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Charity, Turntable Furniture, installs Mezz Lift from Penny Hydraulics

Exeter-based charity Turntable Furniture has made the best possible use of the available space at its new premises by installing a Mezz Lift from Penny Hydraulics to handle furniture and other items between floors. The lift made it easier to access upstairs space in the converted building so that the charity could accept more donated items and introduce new services to help even more people in the local community.

"The new lift has helped us to increase the storage capacity in our new premises which means we’ll be able to help more people," says Pam Rice, Manager at Turntable Exeter. "It’s a big investment for a small charity like us but we’re really pleased with it."

Turntable Furniture is a charitable organisation that collects good quality, donated household items such as three-piece suites, beds, wardrobes and electrical white goods to pass on to families and individuals on very low incomes. Over the past 20 years the charity has worked in partnership with Exeter City Council to help thousands of local people, all of whom are referred by social services. In addition to helping people in need the charity has prevented hundreds of tons of items from going to landfill.

The charity was previously based at one of the council’s recycling centres on the edge of the city. Over time the operation had grown to occupy numerous small and temporary buildings which made it increasingly difficult to manage and provide the right level of service. The location was not ideal for many clients who relied on public transport. The charity worked with the council to find a new location closer to Exeter city centre which could provide additional storage space and be more convenient for local residents.

A disused print works owned by the council was identified but needed some conversion work, particularly as the building occupied two floors. The original intention was to use the upper floor for storing items such as carpets. To do this one of the two stairwells would have been converted into a chute to allow carpet rolls to be transferred from the upper to ground floor. However, as its plans evolved, the charity realised it could make far better use of the available space by installing a goods lift to handle a wider range of large and bulky items between ground and first floor level. After approaching a number of suppliers the charity selected the Mezz Lift from Penny Hydraulics.

"The advice we received from Penny Hydraulics was really useful," says Pam Rice. "It helped us to see how we could make the most of the available space."

Working with the charity, council and local building contractor Penny Hydraulics designed the Mezz Lift to meet the specific application requirements. In particular, the charity wanted to handle large loads including sofas which can be up to seven feet long. The lift was supplied with a suitably large platform with special side frames to support the sofas and other large or bulky item up to the maximum working load of 250kg.

An existing lift shaft was adapted by the building contractor and installation was completed in a couple of days by engineers from Penny Hydraulics. The work was awkward because the area designated for the lift was on a slight slope. The engineers levelled the floor to provide a stable base for the free-standing lift structure and provided a shallow ramp in front to enable easy access. The final part of the installation was to connect the lift to the building’s power supply. The engineers then trained the charity’s staff and the unemployed volunteers who help man the project and, in so doing, improve their work skills, to use the lift. The work was completed in time for the refurbished premises to open in June 2012.

"The engineers were friendly and fitted in with us while they were here," says Pam Rice. "From start to finish the installation was really quick."

Items are loaded onto the platform and, once the cage doors are closed, the lift is activated by simply pushing a button on its control panel. Safety interlocks prevent the lift from working if the doors are not closed or the maximum working load is exceeded. The platform stops instantly if the button is released. Items can be transferred between the two storage areas quickly and efficiently and with no need for any form of manual lifting to promote the optimum combination of efficiency and safety. Hydraulic power ensures smooth and precise handling with a maximum lifting speed of 0.5m/s while the robust construction of the lift and simple controls are designed to ensure life-long reliability.

The additional space allows all items to be stored tidily. There is less risk of damage and visitors are able to see everything available to them which improves the service from the charity. The extra capacity will allow the charity to accept more donations from local residents which in turn means they will be able to help more people. Additional storage is particularly important because donations often peak when retailers in the area have promotions whereas demand for the charity’s services are steady throughout the year.

"We have to be able to take what’s given when it’s given so the extra space is invaluable," says Pam Rice.

The additional space upstairs will also enable the charity to increase its carpet recycling services. Carpets are often removed by social housing owners when a resident moves out which means there is a steady demand from the charity’s clients when they move into their new home. The ability to provide carpets is one of the services that sets Turntable Furniture apart from other local charities so this is an important enhancement to its operation. The lift makes it much easier to handle these large and often cumbersome items.

Making better use of the available space also allows the charity to use some of the downstairs area for tasks such as repairs and preparation of deliveries. For the first time in its history the charity will be able to park its vehicle indoors overnight which will be better for reliability and security.

"Over the past year we’ve supplied around 5000 items to 650 people but we expect to supply much more in the future," says Pam Rice. "The new lift will be a great help."

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