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Castle Metals Aerospace, CMA takes delivery of customised high level order picker from Jungheinrich

Castle Metals Aerospace (CMA) is one of the world’s leading suppliers of high performance metals to the aircraft, aerospace and defence industries.
The company operates nine strategically located full-service stocking and processing facilities throughout North America, Europe, and Asia where a wide variety of aluminum, titanium, stainless steel and specialty steel products are stocked. These facilities are supported by over 40 processing and stocking locations worldwide. In the UK Castle Metal operates three such sites – at Blackburn in Lancashire and Hoddesdon and Letchworth in Hertfordshire.

The Letchworth site holds over 70,000 different line items ranging from large sheets of titanium to 12 metre lengths of aluminium extrusion and steel tubing and bars. In fact, Nick Rowe, Warehouse Supervisor for the facility, is only half joking when he says it would be possible to put together a small aircraft with the metal stored there.

Castle Metals’ clients include British Airways, Saab, Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier Shorts and the site operates an Aircraft On Ground service {AOG} 24 hours a day, seven days week. "It costs up to £5K an hour to keep an aircraft on the tarmac so if we get an urgent order it’s important that we get metals out within an hour," says Nick Rowe.

Daily deliveries go directly to the clients’ facilities where the metal sheet, tube and extrusion is usually machined to form aircraft parts. The client sites are often close to major airports – British Airways, for example, have extensive MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facilities at Heathrow and around the country where the metal is utilized in the repair and overhaul of its fleet. These facilities are fed material from BA’s central hub in Heathrow to which Castle deliver every day.

Specialist metals arrive at the Letchworth store from mills all over the world and, given that each incoming item will ultimately become an aircraft part, stringent quality control processes are an essential part of the goods-in process. All incoming loads therefore go through a comprehensive system of checks to ensure that both the quantity and quality of the product are as they should be.

When it comes to quality testing, warehouse staff – who are trained to understand the chemical composition of the all the metals that pass through the site – undertake a series of ultra-thorough mechanical, chemical, conductivity and hardness studies. Any pieces that do not make the grade go into stillages where they are collected before being sold as scrap to specialist metals recycling companies.

Castle Metals operate a comprehensive computerized warehouse management system and once the incoming metal products have passed each quality check they are allocated a storage position and transferred into the stock holding area.

The 32,000 sq ft storage facility features a combination of 8metre high cantilever racking for the storage of sheet metal and specially designed 5m high racking which is divided into a series of ‘pigeon holes.’ Measuring some 1200mm wide and 300mm high but with a depth of 6000mm, these ‘pigeonholes’ house lengths of steel tube and bar.

To improve the put away and picking of steel tubing and lengths of metal bar from the pigeon hole racking at the store, Castle Metals recently took delivery of a high level order picker from Jungheinrich. The machine – an EKS308 – has been specially modified with the addition of a preformed box unit at the side of the truck to allow loads to be easily handled by the warehouse staff.

Before the arrival of the new forklift, Castle Metals’ staff had used steps to reach the highest levels of the racking and had manually handled the orders from the racking location on to the raised forks of a waiting counterbalance truck. Although Castle Metals has an excellent safety record, the combination of steps and a counterbalance forklift presented a number of health and safety concerns but also made picking and putting away uncomfortable for the warehouse staff. Productivity and storage efficiency at the facility had also suffered because the old system was not only slow but did not allow the full height of the racking within the store to be utilised.

Now warehouse operators can pick and put away the awkward metal tubing and bars at heights of up to 8 metres safely and efficiently and Castle Metals has been able to reconfigure parts of the store to allow the full capacity of the warehouse racking to be used.

The new truck has proved popular with forklift operators – who also drive the mixed fleet of sideloaders and counterbalance trucks at the Letchworth facility – while the design and build quality of the new truck has impressed Nick Rowe.

He commented: "Our requirements were not particularly straightforward but Jungheinrich’s design engineers came up with a truck that perfectly suits our needs and the new truck will help us to continue to meet the demands of clients now and in the future."

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