be sure to check back regularly for company and industry updates!

New Below-Hook Lifters

As a leading provider of safe, efficient, and high quality equipment for the handling of drums and barrels, we are always looking for innovative products to better serve our wide range of customers throughout the world. We are proud to be able to expand our line of drum handling equipment and offer the new model BHDL-3A-HD fully automatic and mechanical below-hook attachment. This new model offers an impressive range of features, such as the ability to lift 55 gallon drums from an overhead position while the drum remains in a complete vertical position when used with this new below-hook model. The BHDL-3A-HD is perfect for use in the energy, hazardous waste, and chemical industries; as well as those that wish to manage drums without manual contact.

BHDL-3A-HD

BHDL-3A-HD Top View

Additional features of the BHDL-3A-HD below-hook attachment include the ability to conform to the entire (55-gallon) steel or plastic drum body and the underside of the drum chime using three radial arms, a 3-point connection assistance to secure the drum during any movement or lifting, and an industry first “intuitive lock” system that secures the radial arms until the load is placed in its final resting location. This industry first system can manage drums with a range of 21”-23” in outside chime diameter.

Incorporating the new BHDL-3A-HD into existing handling equipment is seamless because it can be attached to any overhead lifting hoist or used with our model FTB-3 forklift adapter, allowing the unit to be used from the underside of a set of forklift forks. If you’re interested in learning more about our new drum handling equipment, visit our website.

Cost vs. Value: How to determine ROI in Materials Handling: Part 1

parrot-break-2We’re asked frequently why our Liftomatic “Parrot-Beak®” products cost what they do, or why they’re “so expensive”.  Our answer typically begins with “compared to what?”  The ensuing discussion usually explores cheaper products (in technology and manufacturing technique), the use of pallets, manual handling, and a litany of issues regarding material handling in general.

The primary way we answer this question is to say that if our customers are willing to take the time to talk to us to “truly” determine and investigate the issue of “cost”, we’ll show them how our products are not only inexpensive, but a true bargain.  The answer, you see, is more nuanced than simply reading the number on the price tag of a piece of equipment.  The true value lies not in the expenditure but what that expenditure returns: very simply, “ROI” or Return On Investment.  To study the ROI as it relates to Liftomatic drum handling products, a detailed analysis has to be undertaken to see what it costs you now to handle your drums, then compare it to what it costs using a Liftomatic product.

To determine proper ROI, we ask customers to consider the following things:

  1. The cost of their space (cubic utilization of space using Liftomatic is enhanced)
  2. The cost of operating lift trucks on a per-hour basis (we’re going to reduce it)
  3. The cost of labor (imagine loading 80 drums in 40 minutes instead of an hour!)
  4. The cost of pallets (we’re going to cut your pallet usage in half)
  5. The cost of damaged drums, labels and lost product (we can help here too)
  6. The cost of a single work-time injury or accident that can be prevented using proper equipment.

It is these (and many other) items that help with the development of a true ROI calculation when using Liftomatic products.  In the next issue we’ll describe more of the process and explain why we can back up the saying that “The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten!”

Creative Uses for 55 Gallon Drums

In the material handling business, the intersection of industry is quite diverse.  If products, parts, components, or other raw materials are shipped from supplier to manufacturer, odds are, they’re shipped in a drum.  While much of our business comes out of the chemical/petrochemical world, there are many other industries we’ve worked with that utilize the 55 gallon drum; some contain precious metals (used by companies to produce mobile devices and other electronic), some packaged tomatoes bound for the red sauce you purchase at the grocery store, still others had drums filled with rivets used to safely fasten the hull of your aluminum bass boat and keep you high and dry while you entice the new world record largemouth!

