Flexi trucks help 3PL with storage density and cross-docking
21 August 2017
Leading 3PL Expect Distribution took on more Flexi trucks to help with a warehouse expansion. The versatile trucks carry out narrow aisle work and help load and unload trailers in the cross-dock operation.
Expect Distribution operates around 300,000 sq ft of modern warehousing and distribution space across strategically located sites in West Yorkshire.
The company’s high quality facilities – in Halifax and Bradford – provide storage for a diverse variety of products ranging from medical supplies and foodstuffs to industrial equipment.
As part of a major investment programme, Expect recently announced the completion of a 20,000 sq ft, expansion to its warehouse and head office facility in Bradford.
The extra space was essential to enable the company to keep pace with the growing demand for its range of logistics services and the extension provides enough high quality warehousing to allow an additional 2200 pallets to be stored at the site.
“We have seen a big increase in demand for our warehousing services and the expansion gives us the ability to meet that demand as well as cater for our existing customers’ requirements,” explains Expect Distribution’s storage warehouse manager, Chris Ramsden.
When planning the layout of the original pallet store, Expect chose to make maximum use of the additional space and optimise throughput efficiency by specifying a narrow aisle storage system based on Flexi articulated warehouse trucks. As this strategy has proved to be reliable, cost effective and efficient, when it came to planning the new extension, Expect decided to increase the size of their existing fleet of Flexi articulated forklift trucks.
Expect were committed to narrow aisle storage but because a large part of the company’s business involves cross docking (Expect Distribution is one of the largest inputters of freight into the Palletline network) it was important to select a truck that could function efficiently and safely in all areas of the warehousing operation.
Chris Ramsden explains: “We needed trucks that would allow us to optimise storage density while at the same time permit fast and efficient individual pallet accessibility - which can become a problem with many other truck-based high density storage systems.
“Having operated Flexi trucks for a number of years, we were in no doubt that Flexi articulated forklift truck technology represented the best materials handling solution for us.”
Following a period of close consultation between key personnel from Expect and the warehouse planning team at Narrow Aisle Ltd the optimum aisle width for the extended store was agreed.
While Flexi trucks can pick up and turn pallets in aisles as narrow as 1.6 metres wide, in applications like Expect where high throughputs need to be achieved and faster travel speeds are required, the speed at which a truck can efficiently operate in the aisleways is more important than the need to achieve the narrowest aisleways.
But, even when setting the aisles 200mm wider than the minimum width, the Flexis are still in excess of 25% more space efficient for Expect than conventional moving mast reach trucks.
As the site is a multi user facility, Expect do assemble some customer orders within the racking – the Flexis do pick many full pallet loads or, if part load picks of several boxes or layers are required, the Flexi trucks can drop a pallet from its storage location and deliver it to a marshaling area where orders are made up, before quickly returning the load directly to its original location within the store.
All of the pallet put away and picking within the racking is undertaken by the Flexis while the job of unloading and loading incoming and departing trailers in the yard is shared between the Flexi articulated trucks and a fleet of counterbalanced trucks.
“The Flexi’s ability to unload incoming trailers like a counterbalance machine and serve our narrow aisle racking means we reduce double handling,” says Chris Ramsden.
“The Flexi trucks allow us to maximise storage capacity while maintaining a safe and productive operation that allows fast and efficient pallet put away and retrieval cycles and to provide an order picking assembly facility for our customers who need that service.”
The trucks have been provided on an inclusive contract rental package that means all planned maintenance, safety inspections and repairs are included in one fixed monthly rental charge.
John Maguire, commercial director of Narrow Aisle, commented: "We are delighted that Expect has once again chosen our proven and reliable Flexi truck technology as the ideal intralogistics solution for the company's materials handling needs.
“The Flexi truck is popular among logistics service providers who need to maximise storage density and require safe and efficient throughput and Expect recognise the benefits that articulated truck technology brings to their operation."