Forward move

JCB trials its adapted telescopic boom Teletruk for quick, efficient removal of robots from car plant production lines. Siobhan Wagner reports

When a robot breaks down on a car production line, manufacturers look for the quickest and least disruptive way to remove it for maintenance and get things moving again.

One solution could be JCB’s TLT 35D adapted Teletruk forklift, which recently had its first big test at Jaguar and Land Rover’s Halewood plant, in Liverpool. Previously the plant hired a crane or dismantles robots and repaired themin situ.

‘Halewood had a fleet of forklifts, but none had the Teletruk’s abilities,’ said Mark Roberts, a Teletruk specialist from JCB dealer Gunn JCB. ‘The main difference is the Teletruk is able to move its forks not only up and down but also forwards.’

The vehicle, a two-wheel-drive hydrostatic lift truck, uses a telescopic boom rather than a vertical mast and it is this boom’s forward reach that enables the Teletruk to lift robots up and over the production line at the Halewood plant where the Jaguar X-Type and Land Rover Freelander 2 are assembled.

The truck’s flexibility has proved useful at the compactly-designed plant, where the Freelander 2 production line is close to the X-Type line.

‘Before [the introduction of Teletruk] when robots broke down on the line, operators had trouble accessing them because they had to rip out such parts as shelves and motors just to get equipment in to lift the robot up,’ said Roberts.

The Teletruk extends its boom and pivots within a small space, and it has a full forward reach of 2.43m (nearly 9ft) which allows it to lift 2,100kg (almost 5lbs) at a 2m forward extension. It can also lift its 3.5-tonne capacity to a height of 4.4m.

While flexibility and strength are important, another factor to consider when removing robots from a line is safety. One benefit of the Teletruk is that, unlike traditional forklifts, it has no mast obscuring the operator’s view.

It is also able claimed to outperform other forklifts with actions such as slinging. A ‘sling’ arrangement made up of straps, chains or a pulley is attached to the truck’s forks, which enables the vehicle to lift from above rather than from below like traditional forklifts.

But even with all these advantages, the Teletruk still needed slightmodifications before being used at the plant. For example, operators needed to be able to slide the fork carriage sideways from the cabin, so JCB advised Halewood to use a sideshifting fork positioner.

The truck’s boom arrangement and sideshifting fork positioner work like an arm, moving up and down and forwards and backwards. The forks work like fingers that can be moved apart and closed and moved sideways as a pair.

‘This is a major benefit as some of the items lifted have fork pockets built into their design to accommodate the lift truck forks,’ said Roberts. ‘If the fork pockets have a different spread, then the cab operator can either open or close the forks to achieve the correct spacing and achieve a successful, safe lift.’ He added that the ability to move the forks sideways as a pair makes the operator’s job easier.

‘If the operator tries to line up with the fork pockets on a particular item and is, say, 8cm out, then he can, at the touch of a button, move the forks sideways to line them up correctly,’ said Roberts.

‘All these features reduce operator fatigue and increase speed of operation, which is very important to keep the production line going.’