In more than 65 years of manufacturing drum and barrel handling equipment, we thought we’d seen it all – until now.  During a recent brainstorming session, one of our staff members performed an internet search and began laughing out loud during our meeting.  When we asked what the joke was, she turned the screen to show us the results of a search for different uses of 55 gallon drums.  The results -we all agreed- were pretty funny, so much so that we couldn’t help but share them with you here!  Some of the best ones were:

You can buy 55 gallons of olive oil from a company online for US$ 1650.  Make sure to invite lots of friends and have a very large cook pot to work with

  • Instructions on how to build a 55-gallon smoker – home-smoked meats!
  • Compost, anyone?  Full instructions on making a 55-gallon portable composter out of a drum.
  • Have a bug problem?  You can order 55 gallons of a natural mosquito repellent.   (Probably help when you’ve got the big party over – see “olive oil” above)
  • Another “how-to”;  Burn barrels (where legal) are commonly made of 55-gallon steel drums
  • Grains storage is apparently also popular – buying and burying grains in bulk (Trade with olive oil if push comes to shove)

The creative uses for the most widely recognized shipping container just keep on coming – tweet @drumhandling to tell us yours! As we get more news you can use, we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop here on our blog, and on our social media channels.

 

Staying Safe with Liftomatic

Our business was built on the idea that there was a better and safer way to transport a drum than using a two-wheel box truck.  The fact that our business is still flourishing is a testament to the fact that we’ve maintained the company founders’ original attitudes of innovation and our commitment to providing ways for safer and more effective materials handling.

June is National Safety Month, and since Liftomatic was born out of a desire for safety, we thought we’d highlight our continued efforts toward its promotion here.  One of our mottos has long been “you can’t afford to drop a drum”.  Now, you might think that this idea refers to the value of the contents in the drum – this is true, but another reason this saying rings true is because of the safety concerns involved.  If an operator gets injured while trying to move a drum (or several), and is ill-equipped, that’s a cost that goes above monetary measure.  Likewise, if a drum contains any kind of hazardous material, the consequences of contamination are dangerous, expensive, and undesirable – but they are avoidable.  Another phrase we like to throw around here is “Safety is no accident” – being prepared to move your materials the right way to avoid the aforementioned problems is a kind of insurance you don’t want to go without.

At Liftomatic, we want to make sure you have a safe June, but also a safe year, and a safe future in the business of materials handling.  We’ll be here making sure you have what you need to move your drums and barrels safely and efficiently – make sure to give us a call, email, tweet, or something else to see which solutions might work best for your business.

What We’ve Learned from Our Business in China: Persistence and Patience

There is an ongoing sense in many Western companies that there’s a “gold rush” going on right now in China. Having surpassed Japan to become the world’s 2nd-largest economy after only the United States (3rd-largest if you were to count the entire European Economic Community), and having done so in only a few short years, it seems as if business opportunities for Stateside companies would be ripe for the plucking. Consider, for example, that China is now General Motors’ largest consumer market. Consider how Ford and Chrysler cars, jeeps, and SUVs are all coveted items among China’s surging middle class. Consider that designer-brand American jeans, American basketball star-endorsed shoes, and American hip-hop mogul-endorsed liquors, are all making their powerful (and pricey) impact on Chinese consumers.

But that would be reporting the tip and not the iceberg. Having been in business in China long before certain overhyped brands of vodka, we at Liftomatic can attest to the need for patience and persistence in doing business in that, yes, very potentially lucrative market they’ve got going. Our work in China has been ongoing since the late 1980s, when China was going through the first real throes of modernization that we now see transforming every aspect of its cities, villages, and farms. We arrived in China at a time when most Chinese warehouses possessed drum-handling technology equivalent to America immediately after World War Two. Like many American businesses today, we reasoned that our brand-name (used by the likes of DuPont) would carry us far and wide throughout the country.

And you know something? It worked. It eventually worked… but not without many years of trial and error in forging the right business contacts both locally and regionally. Not without floundering in limbo, waiting for calls to warehouse managers to be returned. We didn’t realize it – and many North American businesses still don’t realize it – but we were already up against breakneck competition for the Chinese market from the get-go, both from international and Chinese companies.

When going into business in China, don’t come in there with a “gold rush” mentality. There are endless profits to be made, but only if you establish a solid local presence in the country. Coming in as a tourist and brandishing about your new designer jean label will only earn you closed doors, or, at best, imitators of your brand (who have the means of beating you at your own game). Without a sense of long-term commitment, without “being in it for the long-haul,” without boots on the ground your business in China is going to be surpassed, or surreptitiously replaced by a rival. But if you’re ready for the long-haul like Liftomatic, and have a great product as well as a strong business model, you will succeed… just give it some time.

