Doosan – Michelmersh Brick Holdings is the UK’s largest producer of hand made and machine bricks, and is a leader in clay tiles, custom shaped bricks, Terra Cotta and specialist products. Since its inception in 1997 the company has grown through acquisition and organic growth and now produces some 72 million clay bricks, tiles and pavers per annum across its five market leading brands – Blockleys, Charnwood, Freshfield Lane, Michelmersh and Hathern Terra Cotta.
At Michelmersh Brick’s Charnwood facility in Leicestershire, all the bricks are made individually by hand and are skilfully produced to order, often to the exacting specifications of architects for prestigious projects such as the refurbishment of St Pancras Station and the building of the British Library. Bricks are regularly matched to existing structures for renovation work.
These are premium products that must be handled gently throughout the entire manufacturing process, and so, require a forklift truck fleet capable of handling heavy loads delicately in a punishing environment where grit and dust can easily clog conventional drum brakes.
“Being a manufacturing business our main priority is to ensure production runs smoothly throughout the entire process, 24/7,” says Lee Allen, Works Manager at the Charnwood site. “That means we need reliable trucks that can do the job of loading and unloading kilns, moving stacks around the yard and loading lorries quickly and efficiently – but importantly, with care not to damage the products when they’ve just been produced and are ready for the kiln, or when they’ve just been fired.”
Lee Allen had experienced problems with the drum brakes on trucks succumbing to the penetrating dust found on site – leading to maintenance issues and downtime. So, when his forklift fleet contract came up for renewal he decided to trial alternative makes to his existing trucks. After extensive trials the decision was taken to go for the ‘feature rich’ standard model from Doosan, supplied through Doosan’s local dealer, Rushlift.
“The guys loved them, they were spot on, and they were the lowest cost too,” says Lee Allen. “For me, a critical point was that the Doosan diesel counterbalance trucks have completely sealed oil-cooled disc brakes as standard, which prevents problems with dust and cuts down on maintenance. Also, they all have hydraulic accumulators fitted to reduce bumps and improve stability, making them perfect for the job of handling our products safely and with care.”
In the autumn, the Charnwood site took delivery of six brand new counterbalance models from Doosan – four 2.5 tonne capacity D25 S/5 diesel trucks, one 3 tonne D30 S/5 and a B15T three-wheel electric counterbalance. All were supplied through Rushlift under a full-service leasing agreement. Sealing the deal was John Cronin, Rushlift’s Business Manager, and Lee Allen.
“The trucks are serviced regularly by Rushlift,” says Lee Allen. “But if you have a problem, they have a fantastic system where you can just go on-line, log-on, register a problem and a message goes to the nearest available engineer. They’re on site really quickly – it works brilliantly.”
Robust and highly manoeuvrable, the standard Doosan trucks are well suited to the harsh environment, the tight spaces and the demanding day-to-day duties on site. Owing to the age of the buildings, some dating back to 1887, adjustments to the height of the cabs were necessary to account for low beams.
The smooth operation of the kilns is absolutely critical to meeting the company’s production targets. “One of the 2.5 tonne capacity trucks is dedicated to loading and unloading the kilns and is fitted with a special attachment for gripping stacks of bricks. So we had Doosan fit a fourth hydraulic for that purpose,” says Lee Allen. “And to reduce risk, we had a second truck fitted out with quick release hoses too, just to give us flexibility.”
Safety was another important consideration. All the vehicles were fitted with Doosan’s in-cab safety system – the trucks are immobilised until a sensor in the seat detects the driver’s weight and the seatbelt is fully secured. White-noise reversing bleepers were also fitted for pedestrian safety.
In conclusion Lee Allen adds: “The trucks are being used seven days a week and we wanted good, honest machines that could take a bit of a hammering. The Doosan trucks have proved to be excellent and Rushlift response times are brilliant – we can’t fault them.”