Machine Shop Improves Safety and Efficiency with Custom Spanco Freestanding Workstation Bridge Crane


Klapperich Tool, Inc. provides machine shop services for tool and equipment manufacturers. The machine shop produces specialized tools and parts for companies that build machines for many different industries. Their machining operations also include designing and building automated assembly systems for their customers.

The facility is equipped with milling machines, metal lathes, surface grinders, CNC machines, wire electrical discharge machines, welding machines, and more. They use large steel blocks and other heavy components for machining, and these parts have to be lifted and moved into place.

For a long time, Klapperich Tool used propane forklifts and a single portable jib crane for all material handling within the 10,000 square-foot facility. Several problems continued to arise while workers used these methods. One problem was the need for coordination; forklift operators have to work with spotters to ensure the loads are lifted correctly. Even with the assistance of a spotter, maneuvering throughout the facility could also be difficult and time-consuming. This problem also affected the portable jib; it could only be used in one place at a time, and it could only be moved with a forklift.

Another severe problem caused by the propane forklifts was the high concentration of propane exhaust fumes that could build up inside the facility. Any time that workers had a large amount of materials to move, the exhaust fumes could become overwhelming. In the worst cases, workers would sometimes report feeling light-headed from the fumes.


With these problems in mind, Paul Klapperich, Owner of Klapperich Tool, considered switching to electric forklifts or installing jibs at every workstation. However, these solutions each had problems. Electric forklifts would eliminate the propane exhaust problem, but they don’t address the problem of maneuverability or the need for coordination between multiple workers. Individual jibs would address all three problems, but installation would be long and expensive, and they would use a large amount of floorspace.

To find a solution that would address every problem, Paul turned to Jim Cartwright at Overhead Material Handling Illinois, Inc., a local Spanco dealer, and Jim recommended a Spanco Freestanding Workstation Bridge Crane. As they planned out the solution, they continued to find ways they could expand the system until they were able to cover almost every workstation in the facility.

The system they came up with uses 104-foot, six-inch long runways, which include 48-inch cantilevers on one end and 18-inch cantilevers on the other end. It has a 2,000-pound capacity using two 1,000-pound capacity bridges, each with an overall span of 32 feet and a trolley-clevis height of 12 feet, seven inches. The machine shop is laid out closely with all of the machining equipment, so each support column had to be carefully determined; this limitation led to support column spacing ranging from 21 feet to 27 feet, seven inches throughout the facility.


With the system installed, fewer workers are needed for lifting and moving heavy materials and components. One worker can lift and move raw materials without taking workers away from other tasks. Because the system uses two bridges to cover almost all working areas, there is no need to stop work just to move a single jib around the facility to a location where it is needed. The system also eliminated the need to use forklifts to move materials and components within the facility, which saves time and makes lifting safer.

Paul told us that when the Spanco Freestanding Workstation Bridge Crane was installed, workers immediately felt that it was easier and more convenient than the old methods. Because they were able to place the support centers strategically throughout the facility, the bridge crane takes up less floorspace than individual jibs would have, leaving the floor clear for workers and equipment. He also told us that he was pleased with the customer service, saying that “the dealer expertise to put together a solution that works really well for our situation . . . was key to finding the best solution. We really feel that we got the best value.”

Jim and Paul both noted that the support from Spanco, Inc. and Sales Representative Ron Cerny was crucial to finding the solution to Klapperich Tool’s specific problem. Paul said that he’s happy that he and his workers no longer have to suffer without an effective material handling system, and that he would completely recommend this a Spanco Freestanding Workstation Bridge Crane to anyone in the business.