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Everton does the double with Atlet

When Everton Football Club relocated its warehouse operations in early 2004 it needed to store as much as possible in the available space. It turned to Atlet for advice on the best approach and the result was installation of double deep racking and an Atlet XTF extending forks reach truck.

The combination has enabled Everton FC to install 336 pallet locations instead of the168 that would have been possible if conventional racking had been used – an increase of 50 per cent.

“Atlet is more than a supplier,” says a spokesperson at the Everton warehouse. “It's down to the guidance that they have given us that the warehouse is the success it is.”

Football heritage runs deep at Everton. Founded in 1878 the Club is proud of its status as a founder member of the Football League and the inaugural champion in 1891 with eight further championships since. Other records abound – most years in the top flight and all-time season top scorer in the legendary “Dixie” Dean – among them.

In this football-mad city Everton sees itself very much as the “people's club”. Its local derbies against the city's other team across Stanley Park have always been intense and are perhaps typified by the momentous games of the 1980s when the two teams shared numerous league titles and met in FA Cup and League Cup finals. The rivalry has seen renewed intensity with Everton's first qualification for Europe for some time last season just as the other club was winning the continent's premier knock out competition.

And it is good for business too. Like many football clubs the growth in the commercial operations at Everton have been dramatic. The range of souvenirs that fans can buy is simply immense. This is big business and the people that work in the warehouse are rightly proud of their contribution to the success of the club.

Until a couple of years ago the club outsourced its warehouse function to a third party. It subsequently brought operations in-house and opened a warehouse in Speke but by the end of 2003 this was unable to cope with the volume of business so the club looked to move again. A suitable warehouse was found close to Goodison Park and the club looked at its options for storage and materials handling.

The warehouse stores all of the merchandising and souvenirs sold by Everton at its Megastores at Goodison and in Liverpool city centre. The club's mail order and e-commerce fulfilment is also handled from the warehouse. These operations are all growing and the club is not averse to opening new outlets in the future, all of which means that there is increasing need for additional storage and handling capacity. Having previously operated a basic block stacked warehouse the club had no preconceptions about how to manage the new warehouse except that it wanted to minimise costs and maximise storage capacity with provision for growth.

The club discussed its requirements with Matt Hulme, Atlet's materials handling executive in the North West. Atlet recommended double deep racking as the best solution for operations where high storage density is required, items can be handled in bulk and load selectivity is not the priority.

Atlet recommended one of its XTF stand-on extending fork reach trucks. This is the most compact reach truck manufactured by the company and is designed to operate in the narrowest possible aisles, enabling maximum space for the racking. Everton's is not an intensive operation and operators undertake a number of tasks, which means they are on and off the truck throughout the shift. The use of a stand-on truck makes this easier than a sit-on model. Atlet also recommended low profile straddle legs as this allows the bottom beam to be as low as possible, an important consideration in this old building with its low roof trusses, so that the optimum amount of the available space can be used.

Everton decided that an Atlet Series Two truck would be the most cost effective choice. These pre-owned refurbished trucks are popular among customers who cannot justify the cost of a brand new truck – for example where low usage is envisaged – and the savings can be considerable without compromising performance and reliability. Each truck is refurbished to “nearly new” standard from the ground up using only original Atlet parts in the company's engineering workshops in Thame. They are re-sprayed and subjected to rigorous quality assurance and safety checks prior to delivery.

Atlet worked with the racking provider to develop a total solution to Everton's requirements. This meant, in effect, that the club was able to pass the management of the whole project to Atlet. Moving into an older building saved costs but presented some practical problems. Parts of the floor had to be resurfaced and the low height of the pitched roof and the presence of steel trusses meant that careful consideration had to be given to the positioning of some of the racking. Atlet managed the project and worked with the racking supplier to ensure that the installation went smoothly.

“Everton trusted us to come up with a solution,” says Matt Hulme. “They told us what they wanted us to achieve and we worked with the racking supplier to deliver it. We don't just supply the truck.”

The warehouse is configured throughout with double deep Europallet racking on three levels. The full height can be used in every aisle except where a roof truss is above the aisle or racking in which case half-height pallets are used on the top rail. One advantage of this older warehouse is that the floor is above the level of the outside yard. Curtain-side delivery vehicles can thus drive up alongside the doors and the Atlet truck can be used to offload them simply by approaching the door and “reaching” in to handle the pallets.

When the warehouse opened the club was able to consolidate stock previously held at its Megastores, which freed up valuable selling space. For easy management the warehouse is organised into separate zones for souvenirs, Umbro kit, home furnishings and plastics. An order preparation and packing area at the end of the warehouse supports the e-commerce and mail order operations.

The warehouse stocks over 1000 different lines and the club is adding more all of the time to meet fans' seemingly insatiable demand for souvenirs. Like many retail operations there is a seasonal peak leading up to Christmas although an equally busy time of the year occurs during the closed season when the kit for the new campaign becomes available. Fans typically want to be at the first home game in the new kit and demand has to be met by the supply chain. The warehouse team were quick to point out that Everton shirts generally outsell those of their arch rivals. Nothing is conceded in this city when it comes to football.

Although the emphasis at the club is always on the performance on the field the warehouse needs to be ready for rapidly changing circumstances like any other business. For example, when its young superstar Wayne Rooney was sold to Manchester United in August 2004 the club was left with a number of shirts that were no longer of much interest to its fans. The club responded by donating this kit – worth something over £60,000 – to support the work of one of its preferred charities, Cafod, in Liberia. The logistics was naturally managed from the warehouse.

“We can hold more stock, deal with suppliers more easily and work more productively,” says Everton's spokesperson. “And it's now our own operation. The help and advice from Atlet has been second to none.”

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