Ergonomics is good for plant workers as well as plant profitability. A good example of this can be found at the Westbrooke, ME, plant of SIGCO Inc., a glass and architectural metal fabricator and distributor.
By using the Famatec FR-V250 ergonomic
manipulator, a single SIGCO Inc. worker can
safely and quickly move the company’s 500- pound products. Photo courtesy HAECO


For several years, up to five workers were required to move 500-pound products using traditional jib cranes and hoists. Jason Tardiff, operations manager at SIGCO, says this approach was time-consuming, caused worker fatigue and posed safety risks because the cranes often swung the products or moved them awkwardly.

In January 2012, SIGCO replaced the cranes and hoists with five Famatec FR-V250 ergonomic manipulators made by HAECO. These manipulators feature powerful pneumatic suction pads that grab and precisely counterbalance items up to 550 pounds, enabling a single operator to safely and quickly move SIGCO’s large products.

“The manipulators also feature a safety device that supports the product and keeps it rigid during transport,” says Tardiff. “The operator can effortlessly suspend, rotate and tilt the product.”

The FR-V250 can grip items made of glass, sheet metal, marble or wood. Its controls are located on a console that the operator slides along the handle and locks into place at the most-comfortable location.

The operator centers the manipulator’s suction pads over the product, and then activates the manipulator’s vacuum system so the pads grip the product. He uses the handle to tilt (up to 90 degrees) or rotate (up to 180 degrees) the product as it is being moved. A rotary coupling prevents twisting of the air connection, allowing the product to be rotated continuously.

The device has a working radius of 6 meters and can lift flat items that measure from 1,250 by 450 millimeters to 4,000 by 2,500 millimeters. It also can handle long and narrow products up to 300 by 4,000 millimeters.

The manipulator is available with five mounting options: column, overhead, overhead with tracks or wheels, or a self-standing base. The latter can be transported with a fork truck or transpallet.

If necessary, the manipulator’s standard suction pads can be replaced with magnets, specialized grippers or suction pads that grip rough surfaces. Other accessories include special filters for dusty conditions.

Although Tardiff would not disclose how much SIGCO paid for each manipulator, he did acknowledge that each one cost less than an average worker’s compensation back-injury claim.

For more information on ergonomic manipulators, call 800-852-3522 or visit