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Getrag Ford Transmissions gear up with Interroll Dynamic Storage

24 October 2014

Interroll recently installed a Dynamic Storage system at the Liverpool factory of Getrag Ford Transmissions.

As part of major investments being made at the Halewood plant of Getrag FordTransmissions, a decision was taken to centralise and store palletised parts closer to the production lines in racking fitted with Interroll Pallet Flow. The new Interroll Pallet Flow system provides space and energy saving FIFO (First-In-First-Out) storage for a total of 228 pallet positions in rack structure 4 pallets deep, three tiers high with 19 lanes. 

Neil Hodgkinson, contract Manufacturing Engineer at Getrag Ford Transmissions headed up this project to improve parts storage as part of a wider lean logistics project to centralise logistics operations within the plant. In discussion he confirmed its success saying, "The new Interroll Pallet Flow system has been located closer to our production area and has provided compact, space saving cubic storage, enabling identical products to be grouped in the same lane and bays. This in turn simplifies location and order picking of parts to support production of some 1,600 to 2,000 gearboxes daily.”

Getrag is the world’s largest independent supplier of transmissions and drive systems for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles with around 13,250 employees spread across 24 sites. 

In 2001, Getrag Ford Transmissions was established as a joint venture with the Ford Motor Company, with Getrag taking responsibility for the operational management of employees at six European sites producing manual, automatic and dual clutch transmissions.

Since then, this successful joint venture business model has been rolled out to the Asian markets, where the organisation has expanded production facilities and now employs some 4,400 employees and manufactures over 900,000 transmissions a year.

Interroll Dynamic Storage modules proven on the test track

From originally block storing palletised products, the challenge for Interroll came in the way of handling a mixture of both plastic and wooden pallets of various sizes, with different base configurations and weights. This ranged from Euro pallets 800mm x 1200mm, to UK pallets 1000mm x 1200mm and Plastic pallets with bases featuring 3 runners through to those designed with 9 raised plastic moulded feet - all carrying weights from 600kg up to 1000kg. Therefore, it was essential for Interroll to accurately identify the correct dynamic modular specifications to provide smooth, controlled and even pallet movement. 

To ensure trouble free operation and longevity installation with the highest safety levels, a selection of customer pallets were forwarded to the Interroll Centre of Excellence for Dynamic Storage in La Roche sur Yon in France, where trials were carried out in Interroll’s test studio. In order to provide the optimum solution, Interroll carried out trials on roller test tracks under controlled conditions, at an ambient temperature, whilst conveying the customer’s individual pallet types and loads. These tests took into account the gradient of the slope, the controlled speed of descent, online separation and restart of standing pallet loads.

The final test solution resulted in each lane being designed with 60mm diameter rollers at a 78mm pitch and Interroll’s latest Safety Separator incorporating a Time Plus function, which ensures the safety of the operators and facilitates ease of operation. On lifting the first pallet to remove it from the order picking face, there is a time delay before the separation device releases the next pallet in line. This gives the forklift truck driver all the necessary time to unload the pallet safely before the second pallet is released. 

Interroll Speed Controllers keep the pallet at 0.3m/s constant speed whatever the pallet weight. In order to control the speed of all the different pallets in this system a special configuration had to be adopted for plastic pallets. Each roller was knurled in three strategic positions across the width in order to provide a positive surface grip and control the speed until the end stop. This worked perfectly with all pallet materials, but as the knurling could shave the surface of wooden pallets, scheduled maintenance and cleaning of the systems was recommended to the customer.

A positive experience wins the day

This positive experience gained through working with Interroll during testing and evolving of a successful Dynamic Storage solution, motivated Getrag Ford Transmissions to entrust Interroll to work closely with Planned Storage Systems, who were appointed to supply the rack support structure finished to the customer’s specified special colours. 

Following the installation and commissioning in March 2014, Interroll undertook a series of onsite training sessions to instruct all relevant Getrag Ford Transmissions operatives and provide them with a working brief of the module components. These informative sessions covered how key components work, safety issues, loading techniques including positioning of truck masts at 4% and unloading with Interroll Time Plus Separator, etc.

All the FIFO lanes from Interroll were fitted with rollers 1250mm wide to future proof the system, should at any stage 1200mm x 1200mm wooden pallets be introduced to the system. Within weeks of installation, this has already proved to be a most forward thinking consideration as these wooden pallet sizes are now appearing in the supply chain.

Within the project specification, the load bearing requirements were included for supporting the new dynamic storage racking and as the designated floor area was tiled, Getrag Ford involved consulting engineers PSA Design to undertake a structural survey of the area and take core samples for examination. The core crush tests proved the tiled area to be a sixth of the strength of the solid area and as a result of their recommendations, foot loading plates were used to spread the load of each rack leg.

Neil Hodgkinson again: "There are many other benefits that can be attributed to the new system, such as FIFO that provides accurate stock rotation of parts and ensures that first deliveries are always used first. As this is a very fast moving industry with innovative designs and developments being introduced on a regular basis, it is important that we constantly use stock on a ‘first-in-first-out’ basis, to ensure parts are not superseded and stock becomes redundant and written off as waste scrap. Also, fork lift truck movements are much reduced as the racking is confined within clearly marked areas of operation, which supports the very high standards of safety as demanded within Getrag Ford Transmissions plants.

At the beginning of this project to centralise incoming parts, the concept of pallet flow storage was an appealing project but offered a number of challenges and needed expert support. With many variants in pallet construction, size, materials and weights – we went to Interroll Centre of Excellence for Dynamic Storage in France with many unanswered questions and came back with a solution! 

The installation was completed to our satisfaction and I can confirm that the feedback is very encouraging from our Logistics Team who view this as a positive development.”