Flexoplast (Harlingen, Netherlands) makes premium flexible packaging that is used mainly for frozen foods, beverages and dairy, but also in various industrial applications. The plastic film involved is processed on big, complicated machines that require continuous service and maintenance. The problem for Flexoplast was that access to the machines was poor. The work platform supplied with the machine had proven unstable, which was bad for both safety and the quality of the work.

“That’s when Flexoplast called us in,” recalls Maurice Langstraat, KAM at MTH Lifttechniek in Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands. “The lack of stability was actually frightening for the people working on and around the machine. Slips and falls were obvious hazards, and the quality of the work suffered. There was also the constant risk of damage to the machine itself.”

After initial discussions with Flexoplast, MTH Lifttechniek called in VPG to help develop a safer and more efficient solution. “We quickly identified a number of improvements that would solve the problem. And the key to it all was a new work platform from VPG,” says Maurice.

At the heart of the problem was the layout of Flexoplast’s machine. A vulnerable cylinder protruding from the machine meant the work platform could not approach closely enough for safe and efficient working. “We worked with VPG to design a work platform with a cutaway to accommodate the cylinder,” says Maurice. “This allows the work platform to make a very close approach to the machine and be raised and lowered without risk to the cylinder.”

Improved safety and 40% efficiency gains

“The results have been impressive. The workers now have a reassuringly stable work platform, and they can access the machine easily without bending or leaning in dangerously. Lifting the heavy plastic coils is easier and safer for them, too, because they can work in an upright position. In figures, it equates to working up to 40% faster. Flexoplast got immediate efficiency gains, and in the long term there will be a lower risk of back injuries.”

Maurice explains that the modifications to the work platform brought further benefits: “The work platform was made particularly stiff, which improves precision during positioning. We worked with VPG to enable trolleys to roll on/off more easily, and we built in custom gates. The controls are on the platform itself, to make it easy for operators to use. And finally, the smart fencing minimizes the risk of slips and falls.”

“The whole process – from first call to first delivery – took only 19 weeks,” concludes Maurice. “The support we got from VPG was excellent throughout. The whole project has confirmed our recommendation that VPG is the natural partner for any kind of vertical positioning or lifting solution.”

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