WOODBINE, IA -- Tommy Gate Co. is in the final stages of testing what it describes as the first American-made cantilever lift for panel vans. The manufacturer expects it to be welcomed by a market that is undergoing rapid change.
Van popularity in America is growing, Tommy Gate reported. Companies that historically would have purchased larger trucks are shifting to the more efficient "panel" vans. Improved fuel efficiency and a more modern aesthetic are major contributors to the increasing sales of Mercedes' Sprinter, and Ford's Transit and Nissan's NV models should benefit from the same trend. Panel vans have been in wide use in densely populated European cities for years, and are a natural fit for cantilever lifts.
This type of liftgate offers important benefits, the company explained. The cantilever design and larger platform accommodate cargo pallets, and offer the option of loading and unloading equipment from the sides of the platform. In addition, the "underside" mount offers a less restrictive installation process.
However, Tommy Gate pointed out, it is the laterally folding platform that makes it new cantilever lift an ideal product for panel vans, because it permits the operator to access the rear doors while the platform is in its "stored" position.
Tommy Gate has five prototype cantilever lifts in the field, and the response has been "overwhelmingly positive" across the board, the company observed. It expects to launch the new product in mid-2011.
Separately, Woodbine Manufacturing Co., which produces the Tommy Gate hydraulic lift, is currently finishing the first phase of a three-phase factory expansion project. This initial phase includes the addition of a 40,000-sq.ft. warehouse space and administrative offices.
The original Woodbine Manufacturing plant was called an ultramodern addition to the town in 1965. Still occupying the same site 45 years later, the factory has seen quite a few expansions. The most recent one was just over 10 years ago. That construction nearly doubled the preexisting factory space by adding a 74,250-sq.ft. assembly floor.
Although phases two and three of the project have not officially been scheduled, they are expected to be completed within the next five years. Those plans call for the rebuilding of 70,000 square feet of existing floor space built between 1965 and 1980 into 90,000 square feet, with more modern equipment and a more streamlined manufacturing flow. The plans also include the remodeling of 3,000 square feet of existing manufacturing space into new engineering offices and laboratory.
The company noted that this ambitious project signifies Tommy Gate's confidence in the future of the liftgate industry, as well as its role in defining the future of that industry.
PHOTO: New cantilever lift for vans from Tommy Gate folds compactly to give driver rear-door access to the body without deployment (above left). Lowered on its cantilever arm and unfolded (above right), the lift can be loaded and unloaded from the rear or either side, Tommy Gate reports that "panel" vans, long popular in Europe, are finding wider application in the United States because of their fuel efficiency. Tommy Gate is completing field tests of five prototype cantilever lifts, and plans to start production in midyear.