Alwayse Engineering, a Birmingham, UK-based manufacturer of ball transfer units, has developed a new unit specifically for the air freight industry that it believes represents a significant improvement on what has previously been available.
The new unit, the 888, was ‘soft-launched’ in January this year at inter airport South East Asia after a full 24 months of testing and trials. One partner performed extensive operational work with approximately 500 units of the 888 at its facility at London Heathrow International Airport – in the tough environment of a cool-chain room handling foodstuffs. “The reports we received on the performance of the units were very good, and in line with our expectations,” says head of sales and marketing for Alwayse, Bill Gibson. Indeed, that company has now placed an order for the 888.
The 888 offers substantial benefits over its predecessors. Based on a solid steel one-piece design that offers strength and durability, it has a load capacity of 350kg and features a low-profile body and inner ring that results in an increase in the load ball exposure of about 10%. The 888 allows a 60% reduction in friction compared to similar units, meaning that the force required to move containers is dramatically reduced, and – unusually – it actually gets better with wear. It’s also quieter than similar systems, there being an almost 50% reduction in decibel noise level in use, and is extremely cost-effective, Gibson informs.
Finally, featuring a new low-friction coating, the unit offers significantly improved corrosion resistance that is especially valuable in wet and humid conditions, while the low profile means that there is less clearance around the load ball, thus reducing the ingress of dirt and debris.
The 888 is the latest in a long product line of ball transfer units designed for cargo decks, primarily for moving ULDs (unit load devices), by Alwayse. The 805-30 was the “original unit on which everything else is based”, Gibson notes. The 806-30 followed, a ball transfer unit that could be disassembled by the user if required, while the 807-30 was specifically designed for the harsher operating conditions of a cool-room environment and the 808-30 was designed for arduous operating conditions. “The 888 can do everything they can, only better,” Gibson suggests.
Initial feedback on the 888’s performance has been very encouraging, and sales have been made not only to the company that extensively trialled the unit at Heathrow, but elsewhere too, notably in the Far East.
Having been formed in 1940, Alwayse is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The company had initially manufactured castors for furniture, but the value of such items for moving cargo around aircraft interiors became clear and the rest – as they say – is history. It remains a family-run business today, describing itself as “the world’s leading ball transfer unit manufacturer”.
Every single one of the more than 2 million ball transfer units and castors that it makes each year (a large proportion of which are for the air freight sector) is manually tested before leaving the factory, Gibson notes. Moreover, all the units are designed, manufactured and assembled in the UK (other companies have chosen to manufacture in cheaper-labour economies such as China and then assemble in the UK). Alwayse is ISO 9001 certified and, Gibson points out, takes the quality of its product extremely seriously. Its latest offering, the new 888 unit, is likely to be the focus of its air cargo product line for many years to come.