Case Study: BigFoot™ Makes Light Work of Heavy Lifting

BigFoot™ Makes Light Work of Heavy Lifting

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Everywhere BigFoot steps, airport baggage handlers are relieved of strain, relieved of fatigue, relieved of injuries.


The CHALLENGE: The Federal Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) recognized the burden on its employees as they handled heavy baggage during the security screening process. It went looking for solutions to the fatigue and injuries that can easily occur when people repeatedly lift and move heavy objects. One thing was certain whatever shape the solution might take, it had to be portable.

The SOLUTION: WEPCO answered the call by developing the BigFoot portable crane base to anchor Gorbel’s Easy Arm intelligent lifting system. Now baggage crews can handle a far greater load in a more efficient manner, and airport personnel can freely move the device wherever it is needed.

STANDING ON ITS OWN: The TSA project revealed just how versatile the BigFoot portable base is. Now the WEPCO team is constantly on the lookout for new attachments and innovative ways to use it. Fitted with small cranes, intelligent lifting devices, and vacuum lifters, it is proving to be a valuable tool and a go-to device whenever both stability and portability are crucial.

The BACKSTORY: WEPCO worked with the TSA for two years to analyze its baggage-handling problem. On-the-job observation revealed that as long as screeners had to manually lift bags on and off conveyor belts and inspection tables, injury and fatigue would persist. Some sort of lift system was needed.

GorbelA traditional overhead hoist was too slow and cumbersome. So WEPCO teamed up with Gorbel® to adapt a solution from the automotive industry. The Gorbel®Easy Arm with G-Force actuator was chosen because it allows screeners to lift and maneuver naturally and has many built-in safety features to further reduce the risk of injury. WEPCO then devised a special load hook that approximates the human hand.

These changes made the handlers’ job easier. But the invention of the BigFoot portable base made the system practical. Typical ‘portable’ crane bases are anchored to the floor by clunky, ankle-busting structural steel plates. The bright yellow BigFoot base, in contrast, is rounded with a beveled edge, bringing an elegance of design to the entire lifting device. Molded of durable polymer concrete, it will not chip, flake or absorb moisture. Its 8 leveling jacks can be raised to allow it to be moved easily via pallet jack or forklift, and it is less expensive than a permanent, bolted base.

REAL-TIME TESTING: Testing under real-time conditions at the Philadelphia International Airport revealed the base’s true strengths. “The portable base approach used for the Philadelphia pilot program turned out to be very desirable,” said WEPCO CEO Chris Paulsen. “It eliminated the need for penetrating the floor with anchors and allowed the system to be easily relocated if the screening area configuration had to be changed.”

Having passed the real-time test with flying colors, the BigFoot base has been adopted by the TSA for implementation across the nation. “Feedback from TSA screening personnel, supervisors and management showed that they found the system very easy to use and especially helpful for handling bags that topped 35 pounds,” said Paulsen. “The BigFoot setup allowed screeners to handle heavy bags continuously all day without fatigue.”

THE WEPCO WAY: HOW CAN WEPCO HELP YOU? For over forty years, the trademark strength of CEO Chris Paulsen, president Larry Strayhorn and their team has been their uncanny ability to adapt Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) equipment in unique ways to solve specific challenges. But when a situation calls for a new idea altogether, they find experts in the subject at hand, then seek out the technology leaders and machine shops to develop new tools to do the job.

WEPCO technical expertise includes the application of conveyor systems, overhead cranes and hoists, ergonomic lifts, automated storage and retrieval systems, and robotics. “We have provided these solutions for customers from many different industries,” Paulsen says, “including government, military, pharmaceutical, publishing, retail, and mail order. We always welcome something new.” Any day that they can solve problems, simplify systems, and save money for customers is a good day at WEPCO, Inc.

To learn more about WEPCO Inc. and its leadership in the material handling industry, call 570-655-5951.

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