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Shifting market for food & FMCG

08 June 2020

Food and FMCG companies must take steps to organise themselves now if they are going to have the right warehouse infrastructure in place to meet post-lockdown trading conditions, says John Maguire, managing director of intralogistics solutions specialist, Narrow Aisle.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis fears over shortages of food and other essential items prompted panic buying in supermarkets across Britain. The UK’s largest retailer Tesco reported a 30% increase in sales, for example, while Sainsbury’s recorded a 48 per cent peak.

Coronavirus panic buying placed an unprecedented strain on supermarket retailers and their suppliers. However with many food and FMCG companies still holding much of the inventory that they had stockpiled within their warehouses and distribution centres in the run up to Britain’s exit from the EU, the impact on retail supply chains as consumers rushed to fill their baskets was less damaging than it might have been.

But the buying frenzy significantly depleted stock levels and, as a result, many food and FMCG companies are looking for ways to consolidate empty warehouse space and reconfigure their storage systems to reduce overall storage costs and prepare for the future business environment.

With consumer spending power likely to be significantly reduced as the economic shockwaves from the lockdown reverberate around the world, food and FMCG companies must take steps to organise themselves now if they are going to have the right warehouse infrastructure cost base in place to meet future trading conditions.

Through its Warehouse Systems Division, Narrow Aisle works with 3PL, food and FMCG companies to update and transform existing facilities to significantly improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. 

We provide a free survey of a site’s potential storage capacity together with CAD drawings and an overall appraisal of the operation. Our aim is to develop the most efficient and cost-effective system for the client’s and their customers’ needs.

And, with their ability to operate in much narrower aisleways  by articulating up to 220 degrees and lift pallet loads to heights of over 14 metres,  Flexi articulated lift trucks manufactured and supplied by Narrow Aisle are ideal for food and FMCG companies that are looking to consolidate storage space.

Flexis can save warehouse operators at least 30 per cent of their storage costs. Furthermore, the truck’s design allows it to unload pallets from road vehicles or goods-in marshaling areas and deliver loads directly to the storage racks which can reduce existing handling costs by a further 50 per cent.

If the Flexi’s space saving abilities are combined with a complete re-configuration of the storage system to improve, say, customer order picking techniques, an existing food or FMCG warehouse operation can be transformed to meet the demands of post-lockdown market conditions and save many thousands of pounds in the process.

The Flexi Smart Stop System is an ‘in-aisle sensor’ that immediately disables a Flexi articulated truck if its chassis comes in to contact with an object, such as a pallet load, racking or rack guards within the aisle.

Developed by Narrow Aisle’s in-house team of software engineers, the unique Smart Stop System causes the truck’s drive system to lock out if a Flexi touches a load or rack while turning in an aisle. The truck can only be restarted once the driver has reported details of the collision to the designated line manager, thus ensuring that no incident goes unreported. 

The ‘touch sensitive’ technology has been used extensively as a safety system in the elevated work platform market, where the ability to detect impact at ground level is critical for machines that operate up to over 20 metres high.

The Flexi Smart Stop System is offered for use with the latest Flexi ACiON range of articulated forklift trucks, which have precise digital control over all drive and hydraulic and steering functions.

John Maguire, managing director of Narrow Aisle, comments: “Damage to racking and products caused by forklifts recklessly driven in and around the warehouse or distribution centre continues to cost companies thousands of pounds each year.

“With warehouses under pressure to meet throughput targets, it is important to make the operator’s job as easy as possible which is why the new Flexi ACiON has been developed to be one of the most straightforward trucks to operate on the market. Now the availability of Smart Stop makes one of the world’s most driver-friendly lift trucks even easier and safer to operate.”