Tugs offer flexible options for material handling

Utilizing battery-operated tugs for intra-facility material mobility of wheeled loads is an effective and safe alternative to manpower, forklifts, and pallet jacks.


Tug devices offer a proactive approach to meeting material handling demands while keeping pace with current productivity goals and safety initiatives. Image courtesy of Power Pusher.The plant floor is where it all happens. Here, disjointed pieces of material are transformed into products that are essential for everyday living. This fast-paced environment, with its minute margin for error, requires constant dedication to a common goal: creating high-quality products as efficiently as possible.

As production continues, large volumes of goods, from raw materials to finished products, are moved throughout the facility. This must be done in a timely manner in order to ensure that production remains a well-oiled machine. Therefore, implementing the appropriate material handling equipment is essential for continued productivity and safety.

Since material handling can require employees to move materials weighing several tons, injuries such as overexertion and muscle strain are common. Utilizing battery-operated tugs for intra-facility material mobility of wheeled loads is an effective and safe alternative to manpower, forklifts, and pallet jacks.

Designed to allow maximum visibility and control while transporting goods, tugs enable a single worker to move thousands of pounds without excess effort or contributing to plant floor traffic congestion. With their intrinsic stability, tugs accommodate uneven surfaces without tipping and are engineered to simplify material handling.

Tug devices offer a proactive approach to meeting material handling demands while keeping pace with current productivity goals and safety initiatives—ultimately reducing costs from both an injury and efficiency standpoint for improved profit potential.                                                                                            

Operational safety

Traditional solutions, such as manpower, forklifts, and pallet jacks, are common options for material handling applications, but they do pose a few safety concerns. For instance, using only sheer strength to move heavy objects puts workers at great risk for overexertion and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), injuries that could lead to absenteeism.

To mitigate safety risks, many industries are considering the benefits of wheeled cart solutions for their material handling needs.

Battery-operated tugs are engineered to distribute weight and maximize torque for a safer alternative for moving large loads. Containing specifically designed gears, this technology effectively converts speed to torque, enabling operators to minimize the effort required to pull or push loads. The body of the device acts as a wedge, slightly lifting the load at an angle and transferring all the weight to the drive wheels, which then allows the torque to propel the device forward. Because tugs can effectively distribute weight and mobilize wheeled loads up to 150,000 pounds, users can transport thousands of pounds with total control and little physical exertion.  

Some tugs also include features that prevent incidental injury during operation. Devices equipped with anti-runaway capabilities are designed to power down once the throttle is released. Additionally, some tugs are constructed in such a way that, prior to activation, users are required to manually pull back the handle and hold it in place to power up the machine. When used in combination, these features work to prevent any unintended propulsion of the device.

Including an emergency reverse switch feature in the controls is important because tugs can be pulled or pushed to accommodate the application or operator’s needs. If the device comes into direct contact with the operator’s torso while an object is pulled in reverse, the emergency switch will automatically move the tug forward and stop the machine, preventing users from being pinned or crushed.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2010, 50% of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were back injuries that required an average absence of seven days, and the most severe work-related MSDs required as many as 21 days off work. Additional expenses will also arise from the cost of the injury, wages paid to injured workers, costs related to lost productivity, worker replacement expenditures, and administrative time.

Material handling operations pose a serious risk for incurring MSDs. Among the most common causes of these injuries are lifting, pushing, or pulling objects improperly; lifting, pushing, or pulling objects that are too heavy; and vibrations from machines and equipment. Providing a method of mobilizing these materials without making employees vulnerable to MSDs reduces employee absenteeism and improves overall productivity.

Proper management of material handling procedures within a plant facility is a necessity given the high level of activity and low margin for error. Image courtesy of Power Pusher.Flexible material handling

Along with incorporating operational safety features, these devices can also be constructed to improve ergonomics. For example, devices containing ergonomically designed handles protect fingers from being crushed when operators turn corners sharply. The maneuverability reduces shoulder and back pain experienced when overcompensating for lack of control with pallet jacks and forklifts. By allowing operators to be physically closer to a load, tugs provide improved visibility to avoid collisions with equipment and other workers.

Each material handling application has its own requirements and specificities. In the same way, tugs can be constructed to suit specific material handling needs.

Material handling tugs can be equipped with safety accessories and job-specific attachments. By mounting safety horns and strobes on a machine, operators can signal facility occupants of its impeding approach to avoid collisions—even on noisy plant floors.

For challenging or diverse loads, tugs can be equipped with attachments designed to complement individual needs, such as a push pad assembly, gooseneck, ball hitch, and tongue and pin. These attachments provide the ideal performance capabilities for transporting virtually any load safely and efficiently.

Tugs in use on plant floors

While forklifts and pallets jacks are still commonplace in factories and manufacturing facilities, tugs offer an alternative option that can solve multiple and diverse material handling challenges for transporting virtually any load on wheels with control and ease. Tugs enable a single worker to quickly and safely mobilize these loads. For example, when transporting goods on trolleys or wheeled containers, operators may have to contend with inclined routes between production areas or swivel-wheeled trolleys that can be difficult to control. This is where having an adaptable tug solution is beneficial. Tugs can be equipped with custom attachments, such as a bespoke or steering arm, that make it possible for one worker to control loads under difficult conditions.

Another instance where tugs come in handy on plant floors is when materials need to be maneuvered through confined areas. Since tugs are smaller and easier to control, operators can navigate these small spaces effortlessly.

Proper management of material handling procedures within a plant facility is a necessity given the high level of activity and low margin for error. Material handling tug devices can not only meet the unique needs of an application, but can also promote continued productivity goals and safety objectives to provide a proactive approach to protecting any company’s bottom line.

Scott Lorch is president of Power Pusher.

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