Tag Archives: material handling


A robust and intricate conveyor line

Our customer was using an automatic guided vehicle (AGV) that didn’t have any powered conveyor. They needed a machine that could move 500 pound, 30- by 60-inch pallets from the AGV to an operator workstation. Tuff Automation custom-designed the conveyor pictured above to solve the problem.

A Tuff solution

The machine we designed does a lot in a small amount of space. Our engineers and parts fabricators had to be efficient and precise in their work. Furthermore, the finished product needed to withstand heavy-duty part handling 24/7. Tuff Automation is uniquely equipped to handle these requirements.

Here’s what’s included in this complex line:

  • Six-strand chain transfer with lift and extend mechanism – This transfer handles three pallets at a time and uses an electric drive and pneumatic lift. The extender reaches into the AGV, lifts three pallets simultaneously, and conveys them into the conveyor line.
  • CDLR conveyor with accumulationPneumatic blade stops accumulate and meter pallets. The rollers are covered with Ultrex sleeves to handle accumulating pallets.
  • Tip-up/positioning mechanism – This part of the line pneumatically tilts 25 degrees at the operator unload station. A pneumatic clamping mechanism positions the pallet at a 25 degree tilt, and secures it for operator unload.
  • Two-strand chain transfer with lift and extend mechanism - This extender picks a single empty pallet off the conveyor line and extends to deliver it into the AGV.
The six-strand chain transfer extending into the AGV.
The six-strand chain transfer extending into the AGV.

Custom designs, custom solutions

Our lead times are highly competitive, and we use only materials of the highest quality. If you have questions about how Tuff Automation can customize a product for you, contact us.

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transfers newsletter

Re-route product with a Tuff transfer

Transfers are ideal for reducing conveyor floor space, because they can reroute product 90 degrees without requiring large conveyor curves. Tuff Automation designs, builds, and integrates transfers to optimize the flexibility of your conveyor systems.

Efficient, space-saving product redirection

Tuff transfers are custom built to fit your application. They can be mounted to any kind of live roller conveyor. They can be inserted into standard line shaft conveyor (1.9) with rollers on three-inch centers without modification, meaning you don’t have to buy special conveyor sections to accommodate them.

Durable and gentle material handling

Our belt transfers are ideal for product that needs to be handled more gently—the belts don’t mar product. Our transfers are typically pneumatically actuated, utilize DC or AC conveyor motors, and can incorporate as many strands as necessary. Tuff transfers offer torsion bar design for smooth, level operation, and they are easy to maintain with simple belt change-out.

Custom designs, custom solutions

Our lead times are highly competitive, and we use only materials of the highest quality. If you have questions about how Tuff Automation can customize a transfer for you, contact us or request a quote online.

Tuff does build lines


Tuff Automation has made build lines for a few different companies, and we have experience in every part of the process. We specialize in outfitting build lines with custom controls, programming, and pneumatics.

Structure and customization

Build line projects start with the bare bones from a company that supplies modular design solutions. They provide conveyor, lifts, structural components and more. Then we put the lines together to customer specifications and integrate the necessary hardware. Tuff can also provide custom bracketry as necessary, making the final product as suited to customer needs as possible.

Then we make it all work.

Plumbing and controls

Tuff installs all the wiring and pneumatics required to get the machine running and the components functioning.

Tuff also provides controls and programming. We can incorporate torque tools with or without reaction arm feedback, cameras, function testers, FAM units, ovens, pallet lock/unlockers, barcode readers, RF read/write, and reporting to SQL servers for production monitoring. Model year changes are included.

Turnkey solutions

Finally, Tuff will provide complete installation, runoff, and support for our build lines.

If you have further questions, or if you have any other material handling equipment needs, contact us by phone at (616) 735-3939 or email at sales@tuffautomation.com.


Improve storage density with a Tuff stacker

Tuff stackers can be customized to stack or destack any kind of pallet, tote or container, keeping material organized and your employees safe from injury.

How they work

Stackers are large machines that move pallets or bulk materials into vertical stacks for shipping or improved storage density. Destackers perform the opposite action, individually moving materials from the bottom of a stack onto a conveyor.

Customized stacker designs to meet your needs

Tuff Automation builds automated stackers and destackers to match any specification. Tuff stackers are ideal for handling and organizing standard or custom pallet designs, as well as many stackable raw materials, and can be integrated with or without controls.

Tuff stackers can run with pneumatic, electric, or hydraulic power. Stacking and destacking speeds can be customized from 2-3 units per hour to several parts per minute.

Check out one of our stackers in action:


The ultimate in conveyor versatility

Add flexibility to your material handling system with a Tuff extendable conveyor

Static conveyors can only offer so much flexibility, and if you are working with different part sizes on a day-to-day basis, they may not be the best candidate for the job.

Move product dynamically

Extendable conveyors offer the flexibility that a standard conveyor lacks. They also promote safety. In addition to fostering a speedier loading and unloading process, extendable conveyors minimize the need for operators to carry heavy materials and make working conditions more ergonomic.

