At its headquarters in Laupheim, Germany, Kässbohrer produces the PistenBully snow groomers for ski slopes and cross-country tracks, BeachTech machines for beach cleaning as well as special-purpose vehicles for work and transport operations on impassable terrain.
With a market share of over 50 percent, the PistenBully vehicles from Kässbohrer are the world's leading products for maintaining ski slopes and cross-country tracks as well as creating fun parks. Since the chains of the snow groomers are not fitted until the machines have reached the customer site, they have to be transported between production, assembly and shipping by another device, with utmost speed and safety. The engineers at Kässbohrer came up with an ingenious solution to this problem some years ago.
"We converted old forklift trucks to allow them to tow the PistenBully snowcats", recalls Frank Brixius, who is responsible for plant facilities and manufacturing equipment at Kässbohrer. However, it soon turned out that the in-house conversions were not strong enough to move the biggest snow groomers both quickly and safely. As a result, Kässbohrer commissioned us to construct a suitable truck. The task: to construct a device capable of transporting the PistenBullys, which can weigh up to eight tons, quickly and safely between production, assembly and shipping.
"Special builds always a require a touch of inventive genius."
A visit to the PistenBully production facilities in Laupheim was required to answer some important technical questions: How are the logistics organised? How much space is available? What weights and what loads can actually be handled? Thomas Wulf, head of project planning at our special build plant, explains the process: "We had to consider how the snowcats could be grasped, how to design the load section and which base truck is best suited to such an application." The answer to the last question was provided by the Kässbohrer staff: Since their previous converted efforts started life as Jungheinrich reach trucks, they insisted that the new solution should be based on a reach truck as well.
Ultimately, our calculations confirmed that a Series 3 reach truck was the ideal base model for this project. The drive unit of the special build truck, which was dubbed the ETA 380, is that of a Series 3 reach truck. However, the load section of the device does not have a fork. "We worked with our colleagues in Lüneburg to develop a solution that allows us to move the PistenBullys quickly and safely throughout the entire production area", states Stefan Sommer, technical consultant at our Munich sales centre and responsible for the sales area of Upper Swabia, where Laupheim is located.
To this end, the ETA 380 was fitted with a special load handling attachment, which the operator manoeuvres under the PistenBully. A special mandrel at the tip of the load section engages with its counterpart on the snowcat. The operator can then set off immediately with the PistenBully behind him.
Once Kässbohrer had placed the order for the ETA 380, the device was included in the special build process at our Lüneburg plant and constructed by our specialists according to the specification established during project planning. The load section was then produced by an external supplier. After a period of just 18 weeks between development and delivery, the ETA 380 is now ensuring that the Kässbohrer snow groomers can move safely even without their chains attached.
When compared to standard production, a special build always represents a new challenge, explains Stefan Hirt. While a standard model always involves several years of development followed by prototypes and pilot runs, "we only ever have one shot at a special build!" In this case, development, prototyping and pilot production all happen at once. And the product manager is rightly very proud of the results: "Special builds always a require a touch of inventive genius."