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A logistics classic celebrates its birthday

Few manual transport devices are as widely used in logistics as the EXPRESSO hand truck. As a safe and ergonomic solution for transporting cardboard boxes, beverage crates, barrels or storage boxes, it has proven itself in the supply chains of many industries worldwide. The basis for its development into a product classics and German standard was laid by the entrepreneur August Manss with a patent application in July 1953. Read here how EXPRESSO has managed to reinvent the hand truck as a versatile modular system ever since.

When the engineer and company founder August Manss applied for a patent in July 1953 for “a transport trolley (…) that can be used simultaneously as a hand truck (…) and as a stacking trolley”, he laid the foundation for an exemplary success story in the field of manual handling technology. Today – 70 years later – the EXPRESSO hand truck is not only a globally sought-after piece of transport equipment, but also an established product classics in the company’s portfolio. It is used millions of times and is currently even listed as the German standard in the brands of the century. A decisive factor in the continuing success of the hand truck is its further development into a modular system, from which new customer-, sector- and country-specific hand truck solutions can be generated again and again. “In addition to the high-quality workmanship, durability and reliability, this versatility and adaptability is undoubtedly one of the most important competitive advantages of our hand truck today,” says Karsten Grötecke, who heads the business unit Manual Handling Equipment at EXPRESSO.

Skids for stair transport

Initially, according to the patent specification, it was above all the new, particularly large runners that offered the user a decisive added value and handling advantage. This allowed the hand truck to “slide over stairs during transport”. As early as 1967, the EXPRESSO engineers developed the first aluminum modular system, which has been consistently expanded to this day and now offers design scope for more than 2,000 different hand truck variants. Thanks to this high degree of flexibility, the EXPRESSO hand truck has proven itself in countless applications in the food and beverage industry, for courier and parcel services and in intralogistics. In many vehicle fleets, it is part of the vehicle service equipment. EXPRESSO has also added a wide range of accessories to the modular system, which can be used to quickly adapt any standard hand truck to special handling or transport tasks. For example, a folding water bottle attachment can be used to accommodate round, square and triangular 20-litre bottles, and a height-adjustable hook can be attached to transport returnable KEG drums of different sizes.

Quality Made in Germany

From the very beginning, the EXPRESSO hand truck was designed as a quality product made in Germany. This applies to all aspects of material selection, construction and assembly. As a result, this transport device has been able to assert itself on the market as a durable and sustainable product for seven decades. The spare parts promise that EXPRESSO makes to its customers as a premium manufacturer has played a major part in this: Every single part of the hand truck can be ordered as a spare part – today quickly via the company’s web shop. “With our original spare parts and guidance from the DIY videos on our YouTube channel, users can make even a 30-year-old hand truck fit again,” explains Karsten Grötecke. The worn sliding skids on an EXPRESSO hand truck are also very easy to replace thanks to a clip system. The red strip on the integrated wear indicator shows the right time to do this.

On the road to the future

Expanding the modular system, extending the range of services and continuing the high-quality standard are the three cornerstones for the further development of the EXPRESSO hand truck. Karsten Grötecke leaves no doubt that he and his team will succeed in taking the hand truck into the next decade of its product life cycle: “As we always attach great importance to an intensive exchange with our customers, users and sales partners, we are constantly receiving suggestions for technical optimisations, additional modular modules or new accessories. These innovative impulses and their rapid implementation in our engineering are the guarantee that our hand truck will continue to prove itself as a reliable, versatile and also extremely economical means of transport in the future.”

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    Cardboard boxes, beverage crates, barrels, storage boxes and much more: EXPRESSO hand trucks have been proving their worth as manual transport equipment in the supply chains of many industries for 70 years now.
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    2,000 variants and more: an important factor in the success of the EXPRESSO hand truck is the further development of the product into a modular system from which customised and industry-specific hand truck solutions can be generated.
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    Material selection, construction, assembly: From the very beginning, the EXPRESSO hand truck was designed as a quality product made in Germany.
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    Guaranteed: Every single part of an EXPRESSO hand truck can also be ordered as a spare part – for example via the company’s web shop.
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    Foldable lifting and lowering system with workbench and hand truck function: the new MobiBench from EXPRESSO.