Tuff Automation designs, builds, and integrates extendable conveyors of all shapes, sizes, colors, and other specifications you might have.


Extendable conveyors in action

Tuff designed an extendable conveyor to integrate in a sheet metal stamping process. The conveyor (pictured above) has two belts that can be set to run at different speeds. Parts enter the conveyor at an angle, and the two belts straighten them out as they travel.

This particular conveyor is manually operated and can be moved in, out, up and down. The speeds of each belt can be adjusted, which makes this conveyor incredibly versatile and capable of handling parts of all different shapes and sizes.

This conveyor tangibly improved the processes at the customer’s facility. They reported that their Overall Equipment Effectiveness improved by 25 percent, and the conveyor cut their process timein half. Maintenance is also a lot easier—replacing the belts on these conveyors only takes 30 minutes. The process engineer said it takes longer to take the belts out of the crib than it does to replace them!

What you get with a Tuff extendable conveyor

Tuff extendable conveyors have a number of different features that optimize flexibility and convenience for you.

  • Speeds up to 450 ft/min
  • Solid construction
  • 2-year warranty on parts
  • Can be stationary mounted or with casters
  • Come in standard or nonstandard lengths and widths
  • Can have powered or manual extension
  • Come in your choice of belt

This lift lasts

Pneumatic Lifts

High-cycle lift processes don’t have to mean short equipment lifespans. Pneumatic lifts are a long-lasting, cost-effective alternative to scissor lifts. They’re a perfect high-cycle solution, made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

More powerful than a scissor lift

Ordinary scissor lifts are rated for a lifetime of approximately 200,000 cycles. The vertically mounted cylinders on our pneumatic lifts make possible a lifetime of several million cycles. If your application exceeds a cycle time of 45 cycles per hour or 500 cycles per day, you’ll see the return on investment on a pneumatic lift in no time.

Robust, custom design from Tuff

Tuff’s pneumatic lift is simple. It’s a direct lift design that significantly reduces side loading forces. Pneumatic lifts are easy to position precisely—which makes them an excellent fit for automatic loading or unloading applications.

Tuff lifts are typically designed to handle between 500 and 3,000 pounds, but we can customize them to handle even heavier loads. We also offer a model that is powered by an electric motor to facilitate longer strokes, multiple precise positions and specific applications.

Best of all, they require minimal work to maintain. Tuff lifts are made with off-the-shelf components, making part replacement easy and inexpensive.


Rugged environment, rugged machinery

Our customer needed a Tuff conveyor for their robot cell. It had to work through a lot of machining debris and withstand the weight of several raw engine block castings.

We developed a two-strand top roller chain conveyor. Raw castings travel from a machining station along the conveyor, accumulate using indexing stops, and are positioned using a lift and locate device.  Once located, they are unloaded by a workstation robot.

The top roller chain conveyor makes heavy duty part accumulation easy, and the design minimizes obstruction by debris.

Custom Designs, Custom Solutions

Have a process that could benefit from rugged equipment like this? We can make one suited to your exact specifications.

Check out our latest top roller chain conveyor in action:

Tuff Automation does robots

Robots make complex and delicate processes more efficient and precise. They are widely becoming more popular in material handling processes. Still, many hesitate to incorporate them into their processes because of the investment they require upfront.

We’re here to tell you that the investment pays off in safety and efficiency.

Tuff builds, wires and programs

Tuff Automation integrates robots. We design end-of-arm tooling, program robots and PLCs, wire and install. Does your project call for vision? We do that too. From drawing board to production floor, we’ll see your project through.

Are robots right for you? Let us find out.

Tuff Automation has two robots in house for product testing. Let us determine how compatible your product is for robot implementation while we come up with the best material handling solution.

Check out one of our systems in action:


Warehouse Safety: It Starts with Training Your Personnel  

This post is a guest blog written by Cisco-Eagle‘s Scott Stone.

Safety should be a pervasive part of the warehouse, integrated and woven into every task, whether performed by machine or human. Every employee—new hires, veterans, and managers alike—must be responsible for the safety of not only themselves, but their colleagues.


A safe workplace doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen with the implementation of the most state-of-the-art safety automation. It doesn’t happen with an annual training session. It simply doesn’t happen by accident, or without a lively safety culture that starts at the top—but it doesn’t stop there.

How can a culture of safety be created and promoted?  

It happens when people are given consistent safety training and safety is held in utmost importance by the organization. A majority of accidents are a result of human error, and the only way to reduce incidents is to train employees on the safest methods to complete their job.

In warehousing, some of the most common injury categories include slips, trips, and falls; ergonomic-related pains (lifting, reaching, pulling, and pushing); and material handling incidents, such as dropped boxes and forklift accidents.

A workplace that values safety drives productivity, increases revenue growth, and can ultimately have long-term effects on employee engagement, retention, and loyalty.

