Optimise your operation


Northline has improved its safety and efficiency at its Adelaide site by using the latest Combilift equipment. Brett Williams tells MHD why he chooses Combilift equipment to boost Northline operations. 

Brett Williams, Regional Manager West at transport and logistics business Northline, says that his professional relationship with Combilift dates back almost a decade. He tells MHD that he has come to trust and rely on Combilift for the provision of specialised materials handling equipment.

“In short I’d say that Combilift set themselves apart not only for the quality of their equipment, but how operator-friendly it is too,” Brett says. 

Australian owned and operated, Northline has an industry-leading national network and an international reach into more than 100 countries. It has 13 depots across Australia, with the ability and flexibility to tailor solutions to meet the needs of their customers and evolving market demands, including scaling up to add further capacity as needed. 

Its international network transports, stores, tracks and delivers freight, by road, rail, sea and air across the globe, connecting to its national network and modern operating facilities.

Northline’s operations rely on equipment that is innovative, user friendly, cost effective, and of a high quality, Brett says. “The Combilift team are very good on service, and always deliver on their word. They have always taken care of us, and we’ve been consistently pleased with the quality of product they supply.”

Among the most important pieces of equipment that Combilift supplies to Northline’s operations is its new model Combilift Straddle Carrier, which has recently been deployed at Northline’s Adelaide depot in Regency Park. 

The Adelaide intermodal depot opened roughly four years ago and sits alongside Pacific National – one of Australia’s largest rail freight businesses. 

“We have a cargo link arrangement with Pacific National where they use a reach stacker to position containers from the rail network into a section of the yard,” Brett says. “We will use a straddle carrier to go in and collect those as well as reloaded containers to send back out. We are constantly positioning containers coming in and out of the shared cargo link area, so obviously we need reliable equipment. The straddle carrier that Combilift supplied us in the past couple of months has given us a real leg up in terms of both handling time per container and safety.” 

The Combilift CB multidirectional counterbalance forklift means greater ease of movement for long loads.

The latest Combilift Straddle Carrier is an integrated 20/40 top lift spreader, meaning it can handle both 20- and 40-foot containers up to 35 tonnes in weight. It features two high stacking capability, can operate under low awnings and doorways, can turn a container on its own axis (saving space), and allows 360-degree visibility to the operator when the load is raised. Combilift says that its new Straddle Carrier also has superior fuel efficiency, and lower initial investment and operating costs compared to other container handling solutions. 

“The new straddle carrier is a top lift, so the operator doesn’t have to leave the cabin and manually connect chains to the container,” he says. “This allows for a more seamless and certainly safer operation. It reduces risk for both the goods handled and the operator.”

Brett adds that if one were to isolate the process of simply picking up and dropping off a container, then the new model Combilift Straddle Carrier saves roughly 80 per cent of that time. While that process might only account for a very small part of an operation, it adds up in the busy, large-scale, Northline Adelaide site.

In addition to the straddle carrier, Brett says that the Combilift CB multidirectional counterbalance forklift and the Combilift Aisle Master are also favourites of Northline operations. 

“The Combilift CB is a terrific piece of equipment,” Brett says. “Its ability to move not only forwards and backwards, but also laterally, is a thing of beauty because in our business we do handle a lot of long product – often up to six metres in length. With a normal forklift you’d have to keep picking up the product and putting it down, and utilise much more space by having to swing the load around. That poses a safety risk.”

Instead of having to turn a long load around – often by lifting it high in the air to allow space to manoeuvre – the forklift driver can simply drive up to curtain side containers or trailers, pick up the load, reverse back, then proceed to drive laterally in direct systematic fashion, Brett says.

Similarly, he notes, the Combilift Aisle Master provides superior economy of movement. Northline’s Darwin depot is installing the Aisle Master – an articulated reach truck – in its operations, and Brett says they’re also considering bringing them into Adelaide. The articulated forks of the Aisle Master can move laterally, and pivot the load while the wheels remain stationary. This allows warehouse aisles to be much narrower – and with the Adelaide operation contemplating a move to narrower aisles the Aisle Master would be a natural fit in terms of economy of movement, efficiency, and safety.

But useful though such equipment might be, Brett says it would come to nothing if it were not also operator friendly. “Because it’s operator friendly, it gets used,” he says. “If operators find a piece of equipment hard to use, then they’ll find every reason under the sun not to use it.”

Combilift provide excellent operator inductions, Brett says, but adds that the machines are already very intuitive to operate. “The upskilling is very easy.”

For more information on Combilift, click here

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