With a history spanning over 80 years, Swedish-owned lifting specialist TAWI (pronounced ‘TARVEE)’ is actively improving workplace conditions around the world with a range of lighter lifting equipment focused on providing safe, reliable and efficient alternatives to manual lifting, loading and unloading.
TAWI’s products are specifically designed to save workers’ knees, backs and shoulders from injuries and longterm problems caused by repetitive manual handling because the machines do the heavy lifting, resulting in cost savings for clients and improved working conditions for employees.
Probably best known in the warehousing and logistics market for their Vacuum Lifters for sacks and boxes, the full TAWI equipment line up includes hoists, crane systems, mobile lifters, mobile order pickers and vacuum grippers, delivering dependable materials handling solutions for a range of sectors.
The main industries where TAWI’s products are widely used are logistics, food, pharma and building materials.
They are also seeing increasing demand from automotive and manufacturing. In the logistics area, TAWI’s systems can handle any type of lifting from picking and packing to palletising and depalletising.
TAWI UK’s European office and sales hub at Lodge Farm, Northampton is well placed to serve the growing number of local warehousing and logistics operations, as well as customers in the rest of the country. Warehouse & Logistics News went there to meet the company during its recent Customer Open Week.
Thomas Bräutigam, TAWI’s Chief Executive Officer spends much of his time in the UK seeing customers and feeding back their views on TAWI’s equipment to the design and engineering team at the head office.
Thomas explains how the company’s current business has taken shape: “In Sweden in the 1980s, the labour unions were putting pressure on employers to improve their manual lifting procedures. At the same time the government was concerned about the health bill for work injuries. After conversations with both sides we developed our electric lifting trolleys and vacuum lifting gear, aimed at workers who are likely to be using this equipment up to eight hours a day.
Customers who bought them found their efficiency improved, their longterm costs reduced and their processes became more flexible, with staff members of either sex and of any size and build able to use them easily. In recent times this flexibility and ease of operation have become even more important factors, as has the safety of the equipment used.“
TAWI still manufactures its products in Sweden and now sells them in 50 countries. Its top three country markets are the US, Sweden and the UK. They also have offices in France, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Italy, Canada and China and a distributor network covering the rest of the world. TAWI’s owners are the private equity firm SEB, part of Swedish Equity Bank.
On the safety front, under current UK legislation only lifting equipment handling loads of 500 kilos and above needs regular testing. However TAWI are encouraging their UK customers to test equipment used to handle loads of 50-100 kg as part of their service contracts. Thomas Bräutigam is confident about the future: “Ultimately the trend in materials handling is to automation. That generally means standardisation of working processes, which is impossible for a lot of our clients because they need flexibility. We’re bridging the gap with equipment that calls for a relatively low cost investment, the first step in the journey of switching material handling processes from man to machine. Once you start using our machines for lifting, you don’t go back.”
At Lodge Farm we also spoke to Simon Coles, TAWI’s UK General Manager, who has been with the company since 2008. With him in the UK management team are Mike Wooster, Sales Manager, Daniel Banks, Business Development Manager and Matthew Baker, Sales.
Simon Coles’ role includes coaching and mentoring his colleagues here and elsewhere in the sales process that has made TAWI so successful over the decades. This involves assessing clients’ individual requirements and tailoring TAWI’s equipment to their needs, with up to 70% customisation possible on standard platforms, and ensuring TAWI’s products can be integrated into customers’ existing materials handling systems.
TAWI’s current UK turnover is up 30% on last year and double 2015’s figure. Simon Coles puts this outstanding growth down to the winning combination of a good workforce and strong demand for health and safety-related equipment: “Our customers recognise that TAWI’s kit reduces health and safety claims and enables employers to move workers around and take out the physical effort. We’re not part of any manual handling governance scheme: some of our food industry clients impose employee lifting limits of 12 kg, but that’s down to their company policies. We can advise on procedures if asked, but prefer to hand that over to consultants. In Sweden, ergonomists come to see our development team and check everything out. Clients tend to do their own Health & Safety risk assessments: if people use our kit it’s all weightless lifting anyway.
“For food applications, we offer reliable handling of everything from baking ingredients to blocks of cheese and kegs of beer. For pharma and chemical, we offer safe handling of drums, boxes, reels and more in highsensitive environments. For wood and steel, we offer effortless lifting of wood and steel products, including tilt and rotation of sheet metal and wooden panels. For the automotive industry we streamline the manufacturing process and bring increased safety and efficiency to the assembly line. For other manufacturing we offer efficient lifting of various components, electronics, metal parts and more. And for logistics we offer high speed handling, loading and unloading of all types of goods.”
TAWI’s latest Open Week attracted 60 companies of varying sizes, including visitors from a major international parcels carrier, who were on site when W&LN came. New alternatives to manual handling on view included a range of mobile order pickers mounted on pallet trucks. With the visitors moving around us in the demonstration area as we talked, Simon explained the importance of letting customers see TAWI’s complete range like this: “It’s all about awareness. Our lifting trolley customers don’t always know they can buy cranes from us as well, and vice versa.”
As previously mentioned TAWI’s biggest sellers in the warehouse and logistics space are their Vacuum Lifters, but other strong performers are their Viper hoists, wire rope hoists with electric motors giving variable lift speeds and supplied with interchangeable tool attachments for greater flexibility.
Simon Coles emphasises that TAWI’s equipment can be tailored and made as long, tall, short and wide as the specific customer needs. “We have a very wide range of solutions and it’s very rare for us to turn down enquiries. We design and manufacture everything ourselves, so it’s completely under our control.”
Working with the design and engineering team in Sweden, Simon and colleagues can go from an enquiry to a full specification in two weeks and from order to completion and delivery in six to eight weeks.
NEW FOR 2018
TAWI are committed to continuously improving all their equipment models. In the fourth quarter of this year Simon Coles revealed TAWI are also launching a new Mobile Container Lifter, for unloading the contents of shipping containers. This is currently undergoing final tests, but Simon and the team are happy to talk to customers and other readers who want to know more.
As readers who have been to TAWI’s recent Customer Open Days will know, this equipment needs to be seen in action in order to be fully appreciated. TAWI are committed to taking part in trade shows and are exhibiting at PPMA in September and IMHX next year as well as events for other industry sectors.
The company launched a new website in May this year, tawi.com, a complete redesign. As Simon Coles points out, “you can’t order our products on line as they are bespoke products.” However for people wanting to know more about lifting applications the website is very interactive and even includes a zendesk chat facility.
With all of the exciting changes happening at TAWI it’s easy to see why they’re looking forward to the future. The focus on product design and expansion in all areas of the business means TAWI are looking to solve every customer’s manual handling problems, however big or small. And there’s a lot more in the pipeline, so watch this space!