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August 01, 2008

Buzz-worthy Truck
Buzz-worthy Truck
Written by:  Jennifer Oredson, Two Rivers Marketing

Gary Grose is one lucky trucker.

Grose, manager of Tipton Valley Honey Co., was the recipient of a new articulating crane when he appeared on an episode of “Trick My Truck” on CMT in July 2008. As soon as Grose found out he was getting a new crane, he immediately knew that this windfall was going to change his business forever.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I was getting the crane,” Grose says. “The first thing I thought of is how much back-breaking labor a crane saves. The crane is saving us so much time and money that we should be able to drive our costs down to better compete in the global honey market.”

As part of his appearance on the TV show, Grose’s Hino chassis was decked out with a 4/29 articulating crane from Iowa Mold Tooling Co. Inc., and the chassis was refurbished with a custom honeycomb paint job. The IMT 4/29 crane features a maximum reach of more than 22 feet and a maximum lifting capacity of 4,520 pounds. It also sports an overload protection system, and Grose’s model came with radio remote controls.

Increased productivity
Grose is using the new crane rigged with a pallet fork to deliver pallets of bee colonies from field to field across the country. He previously used a skid-steer loader to move the colonies around, but that method involved a great deal of manual labor. It also involved a much larger expense because he had to rent the skid steer each time he needed to move bee pallets, and the skid-steer rental cost him more than $100 a day. This process also involved the expense of transporting the skid steer via trailer. “With the new crane, we have a one-piece unit that is a lot simpler and more cost-effective.”

The crane’s capacity is going to mean better productivity. A pallet of bee colonies weighs about 600 pounds, and at the distance Grose needs to lift the boxes, the crane can handle four boxes at a time. The skid-steer loader was only able to handle two, sometimes three, boxes at one time due to the height of the lifting platform.

Grose says that this increased productivity should help Tipton Valley Honey to get a leg up on his global competition. “Most people don’t realize it,” he says, “but honey is a big global commodity. We have a tremendous amount of foreign honey in this country because other countries are able to do everything so much cheaper than we can here.” He said he believes that using the new crane will drive his costs down and make him more competitive.

“When we used the skid steer, it was so much more costly — with the rental, the trailer, the extra fuel costs, the additional maintenance and the lower productivity,” Grose says. “But that used to be the only way we knew to do things, so we didn’t really stop to think about it. Now that we have the crane, it’s just like night and day.”

Improved safety
The crane is not only going to help Grose be more productive, but it’s also going to mean safer operations for his field crew.

“Beekeepers usually face safety issues such as heat stroke. We wear protective gear out in 110-degree heat while lifting 100 boxes of honey, 75 pounds each, every day,” Grose said. “Now that the crane will do the heavy lifting for us, we’re going to cut down immensely on heat stroke and back injuries.”

Grose says that, to be productive and cost-effective, they need to work 100 colonies of bees a day. Each box weighs about 75 pounds, so if they meet their 100-colony goal, that’s 7,500 pounds they are lifting every day. Switching from manually lifting these boxes to using the crane was an incredible relief for Grose and his field crew.

“If you ever meet a beekeeper who says his back is fine, he’s lying to you,” Grose jokes. “He probably doesn’t really keep bees. That’s why my crew is so thankful for this crane.”

Smooth operation
One of the most common misperceptions about using articulating cranes is that they are more complicated to operate than a telescopic crane. Grose can attest that this isn’t the case.
“Seeing a knuckleboom folded up on a truck can be intimidating to some people because most people in North America are not as familiar with knucklebooms as they are with telescopic cranes,” says John Cheshier, director of material handling sales for IMT. “Many people who have seen articulating cranes but have never operated them think they might be more difficult to use. The basic principles of operating the two units are very similar, and in reality, operating a knuckleboom is no more difficult than operating a telescopic crane. In fact, both kinds of cranes have four simple steps of operation.”

Grose certainly found the 4/29 knuckleboom easy to operate. IMT provided comprehensive operator training as part of the donation of the crane, and Grose says that his first time operating the crane solo went off without a hitch.

Grose has also taken advantage of his new capabilities to perform other lifting jobs around his small Oklahoma community, such as setting tombstones and picking up farm machinery. “We’re still a small farming community here, so people help each other out,” he says.

In fact, when he first got the crane and set some tombstones, the man from the monument company found the crane very impressive.

“I think that if I would have had an extra crane, I probably could have sold it to him right then and there,” Grose says. “I won’t be surprised one bit if he becomes a customer in the future.”