Established in 1993, Suffolk-based Store-It-All operates in excess of 50,000 sq ft of shared user warehousing space within which anything from ambient temperature foodstuffs to electronic components and garden supplies is stored for a broad range of clients.
In addition, Store It All provides a specialist archive facility for storage of documents and other records that, while not currently required, must be held safely for either future commercial or statutory reasons.
Faced with growing demand for its services, Store It All undertook a review of the materials handling process at its Lowestoft facility. "Quite simply we needed more space," explains Charles Watt, founder and managing director of the company.
Having considered its options, the company decided that the easiest and most efficient way of creating the extra pallet positions required was to reconfigure its storage cube around narrow aisles served by articulated forklift trucks. After an evaluation of the articulated trucks on the market, Store-It-All specified Flexi G4 from Narrow Aisle.
"The move to Flexi trucks allowed us to increase our overall storage capacity by almost one third," says Charles Watt. "Before, we had approximately 3,000 racked pallet spaces. By adopting a narrow aisle system our volume has grown to over 4,000.
Store It All now operates a fleet of three electric-powered Flexi trucks and two counterbalanced machines. 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 Flexis and the counterbalanced trucks.
Charles Watt, a former chairman of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA), is quick to recognise the operational benefits his company has gained by switching to articulated truck technology and a narrow aisle warehouse layout.
"Unless there is a reason for storing things in wider aisles – such as, perhaps, because the items stored are bulky or an unusual shape – I can’t see why any warehouse operator would choose to have conventional storage and trucks," he says. "The space saving and operational efficiencies that we have achieved by introducing narrow aisle storage served by Flexi articulated trucks are simply overwhelming."
Due to the high throughput demanded by its clients, Store It All operates a 12 hour shift five days a week, while at weekends the warehouse is working from six in the morning until two in the afternoon. On a busy day, 500 incoming and outgoing pallets pass through the site. This schedule makes it essential that all of the trucks in the company’s fleet are reliable, and that, in the event of a truck breakdown, the truck supplier offers is able to provide high standards of after sales support to ensure that downtime is kept to an absolute minimum.
"We’re located in the most easterly town in England which is perfect for the container Port of Felixstowe and the Port of Yarmouth but isn’t the easiest place to get to," says Charles Watt. "However, while problems with the trucks have been few, when they have gone down, the Narrow Aisle engineer has arrived at our site very quickly and invariably the problem has been fixed straight away."
Narrow Aisle Flexi developed and launched the Flexi articulated truck in the 1980s and since then the Flexi has become the most popular articulated forklift truck in Europe. Over 4000 units – not only in Europe but throughout the world – have been sold, and over the past five years the Flexi range has been developed to cover the requirements of customers operating in hugely diverse industries.
Although Narrow Aisle Flexi’s clients are involved in the storage and handling of many different products they all share at least one common aim: the need to maximize efficiency within their storage operation by making the most of the space that is available.
With their ability to operate in aisleways as narrow as 1.6 metres and lift pallet loads to heights of over 12 metres, Flexis can save warehouse operators at least 30 per cent of their storage costs – as Store It All has discovered.
"Nobody can afford to overlook these kind of savings and the rapid return on investment that Flexis can bring to any logistics operation," says Narrow Aisle Flexi’s sales and marketing director, John Maguire.
"We specified the Flexi G4 based on its reputation for being easy to drive and the fact that other logistics operators that I spoke to confirmed the quality and long term reliability of the product as well as the consistently high levels of after-sales support that Narrow Aisle provides," says Charles Watt.
Charles Watt is now such a supporter of the Narrow Aisle Flexi brand, that he encouraged the company that operates out of the facility adjacent to Store It All’s site – Harrod, one of the UK’s premier manufacturers of sports ground and playground equipment – to invest in a articulated truck of their own. "Our neighbours saw our Flexis working outside our site and were intrigued," Charles recalls. "I was happy to invite them in to take a look and once they’d seen them in action it wasn’t long before they contacted Narrow Aisle to place an order! We have seen their Flexi working and they are as happy with theirs as we are with ours."