The need to maximise storage density and increase handling efficiency were the main reasons G's Beetroot chose a combination of double deep racking and Atlet XTF ride-on pallet stackers for the new warehouse at its processing plant in March, Cambridgeshire. The facility was built to replace and expand an existing building that utilised inefficient drive-in racking which was no longer suitable for the demands of the successful and expanding business.
“We used to spend 30 to 40 per cent of the time handling products in the drive-in racking but with double deep this has reduced dramatically,” says Wayne Marshall, Despatch Manager at G's Beetroot. “The Atlet trucks were the most durable, ergonomic and easy-to-use of the ones I saw.”
Part of G's Marketing, the family owned business established in the 1950s by
Guy Shropshire, G's Beetroot is the UK's largest producer of cooked beetroot products, supplying most of the leading supermarket chains as well as numerous independent retailers and caterers. The company has developed a number of innovative, gourmet and organic products in recent years and the red rooted vegetable has become increasingly popular with consumers as they learn more about its healthy benefits. G's Beetroot owns farms in the UK and abroad, allowing it to offer “field to plate” products throughout the year.
The March processing plant was opened in 2001 after G's had bought a local producer. Here beetroot products are cooked, peeled and packed in a variety of fresh and vacuum packaging. Continued expansion and further acquisitions, which resulted in relocation of additional operations to the site, meant that the existing warehousing provision was no longer adequate.
The company decided to erect a new building which opened in September 2006 and this supplies up to 500 pallets a week to its major customers. Making sure the storage and handling operation was efficient was a key consideration when planning the new warehouse.
G's settled on double deep racking at an early stage in the planning of the new building. The previous warehouse had been equipped with drive-in racking but stock rotation was poor. G's recognised that too much time was being spent handling pallets simply to retrieve products for order picking. Double deep racking, where a second pallet is placed behind the one at the front so that both can be accessed from the same aisle, offered an excellent way to maximise storage density without unduly compromising load selectivity.
“The most important requirement was to make the most efficient use of space and get as many pallets as possible into the storage areas,” says Wayne Marshall. “We decided on double deep with narrow aisles because this allowed more racks and pallets in the available space.”
The choice of truck was an important part of the overall solution and the racking supplier recommended Atlet because of the manufacturer's reputation for providing effective double deep solutions. G's naturally looked at other potential suppliers but selected the Atlet XTF extending fork pallet stacker after visiting reference sites and assessing a number of options.
“With Atlet we got a lot more truck for what we were paying,” says Wayne Marshall. “For example, these trucks have on-board cameras with colour screens but the other suppliers were offering a lower spec.”
Double deep offered the prospect of handling pallets much less frequently than with drive-in racking. Half the pallets can be handled immediately while loads stored in the rear row can be accessed with just one extra handling movement. The on-board cameras are important because they provide truck drivers with a view of the fork and load. They are especially useful when placing and retrieving pallets at the rear rows of the higher racking beams because the view to these locations is normally obscured from ground level. With a clearer view the drivers can work safely, and with greater precision.
“The time taken to place and retrieve pallets with the aid of the camera is reduced,” says Wayne Marshall. “Overall we spend much less time moving pallets about just to get at what we need.”
The Atlet XTF extending fork lift truck is an ideal choice for warehouses where space is at a premium. Its compact design allows aisle width to be minimised without compromising overall performance. Unlike a conventional reach truck the forks, rather than the carriage, extend to place and retrieve pallets. The truck can handle pallets weighing up to 1000kg into the rear row of the tallest racking, at 5.4m in this warehouse.
The new warehouse has been configured with double deep racking along the central aisles with single deep against the walls. Ground level pallets are supported on a low beam under which the truck's straddle legs can pass while the forks handle the load. G's calculated that the Atlet XTF would allow aisles only three metres wide when a counterbalance truck would require at least four. The trucks are used throughout the warehouse, handling supplies such as packaging, punnets and labels as well as pallets of finished product. Orders are picked by individual tray, case or pallet depending on the product and customer.
“There's more room to manoeuvre in the store than with a counterbalance truck,” says Wayne Marshall. “These trucks have a fully adjustable seat, console and armrest. The crew are on them for up to eight hours and they need to be comfortable.”
In addition to the ergonomic features which fit in well with G's health and safety policy the trucks have an advanced on-board computer which also supports responsible
operations. PIN access control, for example, ensures
authorised drivers must enter their unique code before they can operate the truck. The trucks' impact detection system works in conjunction with the on-board computer to record information such as time, truck speed, position of forks and orientation of steering wheel when something out of the ordinary occurs. Damage to racking has reduced
significantly, according to
G's, because drivers now understand that they might be identified.
Some six months after the warehouse became fully operational G's was well
placed to comment on its overall impression of the new trucks and the support it had received from Atlet.
“There was good customer support from pre-installation to going live,” says Wayne Marshall. “The salesman we dealt with saw it through from end to end. The trucks were delivered on time and worked right from the start with the shock impact sensor set just the way we wanted.”
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