Magline Inc., Standish, Mich., developed a modular concept for hand trucks decades ago to allow users the flexibility to replace only worn parts to extend product life. The company along with its dealer network sells and repairs equipment, providing customers a lower cost of ownership.
Like many industries, Magline has seen its share of copycat imports. “While they look similar, the metal content and manufacturing processes of imported trucks create a significant performance gap,” says Andrea Horner, Magline’s marketing manager. “The beer and soft drink industries place heavy demands on their equipment. Because of this, most distributors who were initially attracted by the low price of an imported hand truck found the cost of ownership unattractive and made the switch back.”
“The level of quality and sustainability that we can supply even from a hand truck perspective really escalates and benefits the whole operation,” adds Bill Joseph, Magline’s national sales manager. “A good solid hand truck is a fundamental piece of equipment that sustains itself for a long period of time.”
A key consideration for distributors is a hand truck’s quality of craftsmanship.
“We specialize in producing a domestic product that has a long legacy of lasting, and we’re a phone call away if there is an issue,” Joseph says. “We know we support our product immediately, and our customers know that if something happens they can pick up the phone and we’re right here. I think being available to the end user of the beverage company makes them have a level of comfort.”
Long-term durability also reduces downtime. If a hand truck breaks down, it not only costs drivers time away from delivering product and merchandising, but increases their frustration level, Joseph says.
A good hand truck has a tremendous affect on a beverage company, says Matthew Phillips, sales associate for Lockwood Manufacturing Co., Livonia, Mich.
“If you have an inferior product that is constantly breaking down this can translate to lost revenue and lower morale of the user, neither of which are good if your goal is to be profitable,” he says. “Conversely, if you have a quality hand truck that does not break down, you will have fewer interruptions in delivery and users will have a better attitude about completing their jobs.”
Choosing a hand truck hinges on what the intended use will be. By offering a variety of aluminum frame hand truck configurations and price points, Lockwood is able to help distributors key into a specific need without overspending or picking the wrong product for their application, Phillips says.
“With many options available as add-on parts, Lockwood can really specialize and help distributors accomplish their jobs,” he says.
Capacity of the truck as well as the typical load that you will be transporting should be considered. Lockwood supplies various options of wheels and materials for applications based on what the customer is going to be moving, Phillips says. The company now offers no-matic wheel options that provide the same ride and durability as a fully pneumatic tire without any air inflation.
“By offering [no-matic wheels] you greatly reduce the downtime of having blown out tires on hand trucks,” Phillips says.
The ease of obtaining parts if needed also is an important factor in time management for distributors. “There is no wait for parts from foreign suppliers as all of Lockwood’s aluminum hand trucks are made in the U.S.A.,” Phillips says.
Generally, a straight back hand truck frame works well for most applications, but for keg or cylinder deliveries, a curved back frame allows the load to rest in the frame providing better load stability, Horner says. Handles, wheels, nose plates and accessory choices can also provide ergonomic and load management advantages, she adds.
In addition to meeting safety and ergonomic considerations, a hand truck’s weight is another purchasing factor for wholesalers.
“Most injuries don’t happen from one-time occurrences,” Horner says. “They happen from repetitive movements over time like lifting a hand truck on and off a truck multiple times per day. Empirical evidence tells us that once a driver sustains a job-related back injury, the chance of reoccurrence within a two year time period is 50 percent. An aluminum hand truck can be as much as 30 pounds lighter than a steel version, which equates to a driver lifting more than 140 extra tons per year.”
Joseph adds that because steel is heavier people inherently think it is a better product and that’s not always the case. “Most drivers once they get an aluminum piece of equipment in their hand, they feel they can use the same piece of equipment more efficiently,” he says. “It’s lighter and takes less exertion.”
Magline also recently upgraded its Magliner hand truck frame construction to include a new rounded corner on the side rail for a smoother, more comfortable gripping surface for drivers and reducing potential load damage. It also made its plating 50 percent thicker, which reduces downtime to change worn-out components, Horner says.
The acceptance of delivery systems in place of traditional side-load delivery is growing. Pre-sell, pre-pick systems can reduce account service time which allows drivers to deliver more products a day.
Since launching the cart system in 2001, Magline has helped many distributors increase productivity and reduce costs with the use of carts and the Magliner CooLift distribution system. The pre-sell delivery system uses a hydraulic cart with a specialized pallet that can help reduce fleet expenses by 25 percent and account service time by 50 percent, the company says. The delivery system does this through eliminating driver pick time and allowing the driver to check up to 50 cases at a time without down-stacking product. CooLift also can reduce or eliminate expensive side-load trucks with end-load trailers, deliver more product with fewer trucks, and increase fleet flexibility because trailers accommodate hybrid deliveries that combine orders for bulk and convenience stores, the company says.
“With a delivery system, ultimately they are rolling in four or five hand truck loads worth of product at one time that can be delivered basically anywhere in a convenience store that you can get a hand truck,” says Joe Howeth, Magline’s beverage systems sales manager. “Then it’s only been touched one time to merchandise â€” whether it be put on display, in back stock or filling in a cooler window. The drivers are able to deliver more product faster in any given day.”
In addition, drivers are safer and less fatigued due to the elimination of overhead lifting, climbing and multiple handling of product, Horner says.
CooLift also is compatible with automated warehouse pick systems, which can provide additional efficiencies.
“One of the things that we talk to consumers about is you really have to take a whole systems thinking approach, because so many times people have a system that is great for delivery but just trashes the warehouse,” Howeth says. “There is always a ripple effect in anything that you do so you really have to look at your total business and not just your delivery side and not just the warehouse side.”
“Depending on how a customer’s organization is set up now, if you move to a delivery system, you could gain 30 percent efficiency by saving on the delivery side,” he continues. “You may have to give back 10 percent of that in the warehouse, because now the warehouse is touching every product because everything is pre-picked for the driver. If you look at your total system, then it’s still a 20 percent gain.”
When selecting the right delivery cart, customers should consider how well the unit handles over-the-road use, Horner says.
“Because carts are loaded with product in the warehouse, they must support heavy loads during transit to the delivery location,” she explains. “A solid deck foundation is essential. If the deck does not maintain integrity, the cart loses its off-set design and the load becomes difficult; sometimes impossible to push.”
Magline’s five-box construction is welded robotically, which helps make CooLift decks twice as strong as other carts, she says. “Drivers who use Magliners move loads over bumps and thresholds with less force because our frames maintain caster off-set 45 percent better than the industry average,” Horner says.
Material quality is another important factor. Metal grades have varying strengths and characteristics. Magline selects the proper aluminum alloy for the application, Horner says. In the case of carts, the company specifies a special aircraft aluminum extrusion to ensure years of use. Additionally, in 2008, Magline introduced a three-year warranty on its Rapid Delivery Truck.
Moving thousands of products requires a reliable containment system as well. Most companies use stretch wrap but Magline offers a reusable curtain. When selecting a containment curtain, distributors should consider how high the load may be stacked and safely contained, because as much as a 10 percent case difference could be possible, Horner says. Also, placement and removal time varies. For example, time studies show the Magliner Velcro curtain saves an average of 30 minutes a week compared to other styles, Horner says. BI