Within the warehouse the reach truck is the common work-horse. But it is far from an unsophisticated tool for shifting goods. The reach truck has developed over the years to bring operational efficiency through the use of AC technology, resulting in rapid lift speeds and fast horizontal movement, and incorporate such refinements as slick ergonomics, tilting cabs and video links from the forks to the driver.
But despite the fierce competition between warehouse truck makers, such as Jungheinrich, Toyota/BT, Hyster, Yale, Crown, Linde, and Atlet, to differentiate their product through design excellence and technological improvements, the primary concern of the warehouse manager, beyond safety, is reliability and up-time of the vehicle. And this makes ‘service’ the key differentiator between competitive offers.
A full range of product offering covering reach trucks, stackers, man-up machines and order pickers is a prerequisite to securing a large order where single sourcing simplifies the management of the fleet. However, a manufacturer’s ability to combine a creative leasing or finance package with a comprehensive service contract is what wins the day. Savvy fleet purchasers with a number of sites should look to leverage scale to get the best deal. And don’t stop at national borders, many deals are now done on a pan-European basis.
Beyond standard products, advances have been made on top-end trucks recently and specialist niche products are gaining popularity too.
RFID technology has been put to good use with Jungheinrich’s lastest man-up order picker/tri-lateral stacker. The EKX 513-515 series is equipped to respond to RFID transponders placed in the warehouse floor. The system enables the truck to respond according to the condition of the floor or maximum height of the racking, increasing speed and efficiency of movement in the aisles. The intelligent system enables the user to gain greater productivity from their warehouse. Other attributes of this totally new design is a 20 per cent reduction of energy consumption over the older model, together with a 10 per cent higher throughput capability. The truck achieves lift heights in excess of 14 m.
Launched last year, Hyster’s C Series of man-up turret truck has been designed to work in demanding operations with minimal operating clearances. These VNA truck can be tailored to suit an array of tasks; from pallet-put-aways, picking and transporting to staging in high density storage warehouses. Seven models are available.
Perhaps one of the most innovative warehouse truck concepts is the articulated truck, produced by Narrow Aisle, Translift and Aisle-Master. The design cuts the need for a two truck system – a counterbalanced machine working outside and feeding a reach truck inside the warehouse. The articulated design offers significant space saving advantages in the warehouse. Narrow Aisle’s latest model, the G4, is capable of working in aisles as narrow as 1642mm wide at sites where Euro pallets are stored or 1762mm wide at facilities which use standard UK pallets. According to Narrow Aisle, the Flexi can create up to 30 per cent more storage capacity in any warehouse in comparison to a conventional reach truck.
‘The Flexi eliminates the space needed by a reach or counterbalance truck to turn into a pallet position. This means that within any storage space, aisle widths can be reduced and more racking bays introduced,’ says John Maguire, sales and marketing director at Narrow Aisle.
Aisle-Master too makes similar claims with its articulated offering. Managing director, Gerry McHugh explains that the Aisle-Master incorporates features such as cushioned tyres for operation on unpaved yards, making it versatile enough to replace a combination of counterbalance and reach truck, so cutting out double handling and speeding up ‘truck to rack’ movement. He also points out that cutting down on fleet numbers reduces maintenance and associated costs. Lift heights of up to 11.5 m are possible, and the capacity of the standard model is two tones.
A big stretch
Instore has invested heavily in a supply chain restructuring which places great emphasis on a sophisticated and versatile fleet of warehouse trucks capable of dispatching over a 1000 pallet loads a day.
In store, formerly trading under the Poundstretcher name, has undertaken a major £15 million restructuring of its warehousing and distribution activities and has recently consolidated several older warehouses into a new, custombuilt, 32,500 sq m DC in Huddersfield. Two-thirds of the DC is equipped with racking, with 6,500 pallet locations in a VNA bulk store and 10,000 wide-aisle replenishment locations, some in double-deep racking, above 2,200 ground-level picking faces. The facility holds around £25 million worth of stock.
‘The various racking and storage configurations – VNA, wide aisle, single-deep, double-deep, high-bay, block stacking – are designed to provide optimum flexibility and maximum storage density in the available space for a wide range of goods, including numerous “awkward” items such as ironing boards, without compromising ease and speed of operation,’ says John Franklin, of Logistics & Interim Management Services (LIM), consultants charged with managing the reengineering of Instore’s distribution operations. The different types of storage systems, along with the loading, unloading and order picking operations, required several different kinds of lift truck. The ability to source all these trucks from one supplier was a key requirement.
Atlet won the contract to supply a fleet of 72 lift trucks to value retailer’s DC in Huddersfield. Reasons for specifying Atlet came down to its ability to supply all the different types of lift truck needed and its capability to support their 24 hr operations with a guaranteed rapid-response service back up.
The fleet consists of five Atlet Omni DCR man-up VNA stacker/pickers, seven Presto PLP pallet transporters, 37 Select TPL lowlevel order pickers and 17 UNS Tergo reach trucks, 12 of which are equipped to operate in double-deep racking. As part of the deal Atlet has also supplied six LPG counterbalance trucks and around 100 hand pallet trucks. The DC is currently dispatching more than 1000 pallet loads of orders each day, with a retail value of around £1.5 million, to Instore’s 330-plus stores nationwide.