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Paving and loading lifts

Paving and loading lifts

At the twin Solingen plant, the EXPRESSO lift2move effortlessly moves heavy knife boxes.

“These are our fakir boxes,” says Thomas Donner, laughing. The mesh containers owe their nickname to their pointed, sharp contents:

Knife tip after knife tip flashes out of the boxes. They go into the cleaning machine, where the blades lose their last traces of processing. Knives that have made it this far at the Solingen twin plant have come a long way: the steel has been stamped, upset, forged and ground. “It takes around 40 work steps to get from the steel strip to the finished knife,” Donner tells us. The safety engineer is an occupational safety officer.

And because the company, which was founded in 1731, spans several buildings and floors, not only he but also each knife covers long distances. “We mainly transport in shepherd’s panniers,” says Donner. “And they can weigh as much as 25 kilos.” They have long since ceased to be balanced from the pallets onto the transport carts using pure physical strength. “That leads to back problems and even absences from work,” Donner has learned during his many years on the job.

Mobile loading lifts have been saving backs and joints at Zwilling since 1998. Now, employees pull the shepherd’s crate from the stack with one hand and let it slide onto the roller platform of the EXPRESSO lift2move. The other hand rests securely on the blue push bar. With the next hand movement, they then move the crate onto the four-wheeled trolley. The entire motion sequence is ergonomic and safe. And because the power comes from the loading lift, the employees hardly tire at all. So, it’s no wonder that wherever there’s a stack of shepherd crates at Zwilling, a lift2move is not far away.

The back-friendly helpers are as much a part of the load here as the ubiquitous first-aid boxes and plaster dispensers are for handling sharp steel. Donner is always looking for ways to improve. On his rounds with the company’s physician and members of the works council, he scrutinizes work processes. Can the manual movements be carried out in a way that is easy on the back? Where do movement sequences need to be optimized? And what aids are useful? Donner often calls in EXPRESSO sales representative Jürgen Neumann. Over the course of many years, he has gathered a great deal of expertise in the field of healthy working. “With him, we analyze the situations and work out a customized solution together.”

The fact that these solutions have to be robust becomes clear when walking through the factory halls. Where steel is processed, it can get not only noisy but also dusty. Some lifts reveal with their patina that they have been doing service here for a long time – reliably and safely. Thomas Donner greatly appreciates their longevity and the advice. “It saves us valuable time; after all, I also have to take care of fire and environmental protection.”

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    With one hand, the shepherd’s crate is pulled from the stack onto the roller platform of the EXPRESSO loading lift. The other hand rests securely on the blue push bar.
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    For final cleaning, the knives are sorted into mesh containers with the tip facing upwards. They are then subjected to a final quality check before being packed and shipped.
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    The many sharp blades are a familiar sight for the employees at the Zwilling plant.
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    Transport at the Zwilling plant mainly takes place in shepherd crates, which can weigh as much as 25 kg when full. To protect backs and joints, they are moved by EXPRESSO loading lifts.
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    EXPRESSO sales representative Jürgen Neumann (left) analyzes working situations in the plant with Thomas Donner and develops customized solutions.
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    Some lifts reveal with their patina that they have been doing duty in the factory halls for a long time – and doing so reliably and safely.
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    “It takes around 40 work steps to get from the steel strip to the finished knife,” says Thomas Donner, occupational safety officer at the Solingen twin plant. The steel is stamped, swaged, forged, ground and much more.
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    Wherever there is a stack of shepherd crates at Zwilling, an EXPRESSO lift2move is not far away.
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    EXPRESSO loading lifts in the final cleaning and inspection area. In the background, the cleaning machines where the knives lose their last traces of processing.
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    The twin, the trademark of the Solingen-based knife manufacturer, marks the factory entrance as a sculpture.