Getting the Most from Your Supply Chain: Part II of an Ongoing ROI Series

ROI - L4F drumhandling attachment

A L4F drum handling attachment from Liftomatic being used to collect 4 drums at one time at the end of a conveyor line – no manual handling and only a single operator involved.

If our decades of experience in the material handling  field have taught us one overriding lesson, then it’s how best to optimize a distribution center or warehousing company’s ROI in drum handling operations. If it means updating inefficient equipment and work procedures to meet the demands of the market (not to mention your competition), then so be it. One must not only be assiduous in how one sums up the current needs of his or her operation, one must also anticipate trends, opportunities, and backlashes that might come along the way. One must get in the habit of gauging where the industry is gradually heading, as well as determining where the profit is being made (and getting lost), and then plan accordingly. So much of warehousing is a do-or-die business, and every advantage and/or trick-of-the-trade can mean the difference between black and red ink.

Take the common case of what we encounter frequently in China (though this certainly applies to many warehousing outfits in the Americas and elsewhere globally): a company that not only possesses a vast amount of warehousing space, but boasts a large, able-bodied workforce that can carry out any task given to them. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, nothing’s wrong, unless the company in question isn’t utilizing its warehousing space to maximum effect. This often happens when the company tries to use brute labor in place of technology. If the company in question only uses manual hand trucks for instance, there’s no human way to lift and stack drums higher than a single barrel high in a warehouse. Rather, forklifts with drum-handling attachments are needed. With a forklift, you can stack drums many units high – as high as the forklift’s hydraulics and integrity of the drums will allow. Imagine being able to increase cubic utilization by two, or even three times.

Investing in the right equipment may not feel beneficial in the short run, especially when it comes to your operating capital. But given the long-term advantage of exponentially growing your storage capacity, the savings costs may well be worth it.

How Materials Handling Can Affect Your ROI Exponentially: Part One

Stack of drums

Moving drums by hand truck or pallet is labor intensive and costly.

It’s a safe bet that the final cost of any product increases on account of its material handling function. In fact, the Material Handling Industry of America estimates that material handling can boost a product’s final sale-price up a stunning 40%. In today’s fast-moving blur of a global economy, companies simply cannot afford to skimp on the right kind of material handling for their products. Ignoring the problem of how best to ship their products can mean the difference between a company’s quarterly profit and its quarterly loss.

Liftomatic model 2-FTA

Technology can speed up the process and a provide a high ROI.

Take, for example, your typical warehousing operation in China from 15 years ago (this isn’t to say that many such operations don’t exist still today). Time and again, when we approached these warehouses about adopting our drum handling technology, we found staggering amounts of waste happening in their way of doing things. You would have two workers loading and unloading drums using a hand-truck or a wooden pallet.  For anyone who’s ever performed that kind of work, the labor intensiveness (and number of man hours involved) is well-known. While labor in China several years ago may have been abundant and inexpensive- that is not longer true.  Additionally, you simply cannot throw enough labor at a drum handling problem to move items fast enough to maintain the throughput required in these logistics operations.  It’s physically impossible to do.  But by using a forklift and a 2-drum attachment from Liftomatic, the number of man hours involved in loading and unloading gets reduced to maybe a half hour’s time, increasing efficiency and throughput. When you add up the sheer number of drums that many of these Chinese warehouses handle in the course of a month, you can begin to appreciate how Liftomatic drum handling equipment can save warehouses a (not so) small fortune in terms of ROI.

In the following entries, we will be taking a closer look at some of the ways that modernizing your material handling equipment can hugely impact your company’s ROI. We’ll explore such issues as storage capacity, drum damage, and safety. Furthermore, we invite anyone who’s had experience with optimizing their warehousing equipment and/or operating procedures to chime in on this blog.

