When it comes to material handling in an industrial warehouse or manufacturing plant setting, having the right service cart or hand truck to deliver materials and equipment is only half of the equation. The other half involves choosing the right set of steel casters to help move your material handling equipment and its loads as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
The following offers a comprehensive guide for materials handling and logistics managers on selecting the best high-quality steel casters for their warehouse or manufacturing plant environment's material handling needs.
Factors to Consider
When it comes to choosing the right steel casters, there are plenty of factors that should be held in consideration:
- Capacity – Even the strongest steel caster can only withstand so much weight, so it's important to know what the maximum load will be prior to choosing your casters. Caster capacities usually vary based on caster design and wheel type, among other factors. You'll also have to take into account the possibility of overload and shock loading.
- Floor Conditions – A smooth warehouse floor is the ideal surface for most casters, but ideal conditions are often a rarity. Rough concrete, dock plates, elevator sills and a host of other floor hazards may dictate the type of casters you'll need. For instance, shock absorbing casters are ideal for traversing rough surfaces while transporting sensitive cargo.
- Environment – Noise, moisture, temperature and the presence of chemicals and grease are factors that could affect your choice in casters. A moisture-laden environment may require sealed bearings, whereas frequent movement under varying temperature extremes may require more robust moving components than the norm.
- Mobility – If you're using your steel casters to push loads manually, then you'll need to consider the amount of effort that's needed to get your loads rolling. This may affect your choices in wheel diameter, bearing type and tread type. For instance, larger-diameter wheels require a lower amount of force to propel both caster and cart over various obstacles and terrain.
The above factors can have a definite effect on your purchasing decision, especially if your warehouse has unique conditions that require a customized material handling solution.
Kingpin vs. Kingpinless
The swivel section of a typical steel caster uses two primary designs. One is a threaded kingpin bolt and slotted nut that holds both the top and bottom portions of the swivel section together. The mechanism also uses a thrust bearing and load bearing to help the steel caster withstand a variety of load forces within the caster's weight capacity. There are several advantages and disadvantages to the kingpin design:
- Pros – You can vary the amount of swivel resistance simply by tightening or loosening the threaded kingpin. This gives you an advantage when using casters on an incline, as an increase in swivel effort can prevent loads from turning unexpectedly. You can also adjust the kingpin as needed to compensate for wear and tear.
- Cons – The kingpin is a common point of failure, since most loads are transmitted directly through the component. Kingpin swivel casters are also prone to shearing if they're poorly designed.
The other primary design is the kingpinless swivel caster. Kingpinless designs eschew the kingpin in favor of a three-part design – a yoke base, top plate and ball bearings. This design offers a few advantages over traditional kingpin swivel casters:
- Pros – Kingpinless swivel casters distribute load forces equally across the caster instead of concentrating them through the kingpin. This eliminates one point of failure for steel casters. Kingpinless designs also require less maintenance than their traditional counterparts.
- Cons – The nature of the kingpinless design makes it more difficult to adjust the swivel caster after assembly. There's also little that can be done about extending the life of worn kingpinless swivel casters due to their unique design.
These and other factors should weigh heavily when it comes to choosing the best steel casters for your warehouse's material handling needs.