Handling and storage equipment may form a different market from overhead travelling cranes but there is clearly a significant overlap. Crane and hoist manufacturers and distributors took space at the UK’s International Handling & Storage Exhibition, held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, UK between 25 and 28 September. Now that forklift truck exhibitors are absent, IHSE has very much become an automation and warehouse show and it was the automated handling and storage systems that caught the attention this year.

Morris, instead of promoting its S3 hoist, used the exhibition to push the automation side of its business. It has been designing and building automated warehouse cranes for about 40 years. Emphasis at the show was on software, support and the ability to provide turnkey automation solutions.

Rob Ward, Morris’ automation sales manager, said that although the company started out in automation with stacker cranes, software such as its Storesolve warehouse operation and management package, and its support, are becoming increasingly important.

Storesolve, which uses a graphical interface, was demonstrated to good effect at the show. A complete warehouse can be seen on the screen and in two mouse clicks the contents of any rack or tote bin can be identified. Stacker crane efficiency and workload can also be monitored.

Warehouse software technology is becoming more relevant for overhead travelling cranes and Morris sees itself as having a strong head start, with its software expertise, as demand for automated overhead travelling cranes increases.

Among the crane companies exhibiting was Metreel, which was promoting its ‘crane in a box – a new concept in the supply of cranes…’. What Metreel is offering is flat-packed crane kits, with the promise of delivery to site within 14 days.

Overall there was little new from the crane and hoist equipment manufacturers. Vacuum lifting equipment manufacturer Alan E Wheeler & Son showed its IPS (Inner power system) hoist manipulator that it developed back in 1993.

From the wider world of materials handling was Automatic Handling Europe (AHe), fresh from completing its buyout from its parent company, Automatic Handling of the USA.

AHe, which works mainly in the paper industry, used the exhibition to launch a pneumatically powered roll turner. It can rotate rolls of paper through 90° from core vertical to core horizontal, and features push buttons for grip and release, a pneumatic pusher plate to transfer the reel onto the machine mandrel and a latching mechanism to engage the machine shaft. The roll swing was demonstrated fixed to a 150kg SWL EasyLift air hoist mounted on an overhead gantry system, but it can be fitted to any type of crane or jib system, AHe says.

Another newly formed management buyout company at the show was Alstec, created in May through a buyout from Alstom Automation Group. Alstec has its own Stockware warehouse management system software which it is using on one of its recent contract wins, supplying Mastellone Hermanos of Argentina with the world’s largest automated semi-hard cheese maturation facility. This new store will be 27m high and will have 15,048 pallet positions.

Airlift Technology claimed that it drew attention from overseas visitors to the show with a new handling system. The company has patented a system which involves a multi-chamber airbag pivoting up to and beyond 90° around its axis to allow low profile units to achieve high lift heights and yet also make small lifts at low heights. The system of concertina-style airbags also allows for simultaneous lifting and tilting, says the manufacturer. The whole range of pneumatically powered equipment includes an airbag scissor lift, a mobile air tilt trolley, an air tilt-and-receive unit and an airbag reversible tilt table.

A range of electrohydraulic scissor lift tables with capacities ranging from 300kg to 6,000kg were promoted by Hymo, a Swedish manufacturer with subsidiaries in France, Germany and the UK.

A recent innovation in materials handling is inductive power transfer, or IPT, which is a system of contactless power and data transmission. It uses electro-magnetic induction technology and can transfer power, data and guidance to mobile equipment and automated guided vehicles without the need for any mechanical wiping contacts. IPT is a registered trademark of the German company Wampfler which exhibited at IHSE to promote application of IPT in materials handling systems.

Car manufacturer BMW uses IPT at its assembly plant in Dingolfing, Germany, where engines and front axle sub assemblies are moved to the assembly line by a series of slot-guided floor conveyor systems.

As it is contactless, IPT eliminates wear and tear on components, according to Wampfler, and the power supply system can be sited somewhere out of the way, such as under the floor. With no galvanic connections, it is also appropriate for hazardous or clean-room environments, the company adds.