Product Review: Flat Cart
Working smarter, not harder, is a common goal across all industries. It can be achieved through devising new work processes, re-allocating assignments or simply purchasing a new product that can help speed projects along. In the green industry, transferring or moving only a few plant flats at once can be quickly improved by the addition of a flat cart.
Hummert International's 6-flat cart can move up to six flats of plant material at once. The top five shelves are designed to fold up to allow plants of varying heights to be moved, and the cart's foot can be used as a dolly. Each shelf has a lipped front to keep flats from sliding off and a resistance pivot to hold them in the upward position. For growers who don't want the cart's arms to move, there are holes in each arm where a bolt can be placed to keep the shelves in a fixed position.
One advantage growers I talked to mentioned is the cart's size; it can move a lot of material yet still fit in tight greenhouse areas. The frame at the back edge of the shelves is approximately 15 inches wide; the shelves taper in the front to about 10 inches. The tires sit outside the frame and add 4 inches to each side at the bottom only, creating an overall width of 23 inches. When not in use, the carts are designed to nest together to take up minimal storage space.
The carts measure 451Ú2 inches tall, have a 300-lb. load rating and are available with two tire options: 10-inch pneumatic or 8-inch semi-pneumatic. Growers can choose which tire option best fits their greenhouse environment. The hard rubber semi-pneumatic tire works well on firm surfaces while the pneumatic tire has a wider contact surface that helps it traverse gravel and rough ground.
The flat cart has become a vital piece of equipment for Mary Lou Stromgren, co-owner of Stromgren Greenhouse, Osage City, Kan.; she said she uses it constantly. Likewise, in the spring Nancy Solis, the annual and perennial grower of Rose Hill, Kansas City, Mo., uses her cart every day. They both use it to move flats. "We have a number of greenhouses and two carts, so they go back and forth," said Solis, adding, "this [the cart] increases our efficiency a lot."
Positioning the arms up or down allows tall and short plants to be carried, which increases the cart's versatility. "If you've got some tall plants, you can carry three flats," explained Solis, "but if you have nice, short plants that won't be smashed, you can carry six."
Stromgren uses Hummert's flat cart for many purposes. She moves flats between display areas and a storage greenhouse and even uses the cart to bring large purchases out to customers' cars. Additionally, she uses the cart to move supplies ranging from dirt to greenhouse chemicals. "My husband took a piece of heavy plywood and put it on the bottom, and then we hauled dirt on it. We get supplies in, like chemicals, and we'll just haul it in and stack three or four on it at a time and haul it where it needs to go," she explained.
Stromgren finds the cart so useful, she refers to it as an all-purpose cart: "We push the racks up, and we stack it full. It's an all-purpose cart in our location. Wherever we can find a use for it, we use it."
Made To Last
The carts are constructed mostly from 11-gauge mild steel and are designed to be durable. Stromgren isn't sure how long she's been using the flat cart (she estimates approximately 10-12 years), but she knows it has withstood constant use in the greenhouse well. "The first one we bought, the paint is coming off the bottom rack because it's scooted around on the ground a little bit. That's the only [wear] we've had," she explained. Likewise, Solis hasn't experienced any problems with her cart; the arms still move easily, and there isn't any rust. She has two right now that have been in use for roughly three years.
The carts are also meant to be safe for growers to use. When the shelves fold up, they stay within the framework of the cart, making it unlikely for users to pinch their fingers or skin. Additionally, the cart's corners are rounded slightly so they're not as sharp and are less likely to cut or scrape.
Because of the cart's versatility and durability, the growers I talked to couldn't imagine working without it. Stromgren said it best: "Once you have one, I can't think of how you'd do without one."