Part of LIM’s remit in the process reengineering operation was also to slash pallet handling costs by almost 30 per cent, which demands very high truck uptime to streamline flow through the DC. Instore operates a bulk-purchasing operation, so the nature and volume of goods arriving at the warehouse each day is generally a known quantity. Most goods are packed in containers, which arrive at the rate of up to 20 per day, and are off loaded by hand pallet trucks and taken to a marshalling area, from where they are collected by the Atlet UNS Tergo reach trucks. The putaway operation is directed by the warehouse management system (WMS) communicating by RF with truck-mounted terminals. Wherever possible goods are taken direct to the replenishment slots in the racking above the picking faces. Otherwise they are delivered to pick-up-and-deposit (P&D) stations at the end of the narrow aisle racking, to be collected and put away by the Atlet Omni DCR manrising stackers.
Fast-moving ‘Heartland’ items, those needing to be picked for almost every store every day, are stored in double-deep racking installed in seven aisles. The order picking faces at ground level have flow racking, and replenishment pallets are loaded from the back of the two-deep location, either direct from goods in or ‘cascaded’ from the upper level of racking. Moderately fastmoving items are stored in conventional racking served by standard reach trucks; some of these are equipped with high-lift masts for stacking up to eleven metres in a ‘high-bay’ section of racking.
Slow moving items are stored in the VNA section of the warehouse where the five Atlet Omni DCR man-rising stackers operate with in-aisle rail guidance. The rising control centre on the Omni DCR facilitates safe, accurate and fast pallet handling at height, and the truck’s diagonal lift – whereby the cab rises as the truck travels along the aisle – enables the operator to reach the required location in the shortest possible time.
Order picking is directed by manual pick lists. Goods are mainly picked onto the Atlet Select TPL low-level order pickers, which are capable of carrying two pallets at a time, although the Presto PLP pallet transporters, carrying single pallets, are also used for order picking as well as general pallet handeling duties round the warehouse.
To support the truck’s round-the-clock operations Instore has taken out full service contract by which , as well as regular scheduled maintenance, Alet is providing a guaranteed rapid response to rectify any problems.
The diverse needs of a warehouse influence the choice of warehouse truck for the task. David Bowen, sales and training manager at Linde Material Handling, offers a guide to application profiles based on typical warehouse loads up to 1250kg.
- Pedestrian Operated Eelectric Counterbalance Truck: non-intensive applications, general purpose, low lift storage and retrieval up to 4.3m lift, medium distance transfer and feeder duties. 1.6t truck requires 3,645mm operating aisle.
- Rider Electric Counterbalance Truck: General-purpose, loading and unloading, pallet transfers and feeder duties and wide aisle, medium lift storage and retrieval up to 6.8m lift. 2.0t truck requires a 3,385mm operating aisle.
- Electric Reach Trucks: Narrow aisle, high lift storage and retrieval up to 12m. A 1.6t reach truck requires a 2,750mm operating aisle.
- Electric Pallet Trucks: Loading and unloading, internal pallet transfers, marshalling and occasional order picking at ground level. Pedestrian pallet truck: Travel speed up to 6 km/h. Pallet truck with folding platform: Travel speed up to 10 km/h. Pallet truck with fixed platform: Travel speed up to 12 km/h
- Electric Pallet Stackers: Low lift storage and retrieval of Euro and other open base pallets up to 4.8m lift, feeder duties and internal transfers of both closed and open base pallets. A 1.2t pedestrian stacker requires 2,205mm operating aisle with Euro pallet 1200mm along the forks. A1.2t rider stacker requires 2,540mm operating aisle with Euro pallet 1200mm along the forks.
- Electric Low Level Order Pickers: Order picking at ground level with occasional step-up, second level picking and transferring picked loads to marshalling areas.
- Electric Order Pickers With Elevating Operator’s Platform: Order picking at first and second levels and transferring picked loads to marshalling areas.
- Electric Medium Level Order Picker: Order picking up to 3,500mm high. (typically the third level). Available with either supplementary lift for picking onto pallets and roll cages or walk-through facility to pick bulky or items; comprehensive safety protection.
- Electric High Level Order Picker: Order picking up to 10,480mm high. Available with either supplementary lift for picking onto pallets or roll cages or Walkthrough facility to pick awkward or bulky items.
- Electric Very Narrow Aisle Dualpurpose Combi Truck (VNA): High lift storage up to 14,600mm and order picking up to 14,950mm in very narrow operating aisles down to 1,550mm depending on application parameters. Truck is guided within the ailes using side guidence or inductive wire guidence set in the floor. Fine tolerances required.
- Electric Very Narrow Aisle Man-Down Turret Truck: High lift storage and retrieval of palletised unit loads up to 13,000mm lift in very narrow operating aisles down to 1,500mm depending on the application parameters. Fine tolerances required