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Grounding brackets and rotary units

In Sauerland, the EXPRESSO lift2move simplifies work in socket production

“A good deal of tact is required here,” says Thomas Herzig, pointing to the individual workstations. The employees at the worktables there are highly concentrated, because the inside of a socket outlet is complex: It contains a large number of contacts and springs. Products such as the SCHUKO® socket outlet from the JUNG company in Schalksmühle have stood for the highest safety and quality “Made in Germany” for over 100 years.

From the individual part to the finished socket outlet, 25 work steps are necessary, a large part of which is automated: automatic punching machines form the metal parts and automatic assembly machines process the larger components. “The particularly tricky steps, however, are done by hand,” Herzig explains. The trained toolmaker is a safety specialist and ensures the right workplace equipment in production.

Height-adjustable worktables, ergonomic floor plates and appropriate lighting are the essential measures. “At many workplaces, a lifting aid from EXPRESSO is also part of the package,” Herzig adds. After all, the many individual parts from which a socket is assembled are transported in various containers such as cardboard boxes, plastic crates, and metal mesh baskets. “The lifts make them easy to lift and stack,” he knows from experience. “But they also allow material to be poured out.” At the side of one of the assembly lines, a lift2move with a rotating unit has its place. It is used to handle grounding brackets that have to be constantly fed to the running machines. Using the forks of the lift, the employee effortlessly picks up a filled plastic crate from the stack and then moves it to the beginning of the conveyor belt. Using the control system, she positions the crate exactly at the right height and actuates the electric rotating unit. The crate tilts into a vertical position, so that the employee can now place the grounding brackets onto the conveyor belt in an upright position and without exerting any force. “This shows that we were able to adapt the lifts perfectly to the situation at hand,” the technology-enthusiastic safety expert is pleased to say. “We were also able to adjust the width of the chassis so that it can drive around the trolley along with the stack of crates.”

Herzig, who has been with JUNG since 1984, spent a long time looking for a suitable supplier of mobile handling and transport aids. In 2008, he met EXPRESSO sales representative Jürgen Neumann at a trade fair, who introduced him to the lift2move lifting aid with its modular design. Herzig was also impressed by the service with quickly available spare parts and suitable accessories as well as the personal approach. A trial order followed, and after the first test runs it was clear to everyone involved that the lift2move would make many work steps faster and easier. Since 2011, the lifts have been an integral part of production. And if a battery does need to be replaced, this is quickly solved with EXPRESSO. “Mr. Neumann and I sometimes take the short route,” smiles Thomas Herzig. “This saves me time, which as a trainer I am happy to invest in looking after our prospective mechatronics engineers.”

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    The success story of the JUNG company began in 1912 with the development of a new type of pull switch with 1/8 turn.
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    The individual workstations in manual assembly are all equipped with a lift2move from EXPRESSO.
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    This lift2move design allows trolleys to be picked up from the floor and containers to be tilted by pick-up hooks. The employee can remove the socket components with ease.
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    JUNG transports in cardboard boxes, plastic crates, metal wire baskets and on trolleys.
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    The plastic crates can be easily lifted and stacked with the EXPRESSO lift2move lifting aid.
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    At an assembly station, a lift2move with electrically rotating load pick-up and discharge aid is used for socket components.
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    The inside of a socket is complex: A multitude of contacts and springs are inside.
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    A lift2move 125 with rotating unit is located at the side of one of the assembly lines. It is used to handle grounding clamps that have to be constantly fed to the running machines.
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    Thanks to the loading lift, the grounding clamps can be placed on the conveyor belt in an upright position and without any effort.
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    On one of the automatic punching machines, there is a lift2move 85 with a special loading platform for transporting metal mesh baskets.
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    From the individual part to the finished socket, 25 work steps are required.
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    Simple practicality combined with a comprehensive range of applications: The AS 500 switch range from JUNG.
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    A stone sculpture with the initials of founder Albrecht Jung marks the entrance to the company building in Schalksmühle.

