Business supplies wholesaler Kingfield Heath estimates that the switch to Atlet warehouse trucks has already saved more than £17,000 at its Lutterworth distribution centre. The replacement programme was designed to improve performance and reliability. Kingfield Heath also took the opportunity to reorganise its battery facilities and, working with Atlet, has consolidated operations into a dedicated “Energy Centre” which occupies less space, has improved management processes and eliminated manual handling.
“Atlet worked with us, listened to what we wanted and came up with a brilliant proposal,” says John Farnath, Goods-in Manager. “Their initial
presentation was the best we saw and very professional.”
Formed during the 1990s by the merger of two established office supplies companies, Kingfield Heath can trace its origins to the 1850s. The company is one of the country's largest wholesalers of office products, computer consumables and business machines with growing facilities management
capabilities. The Lutterworth distribution centre and eight regional warehouses serve customers in the UK and Ireland.
The company reviewed its lift truck operations during 2006 in preparation for scheduled replacement in 2007. It approached major manufacturers, including Atlet, with a number of objectives for the new fleet including improved performance, increased reliability and better health and safety. The company recognised that overall service offered by its chosen supplier and reorganising battery handling and management would be central to its decision.
“We went to number of reference sites but more importantly the Atlet proposal was exactly what we wanted,” says John Farnath. “Atlet quoted in
line with our expectation. Their proposal was accurate and professional.”
The fleet had grown over the life of the previous contract as the warehouse became busier. Numerous trucks, especially pallet handlers, were on short term rental and Kingfield Heath wanted to ensure the new fleet was aligned and appropriate for its ongoing requirement. The company provided information to Atlet which used its Logistics Analyser application to simulate the operation and support its proposal.
The resulting fleet included a slight increase in the number of VNA and counterbalance trucks to cope with the growing workload. Kingfield Heath also decided to replace pallet tuggers with conventional powered pallet transporters with extended forks for order picking. Ultimately Atlet supplied seven Omni DCR man-rising combination stacker pickers, five ErgoPicker OPS high level order pickers, eleven Forte UHS reach trucks, twelve Presto PLP pallet transporters, seven counterbalance trucks, thirteen
Atlet low level order pickers and two Atlet PLL pedestrian pallet transporters.
One of the main requirements for the new contract was to improve battery handling and management. Charging and changing had previously taken place inside the main warehouse close to loading bays or where the trucks were operating. Kingfield Heath realised this was taking up valuable space that could otherwise be used for storing products and might also present a health and safety hazard because of the proximity to busy working areas. The company also wanted to promote efficiency and safety by eliminating the need for manual handling during battery changes.
Working to Kingfield Heath's overall brief, Atlet proposed consolidating battery operations into a dedicated area known as the Energy Centre. Adjacent to the main warehouse this houses the battery chargers and spare batteries and incorporates space for service engineers to work on trucks. Each truck was supplied with a spare battery and these are changed whenever required.
Atlet configured the Energy Centre with batteries grouped neatly by type in banks either side of short aisles. Chargers are positioned above the battery positions to minimise the overall footprint and ensure convenient operation.
Trucks requiring a battery change are driven to the Energy Centre and reach truck batteries are changed using Atlet's unique 'Powerbed' automatic battery change system in which the drivers change their own batteries in around one minute. The previous system took more than ten minutes per battery change so the difference is marked. “Drivers are more willing to change batteries because its so easy”, said John Farnath ” and we move more pallets per hour as a result.” Counterbalance & VNA trucks are changed with an Atlet 'Batsman' powered battery change device as they are all fitted with battery on rollers. Smaller batteries are changed with a similar device based on a hand pallet truck with a roller bed which requires simple manual
roll-on, roll-off handling.
“We wanted to improve health and safety,” says John Farnath. “There is now no manual handling for larger batteries and with the small ones it's simply a case of rolling them on and off the trucks.”
Some powered pallet transporters only have one battery and are recharged
overnight in locations close to their normal working areas to reduce unnecessary truck movements. Because the batteries are not changed there is no need for these trucks to visit the Energy Centre.
“We evaluated the labour, energy and space costs and estimate that changing the way we handle and manage batteries has already saved us around £14,000,” says Mike Orange, Engineering Manager. “Atlet thought it through and made it happen. This was all down to the planning.”
Kingfield Heath's other objective in changing supplier was to improve the
reliability and servicing of the fleet. The warehouse works round the clock and truck downtime can be expensive and disruptive. Atlet ensures there is a full-time engineer on site to support the fleet but this is only part of the consideration. The company has a long standing commitment to maximising first fix rates and this is in part achieved because all of its trucks are designed around just six chassis types. This minimises the number of potential spares which means service engineers can carry a much larger proportion on their vehicle at all times.
“Availability of spares was a factor because first fix is important to us,” says Mike Orange.
Changing trucks and adopting new battery procedures presented a major challenge because there would be a period when trucks and equipment from the old and new supplier would be in use concurrently.
“One of the reasons we went for Atlet was because they convinced us they would handle the transition better,” says Mike Orange.
The warehouse operates three shifts, five days a week, more during seasonal peaks driven by catalogue launches and other promotions. Incoming pallets are handled using counterbalance trucks before being transferred to storage areas using Atlet Piccolo PLL pedestrian and Presto PLP ride-on powered pallet transporters. The Atlet Forte UHS reach trucks handle loads into wide and narrow aisle racking while order picking is completed using the pallet transporters and the man rising ErgoPicker OPM order picker and Omni DCR combination pallet stacker/order pickers. Wide aisle storage is used for
bulky and slower moving items such as flat packed office furniture while narrow aisles are used for faster moving items which can be picked for immediate despatch. This combination provides Kingfield Heath with the flexibility to pick orders from a single case to a full pallet. Truck mounted terminals and RF scanning is used to manage movement and picking tasks.
“We particularly liked the reach trucks which are good to drive and have kept pace with technology,” says John Farnath. “They have good ergonomics and the S3 stability feature, both of which help promote health and safety – and that's a priority for us.”
The advanced Omni DCR was new to many of Kingfield Heath's drivers but they were soon using it to its maximum potential after a familiarisation period.
Atlet helped with the transition by configuring the performance of the trucks to Kingfield Heath's requirements, for example by setting lower maximum in-aisle and free-ranging speeds, until the drivers were comfortable
using them. This is enabled by the on-board computer management system which
allows parameters to be reset whenever required.
“The top speed of the Omni DCR when the cab is elevated is higher than the previous trucks which means we can get more work done,” says Mike Orange. “During our selection Atlet was the only company to come down and spend time with our drivers to get their feedback.”
The final reason for choosing Atlet was their project management skills. “Changing sixty trucks over is a potential problem, add to that a supplier change and you could have a disaster on your hands,” said Mike Orange. “We needed to be absolutely certain that whoever we chose could handle the job. Atlet convinced us that they could do it and thankfully they exceeded our expectations. The changeover was well planned and well executed.”
The warehouse replenishes eight Kingfield Heath sites in the UK and Ireland. It also completes the entire first day pick for customers in the UK with orders placed before 6.30pm normally delivered next day. The new Atlet fleet is only one part of the materials handling operation in this busy 200,000ft2 warehouse. An adjacent chamber houses a fully automated pick and retrieve system which stores products until they are required in the main warehouse and picking areas. On the opposite side of the warehouse the company has been adding mezzanine floors to expand its picking capabilities.
For product information contact:
Tel: 01844 215501
Fax: 01844 219220