Equipment Proves to Be Vital For Water Heater Installer’s Safety and Efficiency

Motorized stair-climbing hand trucks help George Morlan Plumbing Supply reduce injuries and ease labor costs

Equipment Proves to Be Vital For Water Heater Installer’s Safety and Efficiency

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Lugging large water heaters up and down stairs used to be a strenuous job that put technicians at George Morlan Plumbing Supply at risk for injuries. It also taxed the Portland, Oregon-based company’s manpower resources because moving such large heaters — sometimes weighing up to 600 pounds — required two technicians, says Alex Kramien, company president.

That all changed when the company invested in two PowerMate L-1 motorized stair-climbing hand trucks from LP International. The battery-powered units can carry up to 650 pounds of cargo and can also raise and lower items to/from truck tailgates and loading docks.

“There’s a big cost benefit,” Kramien says, pointing to the reduced labor needs and fewer injuries. “As we started doing more and more larger tanks, especially commercial water heaters, the PowerMates became even more relevant.”

Before, even when technicians would call ahead to ask customers about delivery conditions, they’d still encounter unexpected obstacles that customers failed to mention.

“Then they’d realize they needed help with a water heater, so they’d have to wait until someone could get there,” Kramien says. “Then the next job would get delayed, so there was a lot of job rescheduling. Plus, traffic here has progressively worsened during the last 20 years, so driving cross-town can take a big chunk of a day. All those delays just amplify everything — a domino effect of extra labor and time.”

Technicians used to use pumps made by Red Lion or Franklin Electric Co. to remove water from old tanks, making them light enough to move more easily. But even with a pump, that process still consumed valuable time. With the PowerMates, it’s a moot point, Kramien says.

Improved safety for technicians also comes into play. Technicians might occasionally tweak their backs or strain a knee while maneuvering heavy water heaters on stairs. While no one at George Morlan Plumbing Supply ever suffered a serious injury, there were often injuries that resulted in short-term disability leaves of absence, Kramien says.

“We’ve now avoided that by investing in something that’s relatively inexpensive, if you pro-rate the expense over a year,” Kramien says, noting that a PowerMate costs around $2,800. “If one injury puts a guy out for a week, for example, that’s four water heaters a day passed on to someone else on overtime, so the costs add up. That makes it worthwhile to invest in products that improve safety and keep the guys moving faster from job to job.”

Read more about George Morlan Plumbing Supply in the June 2019 issue of Plumber magazine.


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