Taking the Wheel: What’s New in Tuggers, Carts & Casters

Three types of equipment are most used in warehouses for the movement of materials at high volume—casters, carts and tuggers. Due to the rise in product volume being seen in U.S. industry, plus an increase in demand for faster shipments, workers are at higher risk than ever for injuries due to heavy loads that are being moved more quickly and more frequently. Here we take a look at some of what’s new and innovative in casters, carts and tuggers.

Casters Move the Cart

A caster is a wheeled device, typically mounted to a larger object, that enables relatively easy rolling movement. They are essentially special housings that include a wheel, facilitating the installation of wheels on objects. Casters range in size from very small furniture casters to massive industrial casters, and individual load capacities span 100 to 100,000lbs. Wheel materials include cast iron, plastic, rubber, polyurethane, forged steel, stainless steel or aluminum, to name a few. In the workplace, the true function of casters is often taken for granted. They exist to move loads from one location to another, whether on fixed rails, via a tug, or even manually. However, using the wrong caster can put workers at risk: A carefully-chosen caster wheel can make the workplace safer.

Companies have come up with special casters that are designed to withstand high product volume weight—and also perform more quietly. (Workplace noise is considered a workplace hazard, so many manufacturers seek ways to decrease its impact on the factory floor and at warehouses.)

Many carts include swivel casters, which are located at the steering end, and two rigid casters at the opposite end. One of the issues operators face with this type of configuration is that when a cart is stopped and then restarted to a new position, the swivel casters can be pointed in two different directions, making it difficult to move. A new type of swivel caster has been patented that rotates around two separate, vertical axels. This minimizes a lockup often seen in conventional casters. This means it takes less strength/effort to start the cart’s movement and less frequent need to realign swivel casters that get repositioned incorrectly. This can help reduce workplace injuries and save time.

Some manufacturers have added motors to their caster wheels—this can improve the ergonomics of moving a cart. This type of castor is designed to move tons of material more easily and efficiently, at the push of a button, while offering the flexibility to integrate into a variety of applications, above and beyond industrial carts and racks. Motorized industrial casters often involve complex and costly systems, due to the difficulty of integrating a caster into a motorized system. However, some are on the market that integrate an electric motor within an industrial caster without using a shaft—thus simplifying the design and integration of the caster into an already-existing cart system.

Tugging Along Efficiently

Tuggers have been replacing forklifts in many production areas, mainly due to their easy maneuverability in tight aisles and corners. Forklift extensions are potential safety hazards in tight spots. Tuggers solve this issue, since they lack extensions.

With their increased use (tuggers are also considered one of the most economic material handling vehicles), the automatic guided vehicle (AGV)-type tugger has risen. AGV-type tuggers are controlled by computers and offer driverless navigation. An AGV tugger is equipped with laser-based, fully programable sensors that can warn of an obstacle in the tugger’s path, thus ensuring the safety of materials on the floor—and most importantly—employees in the vicinity.

Cart Smart

Tugger-cart systems enable the unloading of products and the replacement of empty containers on the production line, all at the same time. Improved ergonomics and a less-noisy production line are just two of the benefits of a tugger-and-cart transportation model. Because both are usually transported to production lines at the same time, and because of their increased popularity, carts and tuggers have also become more specialized.

A mother/daughter (or corral) cart is an industrial cart system consisting of one large “mother” cart and two (or more) smaller “daughter” carts. The daughter carts are designed to fit within the mother cart’s frame. Once inside, the daughter carts are locked into the mother cart. The two carts are then able to be tugged as one. Daughter carts can consist of several types of carts. A mother cart can be designed to carry a static cart as a daughter cart and a rotation cart as a daughter cart. The mother cart concept can feature a C-frame, E-frame or an open frame styles, so the daughter carts can be removed from either side. The mother/daughter system is both flexible and efficient, eliminating the use of the old-fashioned “train style,” where a train of multiple carts would need to be uncoupled with each load delivery.

Another type of cart that improve efficiency and effectiveness is the custom-built cart, which can help manufacturers fully optimize space for heavy or oddly shaped loads. A custom-built cart is flexible and can be built according the buyer’s individual capacity, form and function needs. In addition, they can be modified or disassembled. Because of this inherent, custom flexibility, custom-built carts can to transport virtually any type of product. WMH&S