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D&H Steel’s Combi-SC4TA has vastly improved operations at the site – it can be operated remotely by one person safely and efficiently

D&H Steel revolutionises its load handling operations with Combilift

Loading and unloading heavy beams of steel from the deck of a truck used to take D&H Steel best part of half a day and three operators, but the arrival of a Combilift Straddle Carrier that’s been customised for their needs has reduced the operation to just 15 minutes.

For almost 50 years, D&H Steel has been a leader of innovation in the steel industry in New Zealand. Headquartered in Henderson in west Auckland, the company is one of the country’s most preferred steel fabricators, and has been involved with some of the largest structural steel projects nationwide, including Auckland Airport, the Viaduct Events Centre, and the replacement Kopu River Bridge. Their team can manage the entire steel construction process, from project conception and design through fabrication and erection onsite to final signoff.

With the construction boom still going strong, especially in Auckland, D&H Steel works around the clock and demand for materials is constant: fully laden trucks with deliveries of long steel beams arrive regularly at the company’s site. However, each 12 m long beam weighs close to a tonne and with 30 beams in a typical load, that’s a lot of material to transfer from the truck to the factory floor.

Previously, D&H Steel used a 25 tonne crane to unload the steel, which required three personnel for the safe transfer of the beams one by one – an operation that took around three hours. Trucks were arriving at the company’s premises and queueing up outside on the road, waiting for their turn in the yard.

Modified to a specific need

Dean Pouwhare is the operations manager for D&H Steel, a role he’s held since 2014 after 25 years of service to the company in various site supervisory and leadership roles. With responsibility for the safe operations of the site and quality assurance, he knew there had to be a better way for handling the steel beams. 

“We were aware of Combilift as a brand of materials handling equipment that specialised in long loads, so we initiated talks with their team and explained the situation. They recommended a Combilift Straddle Carrier (Combi-SC) with some modifications for our specific needs,” Dean says.

Fitted with rotating forks on the lifting assembly, the Combi-SC4TA can lift and carry up to 35 tonnes of steel at one go

Dave Comber, Combilift’s representative in New Zealand, supplied D&H Steel with a Combilift SC4TA multi-directional four-wheel telescopic straddle. Fitted with a general-purpose top-lifting attachment, D&H Steel’s machine features a fixed lifting assembly (instead of the chains normally seen on the Combi-SC) with rotating forks on the ends that can be lowered and then turned at 90 degrees to fit under the load of steel beams. With 35 tonne lifting capacity the Combi-SC4TA can lift a full trailer load of beams in one go.

The machine also features two-wheel drive, two-wheel braking, and four-wheel multi-directional steering – it can turn within its own footprint and crab sideways, meaning manoeuvrability within the tight confines of the yard has been vastly improved over the old system with the crane. 

While it has a full cabin for the operator, it also includes remote control, so can be operated remotely by one person safely and efficiently, and with super-elastic puncture-proof tyres on all wheels, the wear and tear on D&H Steel’s yard is minimised.

Safety first

Dean Pouwhare says the Combi-SC4TA has vastly improved operations at the site, and they no longer have trucks queuing outside, waiting to unload. “The truck arrives onsite and the Combi-SC4TA drives over it and picks up the load of beams. One operator can now unload a truck of steel beams in about 15 minutes compared to three guys, one truck crane and about three hours! Now we’re emptying the port of trucks faster than they can send them to us.”

The Combi-SC4TA can also carry a load of beams through the loading dock straight to the factory floor – another operation the previous machine couldn’t do – and it’s vastly safer, incorporating features such as neutral starting only, reversing beepers over each wheel, flashing strobe beacons and work lights all around for excellent visibility during night work, and check valves on all hydraulic lift and telescopic cylinders. 

D&H Steel is delighted with the Combi-SC4TA’s performance, and Dean says they can see the day when another machine will be added to their fleet. 

For further information on the Combilift Straddle Carrier, visit www.combilift.com

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