In a pioneering move, Conframat Bricks has become one of the very first brick manufacturers in the country to deploy electric forklifts in its brickyard. This follows the company’s recent purchase of three 3,5-tonne Baoli electric forklifts from Smith Power Equipment.
Traditionally, brickyards have always been regarded a no-go area for electric forklifts. This is an environment where the diesel counterparts have generally been preferred, largely due to the extremely tough operating conditions synonymous with brickyards. In what is believed to be an industry first in South Africa, Conframat Bricks – a brick manufacturer that runs brick plants in Vanderbijl Park and Midvaal – has challenged the status quo with the deployment of three Baoli electric forklifts in its brickyard.
“Traditionally, an electric forklift would not be used in a brickyard due to the rough nature of the terrain. However, Conframat’s brickyards are fully paved, which allowed the company to put an electric forklift through its paces – with great success,” explains Vivian Gravett, salesperson at Smith Power Equipment.
To prove viability of running an electric forklift in a brick handling application, Conframat was initially afforded an opportunity to rent a 2,5-t Baoli Electric from Smith Power in February last year. The brick manufacturer wanted to test if the electric version could perform at similar levels to its diesel counterparts.
The 2,5-t electric forklift, explains Hannes Bolleurs, maintenance manager at Conframat, was pitted against a 3,5-t diesel forklift with great results. “The electric forklift surprisingly managed up to 90% of the workload that the 3,5-t diesel unit could handle. This prompted our decision to purchase three Baoli 3,5-t electric forklifts,” says Bolleurs.
With a complement of 12 diesel forklifts in its fleet, Conframat went the electric route as part of its quest for a cost-effective materials handling option, given the soaring diesel costs in South Africa and the costs of running diesel engine forklifts. Electric forklifts come with far fewer moving components, thus lowering maintenance and servicing requirements. Electric equipment also eliminates many operating costs in terms of the fuel and additional lubricants needed for internal combustion equipment. Thus, electrical forklifts provide a net capital saving to the customer over their lifetime.
“Two factors that influenced our decision were productivity and cost,” says Mark Heap, director of Conframat. “By its very nature, an electric forklift is far more cost-effective and easy to run, maintain and service than its internal combustion counterparts. The Baoli Electric has also proven itself in terms of performance.”
Leading edge electric components have been used in the development of the Baoli electric range. The traction and lifting motors are manufactured by Italian company, SME, a renowned global manufacturer of high-quality motors. The electric controller – the “heart” of the lift truck – has also been manufactured by SME. This accurately controls every lift truck function and provides the high performance the series is renowned for.