Let’s take a look at how and why safety training with personnel unlocks these benefits:

Employees See Problems First

Employees usually see safety problems before management—if they know what to look for. Leaders should make safety a priority. The more safety is discussed, emphasized, and practiced in every aspect of the workplace, the greater impact it will have on employees, collectively and as individuals. Systems to allow employees to report safety issues should be encouraged. That input should be given priority and follow-up.

A common warehouse leadership mistake is to make assumptions about what employees know and understand of safety issues and systems. When working in complex warehouses, where there are many different activities, dozens of people, and lots of machinery, safety becomes more complicated. Even the simplest of actions—things like crossing a forklift aisle, loading a truck or picking an order from racks—are opportunities for devastating accidents. Employees must be thoroughly trained on safety precautions and protocols as well as reminded about safety best practices in periodic training.

With an integrated safety culture, knowledge and training, employees become a warehouse’s best accident deterrent. They can self-police each other and report and correct safety concerns with infrastructure or machinery.

Reduce Injuries, Increase Productivity

According to OSHA, businesses spend roughly $170 billion a year on costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses. However, with established safety and health management systems, organizations can reduce injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent, OSHA data shows.

There is a universal desire for a safe workplace, but in order to create and maintain a safe environment, training programs must be in place. Dedicated time for training at specific intervals—as well as continued on-the-job emphasis of safety—is necessary.

In warehouses, training should go beyond general workplace safety and address specific safety concerns and protocols for each particular task or functional area. Equipment safety and job-specific safety training should be done for new hires and on an ongoing basis. Safety training refreshers help prevent bad habits from developing. Training on personal protective equipment, accident prevention, and emergency procedures stress the responsibility of each individual to be a part of creating a safe workplace.

Employees who operate or work near forklifts should receive specific training. Forklifts cause more than 10,000 job-related injuries per year, according to OSHA data. Many of them could be prevented with diligent safety training.

Safety Automation Doesn’t Replace Training

With today’s technology, safety rules can be automated, controlled, and monitored in warehouse management systems (WMS). Designated lanes for pedestrians and material handling equipment, motion sensors, intelligent safety gates, and guard rails can augment existing systems and training.

These precautions can never replace the importance of safety training—making safe decisions can never be automated. Safety automation technology, systems, and employees should work together for all of it to be effective. None of these technologies are designed to replace the human mind’s capacity for decision making. They help enhance trained employees’ ability to keep themselves out of harm’s way.

Carousels, palletizers, robotics, and sortation systems help make warehouses safe because they replace live employees who could be working in dangerous areas. Automation has positive impacts on safety and ergonomics within the warehouse. That being said, personnel still need to understand the safety protocol and implications of working in the vicinity of these machines.

Consider this thought from Perry Sainati of Belden Universal Joints: “Automated safety can be a slippery slope. Because while it only stands to reason that you want to take advantage of the latest advancements in safety—like hi-tech sensors and alarms, electronic safety curtains, avatars, and diagnostic and modeling software—when it comes to warehouse and plant safety, the moment you start relying on technology over training, vigilance, and common sense, is the moment you start asking for trouble.”

The Goal Is a Culture of Safety

A Gallup research study, “State of the American Workplace,” found a correlation between well-managed teams with highly engaged employees and improved safety. Comparing the top 25 percent of teams with the bottom 25 percent, the top quartile had 50 percent fewer accidents! There were productivity benefits as well; engaged employees were less likely to call out sick or leave the position, the study found.

Training is the foundation to building a culture of safety. What we mean by that is workers, managers, and operators should all be on the same page when it comes to nurturing a safe, injury-free environment—all employees should feel that safety is their responsibility. With consistent training, a safer workplace can be created and maintained, and, in turn, the business side of the warehouse can reap the benefits.

Scott Stone is the Director of Marketing for Cisco-Eagle, a provider of integrated material handling and storage systems for industrial operations. Scott has 25 years of experience in industrial operations and marketing.

extendable conveyor material handling equipment efficiency

Our conveyors boost productivity

Our goal as a material handling equipment manufacturer is to help our clients make their processes more efficient. How do you measure that? Well, the proof is in the numbers.

An engineering company that designs and manufactures steel automotive parts, came to us for conveyor help. We built them some customized powered extendable conveyor and roller conveyors, which were installed in October.

Since installation, our client’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which calculates how a machine is expected to run versus how it actually does run, for their machinery has improved by 25 percent, reporting over 95 percent OEE in November.

Our customers were thrilled with the improvements, saying their operators don’t spend nearly as much time fighting with the machinery.

Running two jobs used to take 3 hours, Process Engineer Seth Monroe said, now it only takes 1.5 hours. That’s a 50 percent improvement.

Maintenance has also become easier. Replacing the belts on the extendable conveyors used to take two to three hours. Now it takes 30 minutes.

“It takes longer to get the belts out of the crib than it does to replace them,” Monroe said.

That’s the kind of news we like to hear.