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Penny Hydraulics provides ongoing maintenance to Bathams Cellar Lift

Black country brewer Bathams routinely installs the Penny Hydraulics Cellar Lift at its pubs and also has one at its historic brewery in Brierley Hill. The Cellar Lift is used to handle containers safely and efficiently between the delivery point and the cellar at the pubs while a similar device handles heavy blocks of sugar up to the third floor of the brewery. The company chose the Cellar Lift because it offered a simple and reliable alternative to manual handling.

Health and safety is very important to us and we wanted to find an alternative to traditional handling methods in the pubs and at the brewery, says Tim Batham, Director at Bathams. We install the Cellar Lift in any pub where there is a need to handle containers between two levels.

Bathams has been brewing since the 1880s and the fifth generation of the family now owns and manages the business. It has operated from the same site in Brierley Hill for well over 100 years and currently has 11 pubs. The brewer has always taken a positive view of health and safety for its staff and managers and its first Cellar Lift was installed at The Plough and Harrow in Kinver in 1992. Before this deliveries of 36 gallon wooden barrels were handled down a skid into the cellar using ropes and chains attached to the dray. Bathams recognised that this was awkward and inefficient and wanted to provide a safer alternative. The Cellar Lift was installed by removing the skid and excavating a vertical drop.

"It was great and worked a treat," says Tim Batham. "Cellar Lifts are very simple to use which is one of the reasons we went for them."

Bathams has maintained a policy of specifying a Cellar Lift for any pub with a cellar. As each new pub has been added to the estate the company has carried out refurbishment and refitting that includes installation of a Cellar Lift. Penny Hydraulics undertakes a thorough site survey before recommending the appropriate specification. It then manufactures the device, manages the installation and oversees final commissioning. The company developed the Cellar Lift in the 1980s and has since installed more than 6000 throughout the UK. This unique device is designed for handling barrels, kegs, crates and related items in and out of cellars. Vertical, sloping and compact models are available with lifting capacity up to 300kg, equivalent to a full 54 gallon barrel.

Other Bathams pubs with a Cellar Lift include The Lamp Tavern, where the device replaced temporary skids, The Swan which previously had a complicated hoist system, and The Unicorn which was using a rope and chain hoist. One of the most important installations was at the brewery tap, known locally as The Bull and Bladder, but officially The Vine. Its location and position next to the brewery means that this is a high volume pub and the requirement was to handle the larger hogsheads weighing around 300kg from ground level into the cellar. The latest installation is at The New Inn, bought by Bathams in 2008 and recently refitted.

"It’s currently doing twice the predicted volumes and it’s important to have a Cellar Lift there to handle the loads," says Tim Batham.

All of the Cellar Lifts installed by Bathams have been the vertical drop versions. This is simpler, more economical and takes up less space than the sloping version. In most instances the brewery has had to remove existing skids or excavate a suitable shaft between street and cellar. Wherever possible Bathams prefers to install the Cellar Lift in a position that allows containers to be discharged directly on to the stillages in the cellar without any lifting or handling.

"Our pubs are big volume so it makes sense to install a Cellar Lift," says Tim Batham. "They never breakdown – if they did we’d think twice about using them. If you can afford it, it’s easier for the draymen."

The investment made by Bathams in its estate and at the brewery have led to some significant changes in production. It can now brew five days a week to meet commitments to its own estate as well as the local free trade. Bitter is the main product although Bathams still brews the mild that remains popular in traditional industrial areas. A range of ingredients is required for brewing and many have to be handled from the delivery point at ground level to the top of the building where they are needed. Bathams uses four different types of sugar and these are delivered in blocks weighing 25kg each. Like many traditional brewers Bathams used to hoist the blocks individually using an old-fashioned block and tackle mounted on the outside of the building. As the frequency of brews increased the amount of sugar required also rose. Sugar is delivered twice as often and the company recognised that an alternative, simpler and safer way of handling it was required. Discussions with Penny Hydraulics led Bathams to consider installing a Cellar Lift to handle the sugar and other ingredients.

"We identified a spot on the ground floor with space for the lift," says Tim Batham. "We punched through a couple of floors to create the shaft."

With its six metre lift the Cellar Lift in the brewery is one of the tallest ever installed by Penny Hydraulics. The unit has a steel platform which can easily accept up to eight blocks of sugar at a time. Sugar is normally delivered to the third floor where an interlocked mesh cover prevents access when the Cellar Lift is not present and stops it from moving if opened. The lift can also handle loads to the first and second floors of the brewery where interlocked cage gates prevent access to the shaft.

"In terms of health and safety if we tried to do it the old way now I’m not sure we could," says Tim Batham.

Penny Hydraulics provides ongoing maintenance to Bathams. This comprises all regular and routine servicing as well as emergency call-outs. Six monthly statutory checks required by the various health and safety regulations covering the use of lifting equipment are also included. In this way, Penny Hydraulics provides a single point of contact for all servicing and compliance related to the Cellar Lift.

An example of this proactive approach occurred when Bathams switched from wooden to metal casks. The different size and profile of the largest of the new containers meant there was a risk that the shive could snag against the Cellar Lift’s frame during lifting. Penny Hydraulics installed a new carriage with slightly longer arms to eliminate the possibility.

"I am totally reliant on Penny Hydraulics keeping me compliant to the latest legislation," says Tim Batham. "If they come to me and suggest an improvement I would do it."

Although one of the main reasons for choosing the Cellar Lift was its ease of use, Bathams recognises that training its employees and managers is crucial. The drayman who first learned how to use the Cellar Lift back in 1992 is still with the company and is one of many long term employees. New licensees are less familiar with the device and are shown how to operate it when they take on a pub. Bathams also includes simple instructions in a manual it prepares for each pub detailing the correct procedures and processes for using all installed equipment.

Penny Hydraulics (www.pennyhydraulics.com) designs, manufactures and services lifting and load handling equipment for use in a wide range of applications. Products include the Swing Lift range of medium duty cranes for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and flat-beds and the Step Lift, Load Lift and Tail Lift lifting platform ranges for use on pick-ups, drop-sides and vans. The company also manufactures the Mezz Lift for handling loads between ground floor and mezzanines and specialist equipment for handling wheels, tyres and barrels in vehicles and at customers’ premises. Penny Hydraulics is a privately owned family business based in Clowne, Derbyshire.

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