At one of his first jobs, Aaron Lamb muscled cappuccino machines from a van down on to a hand truck, and then up on to the convenience store counter. He was a ‘replacement worker,’ filling in for the regular guy who had injured his back doing the same work.
“Aaron figured there had to be a better way,” said James Dravitz, director of operations for Ergologistics LLC. “Not only was the work physically harming the drivers delivering the machines, but the company was spending thousands of dollars in hiring and training replacement workers as well as in workers compensation claims and increased premiums.”
So Lamb sketched out a design for a mobile lifting device on a napkin. After several prototypes, product testing, feedback and refinements, that design became the Lift ‘n Buddy. The product maintains the recognizable frame of a hand truck, but has an electric actuator doing the heavy lifting and lowering.
“We may not be as light as a hand truck, but we’re getting as close as we can,” Dravitz
Material handling employees mainly suffer from repetitive lifting and lowering, such as installing kegs in multiple facilities throughout the day, he said. With the Lift ‘n Buddy remote control, the user can be anywhere around the unit, in front or beside, Dravitz said.
While warehouse and delivery people were early users, others find a way to use it, from lifting a roll of fabric on to a table to hauling gasoline to a boat. Supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and bars are common customers.
The device often “disappears” from receiving docks, as workers in other departments want to unload or lift items, Dravitz said.
“We have an agricultural company use it to replace sprayer motors in the field,” he said. “Lifting the 200-pound motors previously took two people and now only requires one. That’s an immediate savings to the bottom line of the company.”
The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimates that more than one million workers suffer back injuries every year, accounting for one in five of workplace injuries.
Two models – the Half-back that lifts 250 pounds and a Full-back that lifts 500 pounds and has an on-board charger – are available from distributors.
The Fargo, North Dakota, company began in a business incubator and incorporated in 2010. A finalist in the industrial design tool category for an Edison Award, which recognizes innovative ideas in industrial design, Ergologistics was named one of the top 10 logistics innovators by Food Logistics magazine. The Lift ‘n Buddy is manufactured in Winona, Minnesota.
As for what’s next, keep watching. “People are really keen on customization,” including fork attachments for various loads, Dravitz said. “In addition to ideas from our customers, we also have a number of research and development products in the works that will do even more to take the ‘heavy’ out of lifting.”