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Innovative ideas for the food and drink sector at materials handling show

As an event taking place only once every three years, the International Materials Handling Exhibition (IMHX) is a must for all those with responsibility for logistics – and those in the food & drink sector in particular have much to gain from visiting the show.

Taking place from 13-16th March 2007 at the NEC, Birmingham, IMHX will feature over 220 exhibitors and promises to be brimming over with products and ideas to improve materials handling across a whole spectrum of applications. Dubbed 'The Big One' by co-owners BITA (British Industrial Truck Association) and Quartz Publishing and Exhibitions Ltd, IMHX 2007 will span halls 17, 18, 19 and 20, with a total footprint of 45,000m2 and is expected to attract in excess of 17,000 visitors from the UK and overseas.

Novel solutions for the food & drink industry
As ever, the exhibition will feature all the major players in the forklift truck industry, and will also show a wide range of racking & shelving, storage systems, order picking solutions, pallets & containers, health & safety, software solutions, third party logistics, flooring, packaging, financial services and warehousing. Many of the show's exhibitors have supplied products and services to the food & drink sector, with some having developed solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of a particular application or customer.

PPS cooks up a hot idea for bun bakery
IMHX exhibitor PPS Equipment Management Ltd (stand 17S126), was recently asked to find a solution to a problem faced by a major bakery producing hot-cross buns. The buns needed to be supplied to the retailer concerned in crates stacked on wheeled dollies. While some products were sent directly to the retailer, others were sent to the freeze area where crates needed to be stored on pallets in racking. When the goods were required for delivery, the crates had to be loaded back onto dollies, involving double-handling at not inconsiderable cost. Tamworth-based PPS designed and developed its Pallet Adapter that enables transport and storage of wheeled dollies on pallets. Manufactured from ABS plastic, the product is a lightweight but robust pallet lid which features channels suitable for keeping dolly wheels immobile during any pallet movement. The company also cites another example of its products benefiting the food & drink sector recently, when a major UK meat processor decided to switch to PPS returnable plastic crates for outward deliveries, replacing standard cardboard boxes. PPS was able to demonstrate to the customer that the trip cost for its plastic crate – including collection, inspection, washing and on-line tracking – was only 30 pence, compared to a cost of around 40 pence for a one-way cardboard box (excluding disposal costs). The plastic crates also held more meat – 19kg versus 15kg – and, unlike the old boxes, were not susceptible to crushing when stacked high, as each crate features strong bale arms (handles) which support the weight of the crates above.

Galebreaker handles hot potato for crisp manufacturer Walkers
Walkers Snack Foods recently faced a problem that proved something of a hot potato: the company wanted to begin food production in one part of its new factory in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, while construction work was still in progress in the remainder of the site. The solution was provided IMHX exhibitor, Galebreaker (stand 17R72). By installing a temporary partition wall that met the stringent demands for food hygiene and fire protection, Galebreaker allowed Walkers to begin production six months earlier than the construction completion date. The partition wall had to have a full seal to ensure a totally dust-free, hygienic production zone. As ovens are used in the manufacturing process, the fabric used for the 1500m2 temporary partition was coated each side with flame retardant materials to satisfy class '0' fire regulations. Galebreaker also supplied Walkers with another, permanent screen to segregate the manufacturing line from the pallet storage and dispatch area. The company was able to meet Walkers' tight schedule, completing all works on site in just four weeks.