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Trays and quiet wheels

At Gigaset in Bocholt, the EXPRESSO lift2move ensures efficient handling of telephone components.

“Our production processes are precisely timed,” says Enver Etemi, looking with satisfaction at the telephone components that fall onto the conveyor belt every second. The production line runs behind glass, where robots provide the plastic with display panels. Up to 900 tons of plastic per year are processed at the Gigaset plant in Bocholt. In addition, 10 to 12 million printed circuit boards are produced each year.

The result: cordless phones, smart home solutions and smartphones “Made in Germany”. “To ensure that everything runs smoothly, we constantly check the work processes,” reports Etemi. He knows the processes down to the smallest detail. In 1991, he came to the plant as an apprentice, worked as a machine operator and now heads up maintenance. He ensures that the work processes are designed economically and that the machines run smoothly. He and his team have to rectify any faults that occur immediately. “Otherwise it can quickly become expensive.”

The plastic parts and printed circuit boards are placed in stackable trays. Once a stack is full, it is lifted out of the machine guide with the help of an EXPRESSO lift2move and transferred to racks, from where it is transported to the next work station. Since 1997, EXPRESSO’s loading lifts have ensured fast and easy handling of stacks. By remote control, the stack can be positioned exactly at the right height and safely unloaded in the rack. “The lifts save us an enormous amount of time in the process,” says Etemi. “We can then put the time we save to good use elsewhere.” Special smooth-running rollers allow the lift2move to be moved maneuverably and quietly even without an electric drive. The rollers are also ESD-conductive as standard. In combination with the ESD-compliant load receptacle, the lift2move offers protection against electrostatic discharge. “This is particularly important here, where plastic and electronic components are processed,” emphasizes the maintenance specialist. “A clean and dust-free working environment is also part of it.” Time and again, Etemi and his team are testing new processes to increase productivity.

Employees are actively involved in the process. “Our test runs in practice quickly show whether a change in the process promises success,” he knows from many years of experience. In addition, EXPRESSO field representative Jürgen Neumann helps to develop special solutions that have to be precisely tailored to the conditions in the plant. Even if things have to move quickly, Etemi can rely on the consultant. If something has to be modified on the lift or a spare part has to be replaced, Neumann is quickly on site and, if necessary, brings a service technician with him. Enver Etemi greatly appreciates EXPRESSO’s field service with its comprehensive service and personal advice including readiness for action. “This creates a clear added value,” he is convinced.

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    “The lifts save us an enormous amount of time in the process,” says Enver Etemi, Head of Maintenance at Gigaset. A lift2move is used to lift the trays out of the machine guide and transfer them to shelves.

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    The production line runs behind glass, where robots add display panels to the plastic.
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    Special smooth-running rollers allow the lift2move to be moved maneuverably and quietly even without an electric drive. The rollers are also ESD conductive as standard.
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    Plastic parts and circuit boards are stored in stackable trays.
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    Since 1997, loading lifts from EXPRESSO have ensured fast and easy handling of tray stacks at Gigaset.
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    EXPRESSO sales representatives Jürgen Neumann (left) and Enver Etemi work together to develop special solutions that have to be precisely tailored to the conditions at the plant.
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    Telephones, smart home solutions and smartphones “Made in Germany” are manufactured at the Gigaset plant in Bocholt.

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Aiming high with compressed air

At Hailo Wind Systems in Haiger, the EXPRESSO BalanceLift guarantees production reliability during the assembly of arrester systems.

“Only the rail turns the ladder into an arrester system,” says Florian Brei, explaining the ladder set for climbing wind turbines. At the Hailo Wind Systems plant, Brei and his colleague Ivan Antic attach the arrester rail to finished aluminum ladders. This is indispensable in terms of safety: the service technicians use the rail to secure themselves when climbing towers at dizzying heights.

