August 28 - In the Netherlands, De Boer Staal has solved the difficult task of lifting and moving consignments of steel plate efficiently and safely in the form of a 35-tonne capacity straddle carrier from the Irish specialist manufacturer Combilift.

De Boer Staal is a wholesale distributor and has large stocks of sheet steel, profiles and bulb flats in all standard sizes, grades and thicknesses, mainly for the shipbuilding industry. It also operates an in-house coating line together with steel cutting from its affiliated company De Boer Snijbedrijf.

The company needed a versatile system for offloading plates from incoming trailers, stacking them in the yard, moving them around the premises, inside and out and reloading for dispatch.

Heavy duty forklifts powerful enough to lift 35 tonnes are extremely large, very expensive and have a high unladen weight. They are also not the safest machines for handling plates which can be up to 12 m long and over 3 m wide and their size hampers any attempts to move the loads into the cutting and painting areas. Further options of overhead cranes or gantries were discounted as these are fixed and therefore limited to use in one specific area.

Rico Honselaar, operations manager of De Boer Staal says it worked with Combi-SC's distributor for the Netherlands, Mabo-lifting Nederland, to develop a highly customised specification which included features such as a hydraulic spreader with clamps which independently clamp the front and rear of the load when it is lifted.

Honselaar says: "The dimensions were also tailor made for us - the machine is 1.3 m wider in the load area than standard, at 4.3 m, and the height is 4.25 m compared to the standard 4.95 m to accommodate the size of the plates and to enable the machine to go inside without needing a telescopic facility."

Combilift says its Combi-SC range was initially developed for economical container handling but it quickly became apparent that it would be of major benefit in other industry sectors which handle extreme or oversized loads, and De Boer Staal is a prime example.