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Truck fleet from UniCarriers: reliable in use at low temperatures

Truck fleet from UniCarriers: reliable in use at low temperatures

Chiltern Cold Storage Group’s day-to-day challenges include working under extreme low temperatures: The warehouses of the British specialist for temperature-controlled logistics services have temperatures between -22 and -24 degrees Celsius. The demands placed on the industrial trucks used are correspondingly high: despite the cold, the fleet must be reliable and always available for the daily handling of around 1,200 pallets. To achieve this, the logistics company relies on its long-standing partner UniCarriers. The internationally active manufacturer of industrial trucks has equipped Chiltern Cold Storage with a total of 22 vehicles. But the cooperation goes much deeper: UniCarriers provides the British partner with comprehensive advice for new orders and the implementation of major projects.


The logistics provider Chiltern Cold Storage, headquartered in Peterborough, England, specialises in temperature-controlled logistics solutions. It operates multi-temperature warehouses from ambient to chilled to frozen. More than 2,500 different products are stored including raw materials, ready meals, poultry and ice cream. Chiltern Cold Storage's customers worldwide are mainly from the gastronomy, foodservice distribution and food production sectors. For example, one focus is on aviation: Chiltern Cold Storage handles the entire on-board logistics for the airline caterer Gate Gourmet. In the Peterborough area, the company with its 164 employees is represented at two locations, Peterborough and Whittlesey. A third branch is located in Livingston, Scotland. With a total of 10,500 pallets, Chiltern Cold Storage focuses on frozen logistics. In addition, there are around 7,000 pallets with goods for storage at ambient temperature and 6,000 pallets from the chilled sector. On average, around 1,200 pallets are delivered daily. "In our three warehouses, we need a truck fleet with this throughput that can withstand the harsh environmental conditions day after day," says John Davidson, Managing Director at Chiltern Cold Storage. The temperature in the warehouse is between -22 and -24 degrees Celsius. "The key thing for us is service reliability, and this is what UniCarriers offers us".

Equipped for all applications and workloads

Some goods arrive at Chiltern Cold Storage already palletized in ship containers, others are palletized by the company itself, others are picked individually in the warehouse. A fleet of 22 UniCarriers vehicles are utilized for purpose: pallet picking and exchange as well as storage and retrieval are handled by Chiltern Cold Storage with reach trucks. The logistics company uses PMR pallet trucks to load and unload trucks and transfer pallets to other storage areas and counterbalance trucks for container transfer and various yard work. Chiltern Cold Storage also uses the high-level order pickers from UniCarriers, primarily for inventory control. For around 20 years now, the company has relied on vehicles from UniCarriers and its predecessor Atlet. “What convinced us above all was the high level of reliability. With the UniCarriers vehicles, we have minimal maintenance requirements and a great uptime. They are an irreplaceable piece of equipment in our warehouses," says Managing Director John Davidson.

Previously, UniCarriers replaced two reach trucks with two new ones, after a five-year contract expired. In addition to such five-year packages, with which Chiltern Cold Storage covers the basic needs, the company also uses the option of short term hire with UniCarriers. In this way, the logistics company is bracing itself for challenging peak times, such as those occurring during the summer air travel season and the Christmas season.

A well thought-out total solution thanks to UniCarriers

The internationally active manufacturer of industrial trucks offers the British logistics company far more than this reliable fleet. Chiltern Cold Storage particularly appreciates the comprehensive advice – whether in normal day-to-day business or as required, for example in the planning and implementation of a new customer order. In this case, the storage capacity or system requirements may change, throughput or storage density may increase, and peak times may shift. In such a case, UniCarriers analyses the initial situation and ultimately proposes a well thought-out overall solution: John Davidson explains this with a joint project from 2012, when the temperature-controlled logistics company built a new warehouse and involved UniCarriers as a consultant from the outset. Using the Logistics Analyser, UniCarriers looked at the profile of the planned warehouse: the available space, the type of goods and throughput, the number of employees and their expected tasks in the warehouse. The company presented Chiltern Cold Storage with suitable racking designs including advantages and disadvantages. On this basis, the temperature-controlled logistics company opted for a warehouse with double-deep storage racks that offers greater flexibility and up to 30 percent more storage density than other systems. UniCarriers then established contact with a suitable racking system manufacturer and supplied the relevant double-deep reach trucks.

If obstacles arise during such a project, UniCarriers finds creative solutions, as John Davidson Chiltern Cold Storage describes. At the time, the temperature-controlled logistics company needed double-deep trucks with a high capacity and a lift height of 11.2 metres.  However, no manufacturer was able to meet the special requirements. But UniCarriers UK contacted the special design department at their European Headquarters in Sweden, who were able to confirm that it could provide its partner with two custom built double-deep reach trucks that could meet the required conditions.

Exchange as an integral part of cooperation

Such solutions are the result of an intensive cooperation: Chiltern Cold Storage and the service team of UniCarriers are continuously exploring possibilities for improvement. During regular meetings at Chiltern Cold Storage, KPIs such as the TCO values of the fleet are discussed. During site visits, the partners discuss current challenges and evaluate procedures and processes. The ideas that emerge do not just go in one direction: "UniCarriers gives us recommendations for optimizing our workflows, but we also pass on our experience as input. This regular exchange benefits both sides and is an integral part of our collaboration," summarizes John Davidson.

The subject of such a monthly meeting was, for example, the battery performance of the trucks – a decisive point in view of the conditions that temperature-controlled logistics places on the vehicles. At sub-zero temperatures, battery performance can deteriorate quickly, increasing the risk of major fluctuations in efficiency. Chiltern Cold Storage uses the Battsman battery replacement system developed by UniCarriers for this purpose. It docks its electromagnetic device to the empty battery of a truck, removes it and replaces it with a new one. This minimizes moisture build-up. The multifunctional Battsman reduces manual handling to a minimum and enables fast, safe and ergonomic automatic replacement of even heavy batteries. A light system indicates to the operator which battery needs to be replaced next. If the wrong battery is docked, the monitoring system warns. "The Battsman offers a simple, low-cost approach. The result is a very high availability of our truck fleet – around 99 percent – which we in turn pass on to our own customers," says John Davidson.

But the harsh environmental conditions cannot only be a problem for the battery. The vehicles are therefore equipped with various other adaptations: special hydraulic oils ensure reliable operation, and a heating element ensures the required operating temperature. The newer models in particular offer the driver a whole range of options for adjusting the truck individually. This is not least beneficial to productivity: thanks to ergonomically designed vehicles, drivers at Chiltern Cold Storage handle 30 to 35 pallets per hour – exceeding their own targets. Further systems round off the safety of the vehicle fleet: For example, the S3 stability system prevents cornering too fast, warns of driving with the mast extended and increases the overall stability of the vehicle and control over it. Cameras assist the driver in controlling storage and retrieval, which significantly increases comfort and safety, especially in a double-deep warehouse – even in icy temperatures. “UniCarriers give us that edge over our competitors”, explains John Davidson, “UniCarriers support our everyday and long-term challenges by constant engagement – they have an understanding of what we are looking to do as a business and where we are looking to go”.

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