Two new cold store MR reach trucks supported by two MPX power pallet trucks are proving to be a robust, reliable and low-cost materials handling solution in sub-zero temperatures at Chiltern Cold Storage.
Operating in temperatures down to -23°C, a fleet of just four lift trucks is all that is needed to keep the brisk pace of operations going at Chiltern Cold Storage’s 3,300 pallet position cold store in Bourne, Lincolnshire.
The Bourne operation, one of four sites the temperature controlled logistics specialist runs, was established three years ago and houses food products including fish and poultry destined for restaurants, pubs and other food outlets. With a turnover of some 1,500 pallets a week and all the usual challenges of such cold temperatures, it is vital the cold store has a flawless materials handling operation with the most robust equipment and the best backup in the business.
That requirement has been met with a fleet of two cold store MR14 reach trucks and two cold store MP20X power pallet trucks from Yale Europe Materials Handling, supplied by Chelveston, Northants dealer, JST Forklifts.
Working with pallets typically weighing 800kg and measuring up to 1.8m high, the two MR14s work in the Bourne site’s three metre wide aisles, predominantly on full pallet putaway and retrieval operations at heights of up to 6.2m.
The two MR reach trucks have a lift capacity of 1.4 tonnes – more than enough to accommodate the load weights and lift heights involved at the site – and work full twelve hour shifts (6am to 6pm), five days a week.
The two MPX power pallet trucks are both 2.0 tonne models, which are fitted with enclosed Chariot-style operator platforms and Scooter Control handlebars in place of more common tiller arm control, and are used to support the reach truck operation by carrying out vehicle loading and unloading via the site’s loading docks.
Chiltern Cold Storage Contracts Director, John Davidson, opted for the Yale trucks after a visit to the manufacturer’s 35,000 square metre warehouse truck production facility at Masate, in Italy, where he says he was won over by the impressive build quality and testing processes in evidence.
“The build quality was the thing for me. They’re very solidly built trucks,” he confirms. “There was also a very robust testing process in place at the factory, like the rumble strip test – it was really quite intense! I’ve gone to other manufacturers’ sites and not seen anything like that.”
Davidson says the thickness of plate used in the construction of the new MR reach trucks along with the minimal use of vulnerable plastic panels commonly used in other makes of equipment were two key issues for him. “The older version MR reach truck we’d used really set the benchmark for us – it was really robust and we were impressed with the build quality of the earlier model. So we knew that if Yale had improved on that, then the new MR reach truck had to be even better,” he says.
He has also been impressed with the moisture protection built into the trucks – obviously a vital issue with the kind of condensation that occurs when trucks are repeatedly entering and exiting different temperature zones. “The biggest issue on any reach truck in and out of a cold store is the condensation, which often leads to electrical problems,” he comments. “But with the Yale trucks, we’ve had no major problems.”
Because drivers only work in the cold store for periods of up to 50 minutes at a time, Chiltern Cold Storage did not need to specify the enclosed cabs normally fitted to the new cold store spec MR, which has made it practical for the reach trucks to be used for additional work as well as full pallet movements.
This has completely avoided the need for separate additional equipment to be brought in for case picking, for example – a job which would not otherwise have been practical with an enclosed cab on a reach truck due to the need to keep the door closed to maintain internal temperature. “Thanks to the versatility of these new MR reach trucks, we can get away without dedicated picking trucks,” Davidson confirms.
Chiltern Cold Storage’s drivers really like the comfortable driving position afforded by the latest MR’s new operator compartment, as well as the visibility through the mast, he adds. And because of the Bourne drivers’ considerable driving experience and the wide aisle configuration in use at the site, the trucks are able to operate unrestricted at full travel and lift speeds, helping to speed up cycle times.
The robust build quality of the Yale range was also the main reason behind Chiltern Cold Storage’s decision to opt for the MPX power pallet trucks, says Davidson.
“Again, it was the robust design and build – it’s just a quality product and a reliable workhorse,” he says. “The biggest issue you get on any power pallet truck is wearing the tyres out by moving constantly on and off loading docks. But they’ve been really good – in fact I’d go as far as to say the MP20 is the best power pallet truck we’ve got in terms of tyres at the moment.”
Davidson opted for enclosed chariot-style operator platforms on the MPX power pallet trucks because he felt they offered extra protection compared to the fold-down side-arms on many other models – both for the operator and the truck itself.
“I like chariot-style operator compartments for the reduction in damage to the machine itself. The arms on fold-down alternatives tend to take a lot of damage, and the operator is protected much better, too, which is another key bonus for us,” he explains.
Service and support
It’s not just the trucks themselves that Chiltern Cold Storage had to be happy with, of course: in an environment as challenging as a cold store, it was also vital to secure the right initial package and the right backup service and support, says Davidson.
Yale dealer JST Forklifts has certainly come up trumps on this score, he says, supplying the fleet on a contract hire deal of just under five years to fit in with the remaining building lease, along with a full maintenance package; offering a guaranteed four-hour on-site response time in the event of any unforeseen call-outs; and also managing a highly impressive first-time-fix rate of over 95%.
Davidson adds that JST Forklifts was not only “very competitive” on initial price but has also proved excellent in keeping his maintenance costs down, too.
“It’s about the whole-life cost of the trucks,” he explains. “Servicing costs can be very steep sometimes... but with JST, we don’t have that problem. If a JST engineer comes to look at something wrong – a cracked lens on a light, for instance – and he can repair it, rather than replacing the whole component, he will. That really helps us avoid a big bill.
“The upshot of that approach is that we are likely to make a very considerable saving on our servicing and parts costs across the life of these trucks,” he adds. “It’s all about the relationship you have with your dealer – that’s the key element to it all.”
Between the quality of the trucks and the quality of the service, Davidson believes he has struck the right balance with the Bourne site and says he is now considering taking on further Yale trucks from JST for other parts of the Chiltern Cold Storage operation.
“The Yale product is a solid, hard–working piece of kit – we would barely operate without it,” he confirms.