Forklift and Narrower Aisles Add Up to Increased Facility Utilization for Coatings Manufacturer

The Hentzen dock has a slight slope, which could confine other aisle-narrow forklifts to the warehouse area, especially when handling 700-lb barrels. The power of the Aisle-Master forklift allows it to move around both locations.
If getting more business has a downside, it is the cramming of more product and activity in an ever-tightening space - and managing around the problem. When it comes to company growth, the phrase "painting oneself into a corner" comes to mind, especially in the case of Hentzen Coatings. "Our business is doing so well that we are running out of room to handle it," reports Chuck Brummond, the company's materials manager.

Over the past few years, this Milwaukee-based manufacturer of industrial coatings has seen the demand for its paints and powder coatings spike upward. Though coatings are thin films, Hentzen has developed formulations that stand up to heavy-duty use and are applied by its industrial, military and aerospace clients. Powder coatings in particular has been its fastest-growing product segment.

The company has been in business for over 80 years, and in 1960 it moved to its current location, which at the time was a rural area of northwest Milwaukee. The company occupied a somewhat spacious piece of property. Over time, Hentzen constructed a four-building laboratory, administrative, manufacturing and warehousing complex.

The company's success at marketing coatings pushed it virtually to the warehouse walls. Though Hentzen's operation turns over much of its inventory in several days, a large quantity of product is kept on shelves in quart, half-gallon and gallon containers, as well as 55-gallon drums. For a sizable list of smaller customers, Hentzen stores product that is later shipped out as smaller orders over a period of time.

The wide-open lot of nearly 50 years ago now corralled in Hentzen's ability to expand. Any additional buildings would have to be built on another site, adding extra handling and cost to the operation. Chuck Brummond and his engineering staff quickly recognized that the way to relieve the pressure was to reduce the aisle width for the warehouse. Their search for a suitable forklift to work within these confines led them to the Aisle-Master.

The Aisle-Master’s 67-hp motor, hydrostatic drive and super-elastic pneumatic tires enable it to cover ground outside as well.
According to Brummond, "We had a clear idea of the type of truck we were looking for to work in our narrow-aisle warehouse, and Aisle-Master matched up exactly to our needs." Most important was the ability to operate in the reconfigured seven-and-a-half-foot aisles. Brummond's plan to shrink the aisles in the warehouse down from the original 12-foot width enabled him to add space for an additional 200 pallets, creating an additional 50% of storage room. The conversion was done gradually, and happened over several months.

In addition, Hentzen needed a forklift with the power to handle its heavy loads. The drums weigh more than 700 pounds and sit four to a pallet. Brummond wanted a machine that could take these directly from the warehouse to the dock, which has a slightly sloping floor. "We couldn't have a forklift that would spin its wheels trying to back up after loading a truck," says Brummond.

What they had in mind was eliminating the need for one forklift to go to and from the trucks and the shipping/receiving area, and another to handle pallets in the warehouse.

To handle both these requirements, the Aisle-Master has a unique, articulated fork and mast that can turn up to 90°, giving it the ability to operate nimbly within tight aisles. The forklift can drive to the center of the pallet while it turns the steering and mast directly into the fork pockets. After placing the pallet where needed, the driver reverses out while unwinding the steering wheel.

Brummond's driver, Steve Leibig, commented that he was ready to use the Aisle-Master with under half a day of training. "The only thing you need to get used to is that you turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction than what you are used to when backing out of the pallet," says Leibig. "But then it doesn't take much to get used to," he adds.

Once driving, Leibig likes the visibility the articulated forks and mast offers. "Not only does the mast turn out of your way most of the time," noted Leibig, "but even when the forks are pointed straight out the mast is not directly in front of you." The clear range of sight reduces possibility of collisions with pallet loads, walls or equipment in the building.

Brummond also appreciates the uptime of using LP rather than electric power in this three-shift operation. The schedule is just too tight at Hentzen to change batteries throughout the day. In particular, the slanted docks cause batteries to discharge fairly quickly. "Everybody else offered electrics, and we didn't want to deal with the discharged batteries," says Brummond.

To protect the indoor environment, this Aisle-Master is equipped with an optional three-way catalytic converter. The system eliminates 98% of harmful emissions to comply with current EPA regulations.

Articulated forks on the Aisle-Master forklift enable movement within tight aisles. This ability enabled Hentzen Coatings to reduce aisle width to get more products within its warehouse.
Along with its trips to the dock, the Aisle-Master runs loads over to another building. It can run that route thanks to its 67-hp motor, hydrostatic drive and super-elastic pneumatic tires. The tires and suspension seat also improve operator comfort, both on the rough surface of the yard and back in the plant, reducing driver fatigue.

The electrically powered emergency brake is located for rapid access and stops the truck instantaneously. Grab handles and pedals have been arranged to provide comfort for operators working long shifts and reduce the likelihood of repetitive strain injuries. Mirrors on the mast and on the bars enable an expansive view without the driver having to make excessive head turns.

Brummond points out that growth continues at Hentzen. Soon he expects he will need to compress aisle width in one of his other warehouses and will be looking for another Aisle-Master.

By purchasing the one Aisle-Master forklift, the company got the room it needed and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction and the on-going HVAC and transportation costs of a new facility. All of this paints a favorable profit picture for Hentzen.

For more information, contact Joe O'Brien at 877/280.4910, or visit