Space optimisation is a wise move to ensure cost efficient operation, but when the space in question comes at a premium, it is even more crucial. This is particularly true of the cold store and chilled sector, where the costs incurred per m² are much higher than those in ambient warehousing. The right combination of fork lifts and racking can enable companies to cope with expansion and increasing volumes of stock without having to consider the expense and inconvenience of off-site storage or moving to larger premises.
Higgidy, a supplier of pies, quiches and savoury snacks, has enjoyed significant growth since it was established in 2003, but this success came with the pressing need to maximise warehousing density at its site in Shoreham-by-Sea. The company is now using two 2,000 kg capacity 20WE Aisle Master articulated fork lifts from Combilift to ensure that there is enough space to accommodate its range of ingredients, which are transformed in its kitchens into baked products and stocked by major supermarkets across the country. The trucks work in the ambient, chilled and cold store areas as well as in the packaging stores, which also offers Higgidy a high level of versatility.
The Aisle Masters have replaced a stand-on stacker truck and a counterbalance fork lift and in addition to their ability to work in narrow aisles and tight confines, a further benefit was the fact that they can “do everything” as logistics manager Dean Parsons explains, “Both previous trucks were very limited in where they could operate, which also had implications if they ever broke down. The stacker truck could only work in the cold store for example, and the counterbalance truck didn’t cope well with some of the surfaces when it was outside. The beauty of the Aisle Masters is that they can go everywhere, offload outside and bring goods directly to their designated storage bays.”
Doubling of storage capacity
John Kelley of materials handling consultants Mexmast works with Dean and his team as well as Combilift on the specifications of the trucks so that they met Higgidy’s exact requirements. Taking existing aisle widths into account, Combilift engineers suggested fitting triple telescopic forks – a relatively unusual feature on an Aisle Master. Their 1,200 mm closed length enables the trucks to manoeuvre around the tight angles and corners in the cold store, and their extended length of 2,350 mm means they have no problem accessing pallets in the double deep storage in the packaging warehouse. This system, recommended by John Kelley, has resulted in a doubling of the previous storage capacity in this area.
As well as space optimisation, a further crucial issue for Higgidy – and a potentially challenging one – was finding trucks that could cope with the constant transition between an extremely frosty -22°C in the cold store, +3°C in the chilled section through to ambient temperatures. Typical problems in this scenario can be a build-up of condensation and an adverse effect on performance. Aisle Master’s cold store model – winner of an FLTA award for innovation – was developed in collaboration with major names in the sector and is engineered to cope with the demands of this harsh environment. Higgidy’s cold store trucks are fitted with anti-mist glass on the top, front and rear windscreens and the powerful 930 Ah batteries counteract any possibility of battery draining, enabling prolonged operation in temperatures as low as -30°C if required.
Since the trucks have been onsite, they have proved to do just what they promised, and when the current contract of the two older electric counterbalance fork lifts runs out with Mexmast in the next year or so, they will be replaced with Aisle Masters. “The drivers like the visibility from the cab offered by the articulated design and also appreciate the excellent stability when lifting 800 kg pallets of, for example, frozen food to the top bay of 3.6 m,” said Dean.
“There are also a lot of benefits from using just the one type of truck. As well as being very manoeuvrable in really tight spaces, the Aisle Masters have the capacity to do so much and work long hours on just one battery charge. Mexmast and Combilift couldn’t have looked after us better, so it’s been a recipe for success – just like Higgidy’s products,” he concludes.