Metal or composite fibre? It’s a loaded question
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
There’s more to van racking than creating a shed on wheels, plus there’s a whiff of revolution in the air. James Dallas weighs up the options when it comes to safely transporting kit in purpose-built equipment
Racking units need to be tough and durable, but increasingly they also need to be lightweight as operators strive to keep fuel costs down in a bid to run their businesses as efficiently as possible.
At April’s Commercial Vehicle Show, Sortimo gave visitors the chance to take a look at its lightweight Globelyst M (metal) storage system, based on an aluminium spaceframe. The system, including drawers, shelves and boxes, consists of steel, aluminium and composite fibres, which, Sortimo claims, delivers weight savings of about 30% compared with conventional storage systems. The firm also claims all the materials used are completely recyclable.
It also unveiled its latest product, Globelyst C (composite), which is the first racking equipment made entirely from fibre composite materials and the result of a partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology.
Sortimo claims this “milestone” product offers a weight reduction of more than 40% over standard conventional racking.
“It is significantly lighter than all other in-vehicle equipment produced up to now,” says the firm.
As well as being extremely lightweight, Sortimo describes Globelyst C as water resistant, liquid tight and resistant against oils, aggressive cleaning agents and acids.
In initiating mass production of fibre composite technology, Sortimo claims the firm is entering “uncharted territory”.
“Globelyst M has been an evolution; Globelyst C is a revolution,” it declares.
Sortimo invested £8m in building its production plant for developing composite materials. Prices for Globelyst M start at £420 per shelving unit. Globelyst C, which is on the verge of roll-out, will be more expensive.
Leicestershire-based Bott has bounced back from the impact of the recession in the UK by investing £600,000 in its headquarters. It opened a new showroom and head office – extending the facility by 3500ft2 – and took on 60 staff, more than half the number it was forced to lay off due to the collapse of commercial vehicle sales during the onset of the credit crunch. The firm also went ahead with a £1.2m investment in a new fitting centre.
Its latest product is Uno, which it describes as a cost-competitive racking system for medium and large-sized LCVs. Uno is made from steel, which is tougher than its aluminium alternative but also heavier, so may entail some reduction in payload capacity.
Bott has developed the system for trades people such as plumbers, electricians and local authorities with maintenance vehicles. The aim is “to provide them with economical, affordable racking that will stand the test of time and promote a tidy and organised working environment”.
Scrambling about for tools in the back of a van wastes time and can give customers a poor impression of the business. Bott claims Uno’s simplified racking overcomes this problem while improving productivity and also secures tools and equipment when the van is in transit to stop objects flying around dangerously.
By encouraging users to only carry the items they need for particular assignments Bott says an organised storage space can discourage the habit of overloading the cargo bay, resulting in fuel savings.
Uno comprises storage shelves, work benches, lighting and vices and is available in a variety of ready-made packages or as individual modules.
Kevin Woodward, who heads up Bott’s vehicle-enhancement division, says: “This year we wanted to demonstrate that we’ve widened our product offer even further and responded to market demand with the introduction of Uno. This system is ideal for owners and operators of mid-sized vehicles looking for a high-quality storage system with a competitive price.” To kit out a van such as a VW Transporter with Uno racking costs from £679.
Telford-based Qi provides storage and conversion solutions for vans and 4x4 vehicles in the utility sector, for companies such as the National Grid and Scottish Power. It specialises in robust equipment for use in harsh conditions by customers who expect the equipment to have the flexibility to be re-fitted for second- or even third-life use.
Qi claims that because it makes all racking and shelves on-site it can fully meet customer requirements, unlike modular conversion companies that have to utilise the “nearest available” racking.
The basic rule is that when considering racking systems, every operator needs to consider weight, strength cost and practicality, and find the balance to suit their needs.