Keep it Moving

Fast & Efficient Ways to Help Material Handling

By: Cheryl Gray

Before wine is bottled, labeled and ready to ship, wineries and vineyards have to shift large quantities of materials from one place to the next.

  The movement, storage and protection of these assets form an entire industry known as material handling. This industry sector performs a major role in ensuring the smooth operational flow of goods throughout wineries and vineyards. Its evolution includes automation and technology designed to prevent injuries, cut costs and boost productivity.

  Fortunately, there are companies, large and small, that can handle these critical tasks. Among them is Bishamon Industries Corporation, founded in 1986 to serve as the United States production arm for its parent company, Sugiyasu International Corporation.

  Bishamon works with wineries and vineyards of all sizes, from small boutique operations to large commercial establishments. It touts a line-up of products and options designed to offer solutions that meet clients’ specific needs, regardless of scale.

  It all happens at Bishamon’s 78,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Ontario, California, with a rooftop solar system generating more than 80 percent of the facility’s energy needs. In its early years, the company produced automotive lifts and imported material-handling equipment from Sugiyasu. By the 1990s, Bishamon introduced the Bishamon EZ Loader®, which the company says revolutionized the manual palletizing industry, winning awards such as Plant Engineering Product of the Year. The product is patented worldwide and has been awarded CE certification.

  Following the success of its EZ Loader®, Bishamon launched additional material handling products, including the UniLift, which the company describes as the only product of its kind to lift and transport a standard pallet without straddling it. There is also the  EZ X Loader®, which offers a new design that targets cost savings and greater flexibility in performance. Another product, the Lift Pilot®, is described as a one-of-a-kind floor-level pallet positioner. Brian Dedmon is the director of sales for the company.

“Bishamon can address the specific needs of wineries and vineyards by offering a range of equipment designed to improve efficiency, safety and productivity in the winemaking process,” Dedmon said. “Solutions include hydraulic lift tables, mobile lifters and pallet positioners. To help wineries and vineyards select the right equipment for their unique requirements, our team takes a consultative approach by assessing the customer’s needs and offering recommendations, training and support. By offering a diverse range of equipment and providing personalized support, Bishamon strives to be a trusted partner for wineries and vineyards, helping them optimize their material handling processes and achieve greater efficiency and success in their operations.”  

  Dedmon points to some key Bishamon products that wineries and vineyards can add to optimize production, reduce costs and enhance their products.

  “Three products wineries and vineyards can benefit immediately from are the implementation of hydraulic lift tables, mobile lifters and pallet positions in their work processes,” he said. “Bishamon’s hydraulic lift tables are ideal for lifting and positioning heavy wine barrels, crates and equipment. These versatile tools come in various sizes and weight capacities to suit different tasks in the winery, ensuring smooth and ergonomic material handling for easy maneuverability. Bishamon mobile lifters are perfect for moving materials within the winery or vineyard premises. They can assist with transporting grapes, bottles, and other items efficiently, minimizing the need for manual labor and reducing the risk of injuries. Bishamon’s pallet positioners enable winery workers to load and unload materials from pallets at comfortable heights, promoting efficient workflow and reducing strain on the worker.”

  Dedmon talks about some of the company’s most widely purchased products.

  “Our most popular products are the UniLift and the EZ Loader,” he said. “The Bishamon UniLift is the only two-in-one pallet positioner/lift on the market that works with closed-bottom pallets and skids. This unit utilizes a retractable outrigger operation that allows the user to pick up closed bottom pallets without the use of a straddle stacker. This allows the unit to be used in small areas where you need more maneuverability and versatility for pallet options. Our EZ Loader is one of the best self-leveling pallet positioners on the market. It utilizes a self-contained air system with an adjustable knob to allow the user to adjust the system without resetting the air pressure or the hassle of replacing springs like other brands. The EZ Loader will raise or lower as the user adds or takes off the product, keeping the working height at an ergonomic position.”

  Dedmon adds that the company has introduced an upgraded option to its UniLift product.

  “The UniLift is an all-in-one pallet transporter and positioner designed for transporting and lifting pallets,” he said. “It also serves as a dual-purpose tool by eliminating the need for a forklift or lift table in certain applications. Now, the customer may add a Power Assist Drive System that will significantly improve the ease of maneuverability and reduce operator fatigue.”

  It is possible to reduce fatigue through innovative solutions grounded in artificial intelligence. That is the mission ofAugean Robotics. The company has invented a robot platform it callsBurro, showcasing what the robot can do through collaborations designed to give grape-growers a peek at what autonomous farming can achieve. Augean Robotics has created a team of robotics experts with vast computer knowledge and seasoned entrepreneurs with years of experience selling high-tech farming machinery to build and market Burro.

  Burro deploys A.I. in vineyards to help grape growers maximize harvests. The robots act as carrying devices or can assist with harvesting fruit. According to the company, a Burro robot is typically paired with a team of six to eight workers and can help increase productivity anywhere from 10 to 50 percent, depending upon the vineyard layout, fruit volume and other variables. Burro can also assist in patrolling, scouting and capturing data. It can serve as a platform for tasks such as UV lighting to combat powdery mildew that can wreak havoc on vineyard crops. Augean Robotics can provide a CAD file to prospective clients to outline Burro’s shape and enable a potential buyer to model items and technologies that will customize a purchase.

  When wineries and vineyards need to transport products, Magline, Inc. can help. Based in Standish, Michigan, the company has been in business for over 75 years. It manufactures various material handling products, including its recently launched Magliner Powered Lifting Hand Truck. According to Magline, the product allows its users to lift easily and lower heavy loads of up to 200 pounds, which helps to prevent injuries. When used as a traditional hand truck, Magline says that its Powered Lifting Hand Truck provides a 500-pound overall load capacity with a design featuring many of the same components as other Magliner lightweight, aluminum hand trucks. The company adds that in some instances, one person using the product can do a job that would normally take two people.

  Another popular product series from Magline is the company’s line-up of LiftPlus® powered stackers. This product features user-friendly, one-hand controls and combines the functions of a walk-behind pallet jack with those of a lift truck. It is used to handle bulk materials in manufacturing, distribution, warehousing and other areas where large material handling is  required. Unlike forklifts, no operating license is needed, and the machinery helps to reduce injuries since it is powered to carry large loads.

  Experts agree that investment in proper material handling equipment pays off in real-time by helping to prevent on-the-job injuries, smoothing the transport of critical materials and automating processes that reduce labor costs. 

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