A Manitou compact telehandler is proving ideal for lifting and moving heavy items in confined areas at a large Kent nursery.

Trading as CM Buchan & Sons, the Buchan family farms at Whitstable, and also provides an agricultural contracting service of which the main tasks are combine harvesting, cultivations and drilling. In 2019 the family took advantage of an opportunity to purchase a long-established nursery business in the same village on land adjoining the farm. Comprising two sites of approximately seven hectares less than a mile apart, Meadow Grange Nursery includes a nursery where plants are grown in large glasshouses, and a busy retail complex open to customers. Approximately 30 full-and part-time staff are employed.

“It made sense to buy the nursery as the seasonality complements our farming business and it’s directly next door,” explained Wayne Buchan, who runs the farm and nursery with his mother Christine and brother Ross. “We hadn’t anticipated Covid-19 restrictions and the lockdown in our first full year trading, but even so it was successful and the business is growing.”

Two rigid mast industrial forklifts had been used for materials handling at the nursery site previously, but these lacked flexibility and lift capacity for heavier items. A large agricultural telehandler is used on the farm and Wayne believed a similar but smaller machine would benefit the nursery. An extending boom would allow it to reach across lorries when loading and unloading pallets and further into glasshouses with restricted access. Larger wheels and off-road capability would also allow use on uneven ground and it could also be used on the farm to supplement the larger machine.

Local dealer

A new Valtra tractor and other machinery had been purchased from Crawfords a few years before, and as Wayne and his family remained very impressed by the dealer team’s service and back-up he consulted the sales team at Crawfords regarding the Manitou range and particularly the MLT420-60H which he thought would be ideal for the application.

 

Capable handler

Several competitor machines were also considered and demonstrations of those that appeared most suitable were arranged. “Although all the machines we looked at were in the same size class, the Manitou with its 2,000kg maximum lift capacity proved much more capable and lifted larger items more easily,” explained Wayne. “The heaviest items we handle are pallets of compost and the Manitou lifted them easily while others couldn’t lift them at all, and it also proved suitable for working with a bucket. Previously we borrowed the larger farm handler for loading bulk trailers, but its size made operation difficult in confined areas and there was no way it could have worked in the buildings. The access doors to our glasshouses are all low and narrow, so whatever we selected had to be small enough to fit through.”

Between the nursery and retail site there are three handler operators and all tried the demonstration machines. “Everyone liked the Manitou and it was quickly obvious that it was the only handler small enough to operate in the buildings while also having the lift capacity we needed. Most of our work is intermittent and involves the user getting in and out of the cab frequently, so good cab access and simple controls are important.

“It proved a lovely compact machine, the build quality and finish were excellent and there was good access for servicing and daily checks. We liked the cooling pack design too, as it was easy to get at for cleaning.”

An order was placed with Crawfords for a new Manitou. However, at that time lack of stock availability was an issue so an agreement was made to purchase the demonstrator after it had completed planned demonstrations elsewhere. When it arrived back at the nursery eight weeks later, a full handover involved dealer team members and representatives of Manitou UK. “We were very impressed,” said Wayne. “Having had it for almost a week for the original demonstration it was quite familiar to us, but we appreciated the effort and attention to detail intended to help us get the best from the machine.”

Ideal specification

Since the handler arrived it has worked many hours and been totally reliable. “Because it’s so versatile we use it far more than the previous machines and save a lot of time,” stressed Wayne. “The four-wheel steering makes it exceptionally manoeuvrable and saves shunting when turning into tight access doors from narrow passages. However, we will probably fit an extra mirror to monitor the clearance between the rear corners and obstructions. Otherwise the vision all-around is excellent. The machine is easy to use, the cab is spacious and very comfortable and the suspension seat ensures a good ride. We wouldn’t have specified air conditioning or LED lights on a new machine but this already had them fitted, and the air conditioning makes a big difference to operator comfort and for working in buildings the LED lights are superb. We wouldn’t be without them now.”

The MLT420-60H is expected to work 500–800 hours per year and Crawfords workshop team will look after routine servicing.

Operator view

One of the main users is Miroslaw Bieniek. “I think the Manitou is perfect,” he commented. “It’s so easy to use, very comfortable and it’s easy to get in and out of the cab. The vision is good all-around which is important to us, and because it has extra lift capacity it feels more stable and safer. The hydraulic pressure release is a great feature and it makes it easy to change attachments and saves a lot of time.”

 

The right machine

“We are very pleased with our decision to buy the Manitou and it is saving a lot of time compared to our previous rigid-mast handlers,” concluded Wayne. “It was more expensive than other models we considered but it’s the right machine for the job. We don’t expect any issues with reliability, but if problems do occur then we have full confidence in the team from Crawfords.”

 

MLT420-60H specification

Lift capacity                                 2,000kg
Lift height                                     4.35m
Max reach                                    2.65m
Max reach at max height         1.0m
Maxi break-out force                1,886daN
Unladen weight                          4,190kg
Wheelbase                                   2.13m
Length (to carriage)                   3.64m
Width                                            1.49m
Height                                            1.97m
Min external turning radius    3.06m
Steering modes                           2ws/4ws/crab

Cycle Times (secs)
Boom lift                                       5.0
Boom lower                                 3.5
Boom extend                               4.8
Boom retract                               3.0

Engine               57hp Kubota 4-cyl, 2,615cc
Transmission   Hydrostatic with two speed ranges
Drive                  4wd, with limited slip front diff
Hydraulics        Gear pump, 77-litres/min capacity

 

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