Leading agricultural fertilizer producer, CF Fertilisers UK, has opted to switch its tire policy to Continental Tires for the heavy-duty forklifts and on-site trailers at its Cheshire headquarters and manufacturing site.
The company runs a fleet of 14 heavy-duty Kalmar DCE 10 forklifts and some 12 two-axle A-frame trailers at its Ince plant. These tackle the heavy-lifting and movement of 600kg and 1000kg bags of fertilizer from the point of production to storage and despatch facilities elsewhere on site. The site itself, at Ince in Cheshire, sits on 124 acres of land next to the Manchester Ship Canal and includes one Ammonia and three 3 Nitric Acid plants, a further Nitrogen fertilizer plant and 3 compound lines. With approximately 400 employees on site, CF Fertilisers produces 1 million tonnes of fertilizer a year and supplies key market sectors in grass and arable farming. So intensive is the process, its continuous production lines at Ince, and sister site in Billingham in the northeast, account for some 2% annually of the nation’s natural gas usage.
Anthony Jones, Day Handling Team Leader, explained the change in tire policy. “You have to understand that the site is very demanding on tires. Though it is largely flat land, like any major site there is a degree of unevenness at points around the working area that test the wear patterns and life of tires, but our main concern lies in safety-challenges emanating from tire wear. Our Kalmar fork-lifts can pick up four 1000kg bags of fertilizer at one time, and, because they are suspended on straps, each load is effectively ‘live’ in terms of the danger of swinging during transit; while our trailers, which we run as pairs at all times, can also carry that much each. Because of the nature of the site, safety is a major everyday consideration, and that works right through everything we do. Handling and moving loads with this sort of weight, 24/7, is a key part of the inherent risk on the site, so we take it very seriously indeed.”
The company first looked at Continental Tires in late 2015, and a trial was initiated that was due to run for a full six months. Continental Tires along with local dealer, Nation Tyres, offered to set up the trial on both fork-lifts and trailers.
Anthony Jones recalls, “We decided to give ‘Conti’ a chance. We felt the tires we had been using were being changed far too often – so something had to give. We liked the ideas the Continental team put forward and the confidence they had that they could improve on both safety and economy; and we especially liked the fact that they had a very competent and professional local dealer, Nation Tyres, the Continental Tires Industrial network partner at Ellesmere Port. A blow-out on a tire, quite apart from the huge safety risk, can also have a very damaging commercial effect on us. We run 24/7, 365 days a year, and if a forklift or pair of trailers is unavailable to us, we soon see back-logs of product needing to be cleared from the end of the production line and moved to storage areas. We produce some 21 different varieties of fertilizer, including our top-selling Nitram brand, and that’s over 1 million tonnes a year: a continuous process that simply cannot be put at risk.”
The initial trial was scheduled for six months, but the immediate improvement was so noticeable that, within just three months, the decision was made to switch the whole fleet to Continental Tires products. The big, heavy-duty Kalmar forklifts feature six tires on two axles. Again, for safety reasons, CF Fertilisers decided to go for the heavy duty pneumatic tires, ContiRT20 11.00 x 20s, but also to inject them with foam. ”Continental said we’d get 12 months wear out of these,” says Jones, “but nine months into their usage, we are still only 50% worn and looking good. It is great economically, in terms of purchase price and saved downtime, and a real bonus from the safety angle. The trucks have special rising cabs in order to be able to deal with the work, and a tire blowing out on a heavily laden truck with the cab raised to its full 10 foot extension could cause it to tip over- and that’s simply unthinkable!”
The onsite trailers used to move bagged products from production into storage areas are two-axle A-frame draw bar units, hitched in pairs and pulled behind agricultural tractors as prime movers. The major problem, again, was too-frequent changes due to wear. Anthony Jones adds, “There was also a major safety risk here. The tires were wearing, and the most worrying part was that it was the sidewalls that were exhibiting most stress, so a blow-out was a constant threat.” The trailers have standard draw-bar configuration of steering front axle and rear fixed axle, both with twin tire hubs. As with the fork-lifts, Continental Tires, in this case Continental IC40 10 x 20s, are delivering longer wear times and enhanced safety.
Nation Tyres, the local dealer to CF Fertilisers, had a major part to play in the success of the Continental Tires trial and take-up. Managing director, Tony Glennon, said, “For a site this size, with the variety and significance of the vehicles we are talking about here, having a local dealership of our size and capability was an important part of reassuring CF Fertilisers in their switch to Continental Tires. We understood their need for a genuine 24/7/365 support service and were both prepared and able to bring this to the mix, with 17 staff and nine mobile site-service vehicles. They demand a 60-90 minute callout response in the event of a tire needing any sort of attention, and we deliver.”
Anthony Jones has the last word, saying, “No new relationship is going to be entirely free of teething problems, but with Continental and Nation Tyres I think we have got as close to a problem-free start as anyone could have wished. I now feel we have a superior level of site safety because of the switch, and the fact that the company is saving money, by getting far fewer tire failures and significantly longer tire life, is an added bonus.”