Moving large industrial turbines through each step of the manufacturing process can often be challenging, expensive and time-consuming. Space constraints within a facility can present additional transporting challenges, such as getting the extremely large finished turbine to the shipping area.

Traditionally, extra-heavy-duty forklifts, outside riggers and single-purpose cranes have been used to move these tur-bines, which can weigh up to 200,000 pounds and measure up to 30 by 18 by 15 feet. Solar Turbines Inc., one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial gas turbines, uses a different device: the IP-SMT (in-plant self-propelled mod-ule transporter) made by Wheelift Systems.

A subsidiary of Caterpillar Inc., Solar Turbines has been using these self-propelled transporters for nearly two years at its manufacturing facilities in San Diego and Mabank, TX. Stephen Burkhalter, job coordinator for Solar Turbine, says that the transporters allow Solar personnel to move the large turbines four times more quickly through assembly. The transport-ers also reduce the amount of required personnel by two-thirds and eliminate the need for physical expansion of either plant.

“We purchased the transporters due to factory constraints. We don’t have the space for big tugs,” says Paul Keifer, value stream manager for Solar Turbine. “Instead of spending the money on a new building or increasing our floor space, the transporters can turn very sharply and maneuver these packages in any way we choose.”

Omnidirectional steering, on-center rotation axle assemblies and all-wheel electric motor drives enable the transporters to maneuver in tight areas. The transporters also can make 90-degree turns, move diagonally and sideways, turn about any axis and precisely move the gas turbine to within thousands of an inch of its designated location.

Solar Turbine’s applications require the use of tandem operating transporters. The Wheelift system allows tandem operation by two, four or more units. The transporters have unlimited carrying capacity.

The open-center axle and low deck height of the transporter enable it to handle heavy items in a variety of shapes and sizes. Axles on the transporter provide 100 percent equalized loading to every tire regardless of surface irregularities. Tires are made of solid urethane that is unaffected by deteriorated floors, which are common in heavy assembly and process areas.

The transporters can easily negotiate ramps and in-floor rails. A built-in lift function enables the transporter to drive un-der, lift and carry any stand-supported loads.

Besides being self-propelled, the transporters are self-contained and require no external hookup. They operate using pro-pane, diesel or batteries. Wireless handheld control is standard. Automatic guidance is optional.

For more information on self-propelled module transporters, call 888-363-7337 or visit