Software proves a cracker for Jacob Fruitfield
Dublin-based Jacob Fruitfield Food Group is reaping the benefits of a new warehouse management system (WMS) supplied by IMHX exhibitor, Proteus Software (stand 20B30). The £100 million food company – which has a portfolio of leading brands including Jacob's Cream Crackers, Fruitfield jams & marmalades, TUC, Chef and Bewley's tea & coffee – picks cases of product to form pallet loads of mixed goods for delivery to retailers. Jacob Fruitfield commissioned Proteus Software to provide a WMS to handle replenishments from bulk storage to ensure that the required products are always available at the pick face. Speed and accuracy are essential to handle the throughput of some 10,000 cases of product being received and shipped each day. Another software supplier exhibiting at IMHX is 3M Supply Chain Solutions (stand 17T90), which has also provided solutions to a number of companies in the food & drink business, a sector it describes as characterised by “intense competition and extremely tight margins in manufacture and distribution”. The industry faces unique inventory control challenges, such as managing stock rotation according to expiry dates, monitoring temperature levels and ensuring traceability. According to 3M Supply Chain Solutions, these special requirements need integrated supply chain execution systems that share accurate, real-time data from source to consumption – such as the company's HighJump Supply Chain Advantage suite. Says Hugh Murphy, Business Development Manager, “Not only are we helping our customers meet these particular supply chain challenges, but we're also giving them the tools they need to stay a step ahead of their competition.”

Doosan Daewoo is top banana for fruit & veg firm Thomas Baty
Thomas Baty (Newcastle) Ltd, one of Britain's largest independent fruit and vegetable wholesalers, turned to local firm SEV Group Ltd – a distributor for Doosan Infracore UK (stand 19H120) – when it decided to renew its fleet of forklift trucks recently. The family-owned firm, which has been importing and distributing fruit and veg for more than 130 years, has commissioned SEV to replace one third of its forklift fleet per year for the next three years, whilst also providing service and maintenance for the trucks. The vehicles will be Doosan Daewoo counterbalance forklifts, supplied with a 3-year manufacturer's warranty. Explains Dudley Baty, Managing Director, “Our forklifts are incredibly important to us, because they are involved every time we move produce and can be in use 18 hours a day. We need strong, robust machines that can cope with a very demanding working environment, plus fast-response maintenance support.”

Pyroban deals with an explosive situation
The demands of the food and drink industry for cleanliness and scrupulous hygiene are well known to materials handling suppliers. Many of them include stainless steel products within their ranges that are specifically designed to meet these needs. Some applications can be even more demanding, however. IMHX exhibitor Pyroban (stand 18M110) specialises in converting forklift trucks so that they are totally safe to use in areas that are potentially explosive. The company has recently been awarded a major contract to help a global brand in the food and flavours industry to manage explosion risks from forklift trucks operating in potentially flammable atmospheres. A total of 90 trucks will be converted by Pyroban, ensuring that none can be the source of an ignition when operated within storage and processing areas containing flammable material. Says Malcolm Davis, Sales and Marketing Director, “This is the largest single explosion-proof truck order that Pyroban has received. Many of our customers have fleets exceeding 100 trucks, but they are rarely all ordered at the same time.”

Efaflex roller door makes hygiene an open-and-shut case
Leading door systems manufacturer Efaflex (stand 18N150) has designed a rapid roller door that is especially designed to meet the cleanliness needs of the food and drink industry. The SRT-EC has no inaccessible niches, allowing high-pressure hot water cleaning to remove any traces of dust or dirt. The door features swivel-mounted flaps as main parts of the door frame cover, as well as an opening and latchable top covering, all in stainless steel. The door's open frame architecture and the special slope of the closing profile allow full draining of water and detergents, including condensed humidity from the front of the door panel. The door curtain complies with all the relevant guidelines for food production, processing and packaging.

The BIG Draw!
IMHX is already starting to generate a buzz in the materials handling industry and particular excitement surrounds a brand-new promotion entitled 'The BIG Draw'. All visitors to the show will receive a scratch card on arrival, giving them the chance to win one of a range of prizes offered by exhibitors. Winning tickets need to be presented at the stands of the donor companies for collection of the prizes, which will range from items such as footballs, pens and mugs to high-value items. Pre-registered visitors will get double the chance of winning, as they receive an additional scratch card which is sent to them with their tickets!

On-line registration now available
Visitors wanting to pre-register for free tickets to attend IMHX 2007 can now do so on-line by visiting the IMHX web site at www.imhxonline.com.

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