Tow trucks and traditional materials handling equipment: a comparative analysis in the South African automotive industry

Tow trucks and traditional materials handling equipment: a comparative analysis in the South African automotive industry

April 18, 2023 | by

Efficient material movement is crucial in the South African automotive industry, as it directly impacts production timelines and costs. Materials handling equipment (MHE) such as forklifts, reach trucks and pallet jacks have been the preferred solution for materials handling tasks within warehouses and manufacturing plants. However, in recent years, tow trucks have become a popular alternative to traditional MHE. In this article, we will delve into the differences between tow trucks and traditional MHE, and explore their respective advantages and disadvantages in the South African automotive industry.

Traditional MHE, such as forklifts and reach trucks, are primarily designed to lift and carry materials to their destination. They are suitable for short- to medium-distance material handling tasks, such as moving pallets of goods from one area of a warehouse to another. These machines are versatile, easy to operate, and can lift and move heavy loads quickly and efficiently.

Tow trucks, on the other hand, are designed to tow loads over short distances. They are ideal for use in confined spaces where maneuverability is critical, such as manufacturing plants and warehouses. Tow trucks (otherwise referred to as tow motors or tow tractors), are mainly used to transport multiple carts, trailers, and other heavy loads from one area of a facility to another.

A key feature in the automotive industry which helps contribute to the success of the industry, is the ability to improve on efficiency, time-management, and the ability to do so in a cost-saving manner. One way of implementing such feature is by incorporating the “Just in Time” (JIT) inventory system. This system revolves around the principle that goods should only be received from suppliers as needed, resulting in an increase in inventory turnover and decrease in inventory holding costs. The implementation of JIT within the automotive industry is important because it ensures that models can easily be adapted to fit new trends or demands if the inventory on hand isn’t more than that what was immediately needed.

One of the primary advantages of tow trucks over traditional MHE is their ability to transport multiple loads simultaneously. With traditional MHE, each load must be lifted and carried individually, which can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. Tow motors can attach and transport multiple loads at once, saving time and improving efficiency.

Another advantage of tow trucks in the South African automotive industry is their compact size and manoeuvrability. Traditional MHE, such as forklifts, can be bulky and difficult to manoeuvre in confined spaces. Tow trucks are designed to be compact and easy to manoeuvre, making them ideal for use in narrow aisles and tight corners.

However, there are also restrictions to using tow trucks over traditional MHE. Tow tractors may not be able to lift loads as high as traditional MHE, limiting their use in certain materials handling tasks. Additionally, they may not be as versatile as traditional MHE, as they are mainly designed for towing rather than lifting and carrying loads.

Goscor Lift Truck Company supply a range of electric tow tractors that are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, and manufactured standard with ergonomics that offer better productivity and less fatigue. Another standard feature across the DEC range includes a switch that can be pushed by the operator in the unlikely event of a machine coming to a standstill, to easily manoeuvre the tractor off the line.

In conclusion, both tow trucks and traditional MHE have their own unique qualities which make them more, or less, suited for tasks. When deciding which type of materials handling equipment to use, it is essential to consider the specific needs of your facility and the types of materials handling tasks you will be performing. If you need to transport heavy loads over short distances, manoeuvrability is key, and you can attach multiple loads at once, tow trucks may be the ideal solution. However, if you need to lift and carry loads to greater heights or require more versatility in your MHE, traditional forklifts and reach trucks may be a better choice. The DEC range help ensure that all your operations happen “just in time”. Allowing you to maximise efficiency and minimise downtime and cost.