Nuclear Power Plants? Been There, Built That

As it turns out, the President and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission just approved their first nuclear power plant in 34 years’ time. This isn’t to say that other nuclear reactors haven’t been built in America after 1978; it’s just that 1978 was the last year that a new nuclear construction project was approved, and nuclear power plants take a considerable number of years to get up and running from planning through execution. But that’s all about to change. As of February 9th of this year, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the licensing and construction of a pair of shiny, new nuclear reactors for Southern Co.’s Vogtle, GA site, just south of Atlanta. Apparently nuclear power hasn’t gone the way of the dinosaur or Cold War. Rather, its peaceful civilian applications continue to flourish.

It wasn’t so long ago (back in the early 80s) that Liftomatic helped in building a nuclear power plant in Zion, IL. Building a nuclear power plant is a little like the modern equivalent of building a cathedral, if only in the sense that the building process is painstaking and takes many years to complete. In this case, the energy company we were working for had gotten around to building one of the cooling towers for the plant. It was a fairly monumental job. They required 50-60 steel drums atop the tower to provide coolant for the new reactor, but they’d run into something of a dilemma: the cooling tower stood 70-80’ high in the air, far beyond the reach of even the energy company’s tallest vertical lifting cranes.

Prior to our work at Zion, we had always used forklift handlers to lift barrels up to where they needed to go. But seeing as this would be possible under the circumstances, we decided on a radical approach to solving the problem: we hired a Sikorsky transport helicopter to help us lift the drums atop the tower. Taking our customary Liftomatic material handling hooks and beaks, we attached them to the helicopter, and then attached the steel drums to the drum-handlers. The end result? Besides providing a lovely “Kodak moment”, with said Sikorsky sailing through the air en route to the tower’s pinnacle, our solution proved a success. All drum barrels were lifted into place on that day. By hook and by helicopter, Liftomatic ended up saving the day.

Prior to our work with the Zion facility, most of the common uses for Liftomatic equipment had been with forklift attachments but we had a new 4-drum crane-mounted attachment available.  After discussing the dilemma with the plant’s construction manager, he advised that they had a large Sikorsky helicopter available.  In no time, the pilot of the helicopter was “on board” with the plan and attaching the model L4CB below-hook attachment to his lifting gear on the helicopter.  The end result?  Besides providing a lovely “Kodak moment”, with said Sikorsky sailing through the air enroute to the tower’s pinnacle, our solution proved a success.  All of the drums were safely and efficiently lifted into place on that day.  By hook and by helicopter, Liftomatic equipment ended up saving the day.

Part III of Our History as a Company – Our Expansion into China

We made a leap as a company in the late 1980s and early 90s by looking for opportunities to develop beyond North America. One of the emerging markets abroad that intrigued us the most was China. Here was a market suddenly laid open to foreign investment that had for many decades been strictly controlled by a central government; one that potentially contained one billion customers. Here was a monumental business opportunity if ever there was one.

Drum handling in Asia in the 1980's

Drum handling in Asia in the 1980's

When we first landed in Beijing in 1989, what we discovered a city that was caught in the throes of modernization. Huge discrepancies immediately leapt out at us. We couldn’t help but notice the hundreds and hundreds of contemporary high-rises (with their attendant construction cranes) that dotted the skyline, and how this evidence of economic progress seemed to jar with what we saw in the streets: millions upon millions of commuters entirely reliant upon bicycles to get around the city. The photograph I took of a Chinese worker peddling a bicycle as it towed a series of steel container drums has never ceased to amaze me. It seemed to me that time in the streets was still waiting to catch up with the ambitious pace of the new city skyline. It seemed to me to be a huge opportunity in the making.

We’ve been in business in China for 23 years now. It hasn’t exactly been easy money. We came at a time when plenty of other Western companies were picking up interest in doing business with China, and time and again, we had to carve our niche against fierce competition.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t succeed. In fact, 25-30% of our business now comes from mainland China. Thanks in part to us, that picture of a bicyclist peddling steel drum containers has long-since been replaced by a modern forklift carrying steel drum containers gripped by modern drum-handling equipment. After all that’s been said and done; after all the travel costs, official meetings, and unofficial toasts that we’ve been through in China, we’ve calculated that we’ve added 8% to our bottom line by doing business there, a job well-done by any company’s standard.