“Embracing the retractable tow bar.”

February 2, 2023 News Releases , Product Highlights , Uncategorized 1463 Views
“Embracing the retractable tow bar.”

by Jillian Burrow

Simply stated, material handling carts can make your material flow processes easier. Easier in this sense refers to efficiencies, effectiveness, simplification and ultimately predictable sequencing. Cart delivery has revolutionized the way that materials move along a shop floor throughout the last two decades in the United States. People are working smarter, with less wasted repetition.

If you are the type of person that looks to most obstacles in life as a problem solver, you will find solace in the ideals of cart delivery. Cart delivery develops and essentially becomes the end result to problematic processes and pain points along the material delivery route.


As an example, a generator manufacturer recently hired a leading cart manufacturer to help it reduce the amount of fork truck traffic within its processes. The main problem was that material flow was too congested with fork trucks. The problem was present in the warehouse facility, as well as at the manufacturing line that was in a separate building. The company wanted to reduce the safety risk that the congestion presented.

Although the generator manufacturer did already have some carts along the manufacturing line, they were being used incorrectly. The carts they had were primarily being used as stands with wheels or essentially, racks for holding content. The carts were not moving with material on them as they are designed to.


The cart manufacturer follows a methodical approach to evaluating material handling needs. The company was invited in for a discovery meeting. There, they were able to watch the existing material movement process, learn the pain points from those involved, while identifying other problematic practices through observation and brainstorming various solutions with cart delivery. It turns out, through this process that the traffic congestion was just one of the issues that needed to be addressed. Also, it may have been a result of other issues.

The generator company was using its warehouse as a storage facility for parts that needed to be brought to the manufacturing line. Additionally, it doubled as a first parts distribution staging area. They were working one container to one fork truck and loading one by one onto a semi-trailer. They were using six fork trucks to do this process. That semi-trailer, when full, would then be driven across the parking lot to the other building where the manufacturing line was located. There, the semi would be unloaded. It was also unloaded one fork truck at a time unloading one container at a time and be taken to the second parts distribution staging area. Once all the containers were unloaded, they would have to be re-evaluated, organized and distributed, yet again by fork trucks one load at a time to the places they were needed lineside.

The containers with material were moving slowly, being double and triple handled in a less-than-organized manner.


When considering incorporating cart delivery into your practices for material movement, it is best to know the options available to get the job done. The most popular way to use carts is by delivering materials on a cart and then, working out of that cart. The cart manufacturer came up with several solutions that would work using carts along the existing line. One for instance, was to continue using fork trucks as they were at the warehouse but incorporate carts lineside. Together, they brainstormed types of carts, top hat options and accessories. They evaluated how materials would best be moved along the line with more accuracy at the right timing.

At the end of the process, the generator company decided to eliminate as many fork trucks as possible. With cart delivery, materials could be prepared and organized on the carts and then be carried throughout a route in a predictable and trackable manner.

The company also decided to start immediately at the warehouse with the carts.


The end decision was to buy approximately 115 carts. They decided on a small variety of types of carts. They incorporated six-wheel static carts, rotate top carts and several shelf carts. Most importantly, each cart was equipped with retractable pintle ring tow package which includes towbar, and the auto-releasing standard floor brake, as well as the recessed auto coupler.

A retractable towbar is a towbar with patented handle that retracts into the cart frame when not in tow. Ideally, for this application, the carts are able to be coupled to each next cart in the retracted position and loaded into the semi for first transit to the manufacturing line. This enabled the generator manufacturer to only use fork trucks to load the carts that will go into the semi-trailer at the warehouse. They are able to prepare 22 carts with materials at the warehouse and all of those 22 carts can be loaded into one semi-trailer. Incorporating carts with the retractable pintle ring tow bar allows operators to couple carts together in the retracted position.

Once the semi travels to the manufacturing line, the entire cart of trains can be tugged out of the semi with only use of one tugger within minutes. When these carts are pulled out of the semi with a tugger, the tow bars will automatically extend and release the floor brake when the first cart is tugged. This auto release is a key safety feature of the towbar. This ensures that carts aren’t being tugged with floor brakes left engaged. Additionally, the semi-trailers are outfitted with guides and a locking mechanism that secures the carts when it is in transit over the road.


The generator manufacturer set out to reduce the amount of congestion within its material flow just as most do when looking to incorporate carts. Happily, the company embraced the many additional benefits that cart delivery evokes.

Just three months into using the cart delivery system, the company was able to reduce its fork truck use by 99%. Removing this significant amount of fork trucks created a much safer work environment and created a clean traffic flow. It also reduced machine maintenance costs while allowing management to move some of its underutilized work force to more productive positions.

Production improved two-fold. By removing double and triple handling of materials, products were being assembled with more accuracy in half the time.

And the company is now tracking inventory with better planned processes. With the incorporation of cart delivery, it adapted new identifiers per cart loads that would ultimately signify distribution points along the manufacturing line. The company used a 2-bin system lineside to ensure that no material handler ran out of parts at any point. One bin was for pull and one for replenishment. Furthermore, when materials were dropped off, emptied and brought back to the warehouse it would be returned to a specific location so that the correct materials can be replenished immediately for the next route. This makes the packing process for loading the containers more effective and simplified.

Original article (https://www.workplacepub.com/material-handling/cart-delivery-is-a-problem-solver/)

Contact: Jillian Burrow, Marketing Manager –  pr@topperindustrial.com

Topper Industrial, 1729 NE Frontage Rd., Sturtevant, WI 53177, P (800) 529-0909

Related articles