Case Study: Casters made ergonomically test and perform better than others
Ray Erbe, President and Senior Engineer of Electro Kinetic Technologies, sat down with Yohann Printer, Ergonomics Engineer at Darcor, to discuss their journey and success with Darcor Casters and Wheels.
About Electro Kinetic Technologies:
Electro Kinetic Technologies, a longtime client of Darcor’s, designs and manufactures motorized solutions to transport and lift heavy loads from 50 to 40,000 lbs. This company has been in business for nine years and operates in three main segments; retail, healthcare, and material handling. In the retail segment they focus on motorized shoppers for customers, and in the healthcare industry their focus is on patient handling, motorized transport chairs, medical carts, and OEM bed movers. They serve a broad range of industries in the material handling segment including automotive, pulp and paper, food, O&G, etc.
According to Electro Kinetic Technologies, any industry where they are moving or lifting materials or products are an ideal target customer for them. They carry a wide range of standard products, such as platform carts, tuggers, scissor lifts to 4,000 lbs, to semi-custom products such as repackaging an existing product to full custom products as well.
As consumer industries become more aware of the engineering advances and critical need for workplace safety and ergonomics awareness, manufacturers of these products must also become more ergonomic compliant. In the case of Electro Kinetic Technologies the need for casters and wheels that are ergonomic friendly came from their own customer needs. Customers of theirs in the healthcare, retail and manufacturing industries are slowly becoming more aware of the science and ergonomics behind lifting and push/pull forces. While it is not standard practice to measure push/pull forces in every industry, some industries such as manufacturing have required guidelines and standards they must meet. In order to address these new standards and rising trends, Electro Kinetic Technologies had to make a shift in their own suppliers to provide their customers with ergonomically friendly products.
Electro Kinetic Technologies products use different drive systems depending on the application. One product being a transaxle with a differential and another uses multiple individual drive motors which have the added benefit of motorized turning. Motorized solutions with transaxles are still turned/ steered manually, therefore they need casters with a lower coefficient of friction as it improves battery life and it lowers the turning force which allows it to be steered more easily.
Electro Kinetic Technologies searched out and tested caster options from a variety of manufacturers including Darcor. They conducted their own testing internally on the SE caster single and dual to evaluate the performance of several caster companies and products. Their internal testing consisted of applying a load and aligning the casters in the same direction and 90 degrees to the cart to test a worst-case scenario. Darcor’s Solid Elastomer wheels on a kingpinless caster proved during testing to be superior than the other solutions in lowering the turning force for a given load. They were also searching for casters that would improve battery life however the gains in battery life are not very significant as hard materials tend to perform similarly if they are of a good quality. Therefore, the determining factor for choosing Darcor was the turning force based on their own internal testing. Darcor’s dual casters produced 25% less force, which was a measurable difference, pounds of force vs. a few ounces compared to other casters they tested.
The main goal that Darcor achieved through testing was decreasing the overall turning and steering forces on their carts. Originally carts with a transaxle design did not offer any steering assistance and the operator would have to overcome those turning forces manually. Since the carts and payloads in question are very heavy, having casters that ensured these turning forces were as low as possible was imperative.
The first time Electro Kinetic Technologies saw the success of Darcor casters was on their own client. They had a large international industrial client trying to move a 3,500-pound payload in a tight space. When Electro Kinetic Technologies provided them with a center mount transaxle system with a differential drive, this system and the high-performance dual casters from Darcor gave the motorized cart a tight turning radius and exceptional maneuverability in the client’s small operating space. Ever since Electro Kinetic Technologies solved this problem for their client, they have been implementing Darcor casters into their carts for approximately four years now.
“The baseline is that people have to understand that the diameter of the caster and the caster material affects the performance from a push-pull standpoint. Even the subtle stuff like the geometry, whether it’s flat or crowned, that also affects performance. We buy casters almost exclusively from companies that are manufacturing them in USA and Canada or have strong oversight into their offshore operations, so they control their process. I can’t speak enough about that because when you buy from a distributor, they might try to sell you on a product they don’t know much about. We pay more for the Darcor caster, but we know that it’s a good caster, we know what we’re getting, and we’ve proven that the turning forces are less. The price may be higher, but the performance will be better,” says Raymond Erbe from Electro Kinetic Technologies.
For more about Darcor’s relationship with Electro Kinetic Technologies read their case study about Darcor here.
Are you ready to start seeing results for your organization? Get in touch with an ergonomics specialist here.
Raymond has also been a guest author on Darcor’s Workplace Ergonomics and Caster Technology blog. Read his guest post here.