Nickel chrome castings are renowned for their ability to resist heat, and Cronite Castings is a world leader in the production of components used in heat treatment processes. Customers for the group’s highly specialised foundry-based products include aerospace, automobile and power generating industries.
Materials handling on a six-acre site at Crewkerne, Somerset, has its own particular challenges, where lift trucks work a continuous 16-hour day to supply the needs of seven furnaces. As company secretary Sam Sanson explained:”In the moulding and melting areas, dry sand in the air produces an extremely abrasive environment for a truck, making moving parts very vulnerable. Tyres, too, can suffer because of metal particles mixing with sand on the foundry floor. We also need vehicles that can work well in often restricted areas.”
To cope with these conditions and an increasing workload, Cronite have begun a transition to Nissan, with the first two of six gas-powered D Series engine models now installed.
One of the 2.5 tonne capacity machines is assigned to the green sand moulding line which produces specialist parts in volume. Working non-stop throughout a 16-hour shift, the truck will move up to 240 one-tonne finished mouldings off the line and on to roller pallets for transfer to the knock-out section. The second truck is used for general foundry duties. In addition to cleaner operation through the three-way catalytic converter fitted as standard to the vehicles, Cronite have already noticed greater fuel efficiency from the trucks’ engine management systems.
The versatility of the D-Series means that a single Nissan model will now be able to replace the mixed fleet currently used for dispatch duties, for receiving palletised drums of metals and for deliveries to the melting areas.
“It gives us the flexibility to mix and match trucks should the need arise,” said Sam Sanson. This was particularly important when analysing the current and likely needs for the fleet, he added. As an example, he recalled that while fingertip controls for direction, lift and tilt were standard, Nissan could supply the trucks with larger levers instead – because operators wear heavy foundry gloves – with no problem.
Manoeuvrability was essential as some areas on the site can be cramped, and stability for the trucks was critical. “Some of our floor surfaces are quite uneven and the build-up of sand could cause our previous trucks to skid. It was important to rectify that problem, especially when moving heavy loads close to personnel.” A further requirement was the need for a truck to cope with low heights, working in a safe in which very high value metals are stored.
In any application, the level of service support is as important as the truck itself, but in an aggressive environment such as a foundry, it is vital. Nissan’s exclusive network location for the South West, Lift West-Nissan, tailored a package specifically for the needs of the two Cronite companies on the Crewkerne site. For Cronite Castings, this has meant fixed costs throughout a five-year hire contract to include full maintenance and a special fortnightly visit to grease and protect the foundry machines. For sister company Cronite Precision Castings, where truck usage is lower, the company has used Nissan’s additional third year warranty to its advantage, still operating the machines on five year contract hire, but paying separately for maintenance when required.