Leading food retailer Iceland has created more space for parking lift trucks, enlarged its maintenance area and eliminated manual handling by introducing advanced batteries and related equipment from Hawker EnerSys for
the latest fleet of warehouse trucks at its Swindon distribution centre. The changes have improved the overall efficiency of the truck fleet and reduced downtime due to slow manual battery changes. The batteries were chosen for their combination of high performance and low overall footprint which has allowed Iceland to achieve its two principal objectives.
“Hawker listened carefully to what we were trying to achieve and gave us a unique solution using standard components within our budget which created the free space we needed,” says Ray Lifton, the site's technical services
The Swindon distribution centre incorporates frozen, chilled and ambient storage and was Iceland's first purpose-built warehouse when it open 12 years ago. It serves a large area of the south and south west and delivers
more than 700,000 cases a week, peaking at nearer a million in the busiest pre-Christmas period, to over 230 stores. Business is booming again after a number of business and management changes in recent years. The company has
seen massive sales growth during 2006 but this impacts on the warehousing operations which need to be reliable and efficient to ensure that stock reaches the shelves on time.
Iceland has replaced its lift truck fleet regularly. When it was going through its most recent selection process at the end of 2005 the company identified a number of objectives. In addition to enhancing efficiency of lift truck operations it wanted to improve the overall performance of its batteries, eliminate manual handling during battery changes and free up space in the charge and change area.
“Our main target was to create more space for parking trucks not in use and to improve the maintenance area used by the on-site mechanical handling
equipment engineers,” says Ray Lifton. “We wanted to eliminate parking in aisles and other working parts of the warehouse.”
The only realistic option was to reconfigure the existing maintenance and charging area to reduce the space used by the batteries and chargers. The
company recognised that some form of battery automation would help it achieve its objectives but decided against a fully automated battery charge and change system because this would mean using a dedicated member of staff
to oversee the operation. Instead it opted for a semi-automatic solution which eliminated manual handling with drivers being responsible for changing their own batteries.
In addition to placing a priority on its choice of lift truck Iceland put a lot of effort into battery specification. It had experienced a number of battery failures on its previous fleet, especially with heavily used powered pallet transporters and wanted to reduce this risk with the new trucks. Iceland selected Hawker EnerSys to supply batteries for the new fleet after
consulting with the truck manufacturer and assessing the market. Hawker supplied a total of 135 of its Perfect Plus batteries as well as chargers
and special handling equipment to assist with changing to support the new fleet of 68 BT Rolatruc warehouse trucks. The delivery of the trucks and batteries were phased over the end of 2005 and start of 2006 to minimise
disruption to ongoing warehouse operations.
Getting the most out of batteries in freezing and cold conditions is always difficult. Iceland had noticed that in its previous fleet the batteries in powered pallet transporters were failing before those in low level order
pickers. Analysis showed that although all the trucks were heavily used, the powered pallet transporters were driving for much more of the time than the
low level order pickers. For the new fleet Iceland – in conjunction with the truck manufacturer BT Rolatruc – specified the same batteries for both types of truck to promote flexibility and inter-changeability to help prolong
their overall working life.
Hawker designed the battery charge and change area to meet Iceland's objectives of creating more space and promoting safer and more efficient working practices. The batteries for the powered pallet transporters and low level order pickers have to be placed in the trucks the right way round so that the their electrical connections are correctly orientated. The easiest
way to ensure this was to introduce a one way driving system in the charging area so that the truck always approaches the charging station with the
battery facing the right way. This had an additional advantage of creating a safer and more efficient flow of trucks in the area where there are frequent
and multiple movements. The new batteries are smaller, narrower and taller than the units they replaced which means that overall they take up much less space. Careful design of the charging area, with chargers wall and rack
mounted above the batteries, increased the density of units to minimise the overall footprint.
Hawker supplied a new battery car system to facilitate simple changing. When a truck needs a new battery it drives into the charging area following the
one way system. This also orientates the truck into the correct position relative to the batteries. The battery car moves alongside the truck, retrieves the depleted battery and pushes in a fully-charged replacement.
The whole process takes just a couple of minutes. Iceland specified the optional outer guide rail for the battery car to help reduce damage from impact by lift trucks.
“The new batteries take up much less space,” says Ray Lifton. “With the new equipment and our new procedures battery changing is easier and quicker.”
For the BT Rolatruc reach trucks Iceland selected a different but equally simple and effective solution. Manual changing of batteries weighing around
1300kg was no longer and option and the push/pull change mechanism on the individual trucks in the previous fleet had not been entirely successful.
Instead, Hawker recommended its Tugger unit which can be fitted onto a conventional powered pallet transporter or similar lift truck. When a reach
truck needs a fresh battery it drives into the charge area where the Tugger unit can be used to retrieve the depleted battery and place it into the free
battery charge location. A fully charged unit is then placed back on the reach truck.
There are two major benefits from this approach. First, the battery charge area is minimised because only one free charging location is required to accommodate the battery being taken off the reach truck. In many conventional battery charge areas each battery has a free space next to it so that the truck can drive up, make the change and drive off but this adds to the overall space used. The second benefit is that the Tugger can position its platform precisely to the correct height alongside the reach truck so that retrieval and placement is smooth to reduce the risk of damage to battery or truck. One of the major problems with conventional roll on/roll off battery changing is achieving the correct alignment of the truck and charging station platform. Tyre wear, for example, can lower the truck height enough to make it very difficult to roll the battery on and off.
“The Tugger provides an ideal solution for changing our reach truck batteries which minimises the overall area without affecting the ability to work safely and quickly,” says Ray Lifton.
All the batteries have Hawker Smartech three phase, high frequency chargers. These take power more evenly from the mains to promote energy efficiency.
Overall the batteries use less water and Iceland has installed a
purification plant to produce its own supplies and reduce costs even
Lift truck operators have been instructed to change batteries only when they have reached a specific depletion level. This helps prolong the working life
of the batteries by minimising the risk of the so called “memory effect”. Iceland decided it did not need the sophistication of a managed battery
rotation system and operators are free to choose from any fully charged unit. Over time, the company expects, batteries will be used across different trucks and on operating cycles which will help maintain their
projected charge over a long working life.
The overall effect of the introduction of the new batteries is that the charge and change area is much tidier and better organised. The reduced
footprint of the equipment has created new space which is being used to park trucks not in use or awaiting maintenance. The same area is now also used
for parking ancillary equipment such as floor sweepers. The maintenance area has been enlarged and reconfigured so that engineers can work away from
moving trucks. Careful positioning of the entrance has eliminated the risk
of a truck driving direct into working areas.
“Having a dedicated area makes it possible to look after the trucks better, says Ray Lifton. “We have more room and it is safer.”
Hawker is the widely-recognised Motive Power brand of EnerSys, a leading supplier of batteries, chargers and services. EnerSys is the world leader in stored energy solutions for industrial applications. EnerSys manufactures
and distributes batteries, chargers, power equipment, and battery accessories to customers worldwide. The company also provides aftermarket and customer support services to its customers from over 100 countries
through its sales and manufacturing locations around the world.
More information on Hawker can be found at: www.enersys-hawker.com
More information regarding EnerSys can be found at www.enersys.com.