Hailo Wind Systems is one of the global market and technology leaders for professional access and climbing technology solutions in the wind power industry. At the Kalteiche site in Haiger, Hesse, many thousands of kilometers of ladders and a four-digit number of service lifts are manufactured each year. In order to be able to experience the products “live”, employees are regularly allowed to climb the 18-meter-high training tower at the company’s own training center. Brei has also already tried out the climbing protection system there himself. “The height makes many hesitate at first, but I didn’t mind,” he says.

The trained bricklayer has been working in manufacturing at Hailo Wind Systems since January 2014. He has since become a foreman and is involved in projects to improve work processes: He has been involved in the introduction of the EXPRESSO BalanceLift system, which has been facilitating work in rail assembly since the fall of 2021, from the very beginning. Brei and his colleagues tested the balancer, which is powered by compressed air, extensively in practice until everything fit after several adjustments. “As users, we were able to have a direct influence on the product design,” explains the installer enthusiastically.

The result: a mechanical gripper with an up/down control button as a load handling device for effortless handling of the arrester systems. The rope balancer and gripping tool are suspended from the BalanceRail surface crane system, which in turn is mounted on the hall ceiling. The floor space below can be used without restriction.

After Brei and Antic have completed the rail installation, the arrester system, which is up to 5.88 meters long, has to be transferred from the workbench to a stack. To ensure that this can be done efficiently, the balancer helps from this point on. With the gripper, Brei can grasp the ladder and maneuver it precisely through the space thanks to Vario control – in completely natural motion sequences and without power. While he safely places the 23-kilo load on the stack, his colleague Antic has already prepared the next work step.

The BalanceLift project is a true testament to its time, as the need for a handling aid became apparent during the first Corona waves in 2020. “We had a very high sickness rate at that time, so at times entire shifts had to be cancelled,” recalls Brei. The reason for the loss of production: a single person could not handle the rail assembly by then.

Since the introduction of the balancer, all the work steps can be carried out by one person without suffering back and joints. “But that is the exception,” says Florian Brei. “Normally, rail assembly continues to be manned by two people.” The EXPRESSO BalanceLift system now guarantees production and planning reliability in rail assembly and increases the efficiency of operations.

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    Hailo Wind Systems is one of the global market and technology leaders for professional access and climbing technology solutions in the wind power industry. Many thousands of kilometers of ladders and a four-digit number of service lifts are manufactured each year at the Kalteiche site in Haiger, Hesse.

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    The longest ladder element measures 5.88 meters. Depending on the total length required by the customer, the arrester system is assembled from several ladder elements and delivered as a set.
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    In rail assembly: Florian Brei (left) and Ivan Antic fasten the arrester rail centrally along the ladder rungs with a bracket.
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    Florian Brei, fitter and foreman at Hailo Wind Systems, easily grips the arrester system with the mechanical gripper and then maneuvers it precisely through the room thanks to Vario control.
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    Easy-to-use Vario control for raising and lowering the arrester systems. With the up/down button, the ladders are handled easily, quickly, and ergonomically.
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    Fitter Ivan Antic appreciates the effortless work with the BalanceLift system, as it takes an enormous physical load off his colleagues and him.
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    The rope balancer and gripping tool are suspended from the BalanceRail surface crane system, which in turn is mounted on the hall ceiling. The floor space below can be used without restriction.
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    Patented: the double-beaded tie bar rung connection for particularly high loads.
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    Additional safety check: a black felt-tip pen is used to mark the mounting bracket, nut, and bolt. If the three elements are no longer in line, the fastening of the arrester rail has loosened so it must be retightened.
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    The professional service lifts from Hailo Wind Systems may only be used by trained personnel. Like the fixed ladders, they are subjected to regular ZÜS inspections after installation in the wind turbine.
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    In the uninsulated hall: transport of a cable winch (weight approx. 44 kilos) with the help of a lift2move 125. The winches are installed in the service lifts of Hailo Wind Systems. Since 2016, mobile loading lifts from EXPRESSO have been used in production to transport and handle continuous cable winches.

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