Since the beginning of 2007 leading paper merchant Antalis has been rationalising its warehouse truck fleet to standardise on just two suppliers, including Atlet. During this time Atlet has delivered over 70 trucks to various sites throughout the UK and worked with Antalis to improve overall fleet performance with lower overall cost of ownership, reduced downtime through a combination of full-service and preventative maintenance and aligned truck provision with operational requirements.
“We want our suppliers to be partners and our relationship with Atlet is excellent,” says Robert Potter, Central Distribution & Service Manager at Antalis. “”Atlet is customer-focused and dynamic; they offered the best fit with the most appropriate product and service at the most appropriate price.”
Antalis is the largest European supplier of communications support materials including print and office paper, visual communication, packaging & promotional products. Formed in 2000 through the merger of some of the industry's best known names, the company has 19 sites in the UK including the 250,000ft2 head office and central distribution centre at Interlink, Coalville and large facilities in Leeds, Livingston and Dartford.
Towards the end of 2006 a number of lift trucks in use at Interlink were coming up for renewal. A review of operations took into account leasing arrangements, truck utilisation and other factors and led Antalis to identify a requirement for two suppliers. The company wanted to widen its options and introduce a competitive element to its lift truck supply process.
“We decided to go with Atlet and one other supplier,” says Robert Potter. “During the selection process Atlet was more innovative in addressing our requirements.”
The first result from this new relationship was that during 2007 Atlet supplied 35 trucks for use at Interlink, almost half the total number currently on site, low and mid-level order pickers, powered pallet transporters and a specially designed battery changeover solution. A further 36 trucks have been supplied to the other sites and form an increasing proportion of the overall fleet of almost 180. Although the handling requirement at each site is broadly the same, the precise mix of trucks is different. Most of the smaller sites have a reach truck, a counterbalance truck and some powered pallet transporters.
The majority of items have been supplied on a seven year lease although some flexibility has been used to allow Antalis to change heavily used trucks, such as powered pallet transporters, more frequently. A few items have been supplied on secondary leases to provide additional temporary capacity and allow buying cycles to be brought in line with business requirements.
“Atlet provides value for money,” says Robert Potter. “They have been attentive to our needs on delivery schedules and supplied trucks at the precise times we stipulated.”
Antalis was keen to implement service procedures that were aligned with its business requirements. With these strict performance targets the trucks need to be available at all times. Working together Antalis and Atlet decided that Interlink should be covered by a full service maintenance contract while a preventative maintenance regime would be appropriate for the other sites.
An Atlet engineer visits Interlink every day to carry out routine and scheduled maintenance tasks. Additional visits can be made at any time to deal with unforeseen issues. With the preventative maintenance employed at other sites, Atlet uses its experience and information from diagnostic computers to maintain the trucks and replace failing components before they impact on performance. Tasks are completed at scheduled times to eliminate or minimise disruption to ongoing operations. This is an important consideration in warehouses where there are small fleets and little or no spare capacity to cope with unexpected truck outages.
“Atlet offered lower full life cost, based on preventative maintenance,” says Robert Potter. “I don't get any negative feedback on maintenance from any of the sites.”
When a piece of equipment is scheduled for renewal, Antalis approaches both potential suppliers and asks for suggestions. Although the process may seem straightforward, Atlet occasionally offers something different. For example, when the trucks in Scotland needed replacing Antalis assumed that both suppliers would propose a like-for-like switch for the existing low level order pickers and pedestrian pallet transporters. Instead Atlet suggested powered pallet transporters to cover the entire operation to provide uniformity in terms of operations and service with lower overall costs.
“Atlet has been very creative at tailoring the fleet to our needs and challenging the existing solution,” says Robert Potter. “In Scotland Atlet was prepared to do itself out of some potential business by suggesting the solution that was best for us.”
The supply chain model employed by Antalis means that the Interlink central distribution warehouse is critical to the company's ability to meet its delivery targets and the performance of the other sites. The majority of items in the warehouse are paper, card, packaging or foam based products. Most items are stored in conventional pallet racking but the nature of the business means that fast moving stock lines and oversized items are often bulk or block stacked. This demands a degree of handling and picking flexibility which leads to the requirement for different types of truck. Picking is normally completed at first or second level using the low and medium level order pickers in conjunction with the powered pallet transporters. Reach and high level order picking trucks are used for general handling, replenishment and high level stock movements.
As part of its overall service Atlet provides Antalis with statistics on truck utilisation and performance, taken from the trucks' on board computers and service histories. This enables both parties to hold regular review meetings to assess whether the trucks in use are the most appropriate for the requirement and if changes would deliver some benefit. Although the relationship is relatively new, this process has already enabled Antalis to align truck provision more closely with the operational requirements at a number of sites.
“Atlet's key account manager has been excellent with the right balance of contact,” says Robert Potter. “Invoicing is accurate and attentive and the support from customer service is very good. If we ask them a question they get back very promptly and thoroughly.”
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