Great Bear choose Flexi fleet

December 28, 2017 by David Tran
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Great Bear choose Flexi fleet

Leading third party logistics specialist, Great Bear, has introduced a new fleet of Narrow Aisle Ltd’s Flexi HiMAX articulated forklift trucks at its major multi-user hub at Brackmills in Northampton.

A total of six Flexi HiMAX models will operate around-the-clock at the facility while a seventh ‘sub-core’ truck has also been supplied on a Service Level Agreement low-hours contract to be used as a ‘stand-by’ truck to cover seasonal peaks in demand and to ensure Great Bear has the ability to operate at 100 per cent fleet availability all-year round.

The Flexi HiMAX can operate in aisleways as narrow as 2000mm and its design allows pallet loads to be stacked up to 12 metres high at Great Bear’s Brackmills site.



Pallet throughput cycles of 30 per hour are being achieved within the facility’s 70 metre long aisles - which compares very favourably with either guided man-up or traditional reach type trucks.

In addition, Narrow Aisle Ltd has supplied its newly launched Easi-Change battery changing and management system at the Brackmills hub.  Great Bear’s battery charging bay was completely reconfigured by Narrow Aisle and now just 14 batteries are required to deliver optimal Flexi fleet efficiency 24/7. This means that not only have battery numbers been reduced by 20 per cent but, significantly, overall electricity consumption within the charge room has been cut by 50 per cent.

The Easi-Change system combines the latest battery charging technology with established materials handling techniques. The six-hour high frequency, low energy and low maintenance chargers are all linked to provide fully charged batteries on demand, thereby ensuring that the electric-powered Flexi articulated truck fleet requires the fewest number of battery units to operate at maximum efficiency. Furthermore, because the battery changing process is carried out by just one worker in less than five minutes, truck downtime is minimised

Great Bear has acquired the trucks on a five-year inclusive contract rental package that includes all planned maintenance, safety inspections and repairs in one fixed monthly rental charge.

No queues for the bathroom specialists

Roper Rhodes Ltd is a leading independent supplier of bathroom furniture and products. Founded in 1979 and based – appropriately – in Bath, the company’s range is sold via a network of merchants and other bathroom equipment specialists across the UK.

Due to the success of the business, the company recently looked to overhaul its storage and intralogistics processes. Roper Rhodes had, for a number of years, operated several ‘satellite’ storage sites within a few miles’ radius of its main Bath headquarters facility, so, when a much larger building became available in the Avonmouth area, the company took the opportunity to consolidate all of its warehousing and logistics activities under one roof.

But, while it offered the storage space Roper Rhodes sought, the new facility had to undergo some significant modifications to enable it to function efficiently and Flexi Warehouse Systems – the intralogistics project division of space saving materials handling specialist, Narrow Aisle Ltd – was chosen to develop a collaborative turnkey solution and then project manage the upgrade.

The former print works is, in fact, five separate but linked buildings and these annexed spaces have been designed to handle different aspects of Roper Rhodes’ inventory management operation.

The first of the units works as a goods-in and goods-out area where incoming product lines are block-stacked before put away and outgoing orders are collated and assembled before being loaded on to delivery vehicles.

The remaining four units are a mix of half- and fully-racked stores featuring two deep racking designed by Flexi Warehouse Systems and served by a combination of Flexi SToRMAX and Flexi AC 1200 articulated lift trucks, as well as a fleet of low-level order pickers (LLOPs) with long forks to handle the ISO type pallets which are used as a base for assembling customer orders.

The project was completed in phases to meet Roper Rhodes’ business needs and the efficiency and financial gains have been almost immediate, as Flexi Warehouse Systems’, John Maguire, explains: “Because Roper Rhodes had outgrown the space that its various original units offered, the company had been using third party warehousing to store many slow moving lines. This not only incurred significant storage costs but also led to additional transport costs, and double handling within Roper Rhodes’ internal supply chain as well as an unacceptably high incidence of avoidable and costly product damage.”

The Flexi solution involved housing all slow moving items within high density two deep racking accessed by Flexi SToRMAX trucks and, because it enabled Roper Rhodes to dispense with its third party storage site – and the overheads that came with it  ­­– straight away, this was the first phase of the new store to be completed.

In simple terms, the Flexi SToRMAX technology and two-deep system installed across the Roper Rhodes site, allows two pallets from the same side of each very narrow aisle to be handled - which effectively doubles the capacity of each run of racking within the store.

Adopting this configuration allowed Roper Rhodes to achieve 4900 pallet locations just within the slow-moving storage system. This figure is a staggering 50 per cent more pallets than would have been possible within the available footprint using a conventional reach-truck-based solution.

In total, the entire facility offers 14,200 pallet locations, which provides an additional 6,700 pallet locations in single and two-deep pallet racks. The Flexi clear narrow aisles allow all ground level locations to be utilised as dedicated product picking locations to service Roper Rhodes trade customer orders as well as their online customer order fulfilment.

To ensure that the battery-powered materials handling fleet – including the Low Level Order Pickers – operates at optimum efficiency, Flexi Warehouse Systems installed an integrated battery charging system. The low energy usage Hoppecke system features the latest call-forward alert technology to identify the most appropriate fully-charged battery for the truck operator to select when it is time to change. This means that batteries often last for up to 12 hours between charges, extending battery life and dramatically reducing energy consumption.

John Maguire added: “Flexi Warehouse Systems’ ability to offer a complete service from design through to supply and installation of all storage and material handling equipment allows companies to make real operational cost savings and by utilizing some of the latest intralogistics technologies and handling techniques at its new facility Roper Rhodes has been able to create a highly cost-effective and efficient operation with a very attractive pay-back period.”

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