Tugger boosts productivity while reducing risk

Facility uses technology to reduce back injuries and speed up processing.
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
October 02, 2012 - MMH Editorial

Tired of a manual application that exposed employees to exhaustion and injury, one meat packing facility used a series of customized, battery-powered tuggers to boost productivity while keeping workers safe.

In the Aurora Packing facility in northern Illinois, sides and quarters of high-quality beef are hung on hooks and moved by ceiling-mounted rails to the various processing stations. Beef halves weigh between 350 and 450 pounds, and beef quarters weigh between 200 and 250 pounds. Moving three quarters or two sides is about the maximum one individual can push at time. Because of this limitation, it doesn’t take a lot of time before production can get bottle-necked.

“We typically rotated workers out from the rail line every two hours to give them a break,” says Tim Sonne, plant engineer for Aurora Packing. “This was not especially efficient.”

The new tuggers help the company maintain compliance with OSHA’s voluntary protection programs (VPP), OSHA’s official program for recognizing the outstanding efforts of companies that have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health standards. Using a tug with stainless steel pusher attachments and some counterweights, Sonne says that one employee now moves the rails of beef sides all day long “without breaking a sweat.”

To the immediate approval of its employees, Aurora Packing bought its first tug in December of 2009. Depending on the push/pull requirements in each department, attachments and options can be used to optimize performance of the base unit while retaining the interchangeability of tires, wheels and batteries. The company no longer needs to rotate personnel every two hours.

NuStar, Power Pusher Division

Read more from the 2013 Casebook.

About the Author

Josh Bond
Senior Editor

Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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