Hovis recently acquired a fleet of 51 specially designed Jungheinrich EKS 105 low level order picking trucks on a five year contract hire deal. This low level order picker (LLOP) is a unique truck designed precisely by Jungheinrich to Hovis' specification in order to provide efficient, safe and dependable order picking and internal transport in Hovis's intense operation.
Part of Premier Foods, the UK's largest food producer, Hovis has been baking bread for over 120 years and delivers 9000 order a day to all types of retail outlets. Of these 1700 leave from a 134, 000 ft sq Regional Distribution Centre in Dagenham, Essex.
The Dagenham RDC is Europe's largest bread delivery distribution centre and one of two Hovis RDCs serving the UK's major multiple grocery chains – the other being in Motherwell, Scotland – while Hovis also uses a satellite depot at Mendelsham in Suffolk. Dagenham received 30 of the new Jungheinrich trucks while 18 have gone into Motherwell and three to Mendelsham.
Every week 3.5 million units leave the 24/7 Dagenham RDC supplying 120 delivery routes to retail store orders across a large part of south-east England – from Milton Keynes down to Sussex. The operation places a huge demand on the order pickers, as Jim Wright, Equipment Manager at Hovis, explains: “We had been using the old Jungheinrich trucks since the Dagenham site opened in April 2002. We've worked them extremely hard compared to most users, which Jungheinrich's data will back up, but they actually lasted longer than we would have expected.”
When it came to ordering the new fleet, Hovis returned to Jungheinrich and were specific about the enhancements to the design that they required as the trucks play an active role in the RDC's operational efficiency.
Pre-ordered goods arrive from Hovis's bakeries in 45 ft articulated lorries – an average of 80 a day – which are unloaded at one of 16 bays. Hovis's wide range totals 480 SKUs and products are stored in plastic baskets, stacked up to 12 high, attaining a total height of 1.87 metres and a total load of 446 kg. The LLOPs offload the trailers three such stacks at a time and deposit the goods in various locations in the warehouse to be assembled into customer orders.
Handling three stacks at a time throughout the RDC is a key requirement for the Jungheinrich LLOPs so the most prominent enhancement to the standard truck is a cage attachment that allows this.
The cage attachment on the new truck has chamfered leading edges of the cage to guide the stacks straight inside, together with a slightly wider aperture that allows several extra millimetres either side of the baskets to allow easier entry without catching. This provides a significant cost benefit in terms of a reduced number of damaged baskets and saves time as the driver does not have to stop, get out and straighten up the stacks.
When the 1.87 metre high stacks are in the cage they obscure the driver's forward view leading the drivers to twist round at the controls and travel in the other direction to the truck's natural direction of movement. So Jungheinrich developed a new innovation: dual controls in the cab that allow the driver to operate the truck easily in either direction while still facing the direction of travel. When the driver picks up the stacks into the cage attachment he simply turns round and uses the controls which are duplicated on the other side of the cab to allow travel with a clear view ahead.
“This is more efficient and certainly safer, and safety takes priority over everything, in the whole of our operation,” says Jim Wright.
Hovis operates a paperless 'put-to-light' system to assemble customer orders, which sees pickers taking the baskets of stock on the LLOPs to the customer order locations. There's no racking in the warehouse; the stacks sit on the floor in streets under a string of put-to-light terminals that run overhead.
By 1.30am all of the orders are completed and the RDC commences outloading using the Jungheinrich LLOPs to transport them from their 'street' locations to the loading bay and into the 120 daily delivery vehicles – again three stacks at a time. The RDC outloads 43,000 baskets during a typical weekday, and up to 56,000 baskets on a Friday, within a tight time frame.
“We have to move all of those baskets onto 120 vehicles (28 ft rigids) within a 4 hour window” says Jim Wright. “In a normal RDC of this size you would reasonably expect to see eight loading bays; we have 70.”
Outloading is where a further special feature of the LLOP comes into play. With the previous model, Hovis had experienced instances of grounding when traveling over the dock leveller into a trailer, due to the variety of trailer heights and specifications. Jungheinrich provided the LLOP with greater ground clearance to solve the problem.
Hovis picks to zero every day so at 5am, the warehouse is empty, ready for the delivery of the next day's fresh bread and for the operation to start again.
As Hovis requires the Jungheinrich trucks to cover long distances over a good many routes every day, the new LLOP's durability has been further enhanced: there's a higher cast iron 'bumper' and the battery cover, which on the old truck was secured by two metal locating pins, is now more securely located with screws.
A further simple but effective detail on the new truck is a screw hole added to the cast iron front of the order picker into which an eyelet can be inserted easily to allow the truck to be towed in the event of it being stranded due to breakdown.
Jungheinrich designed and built the trucks at its plant in Lüneberg in Germany, which is dedicated to the development and production of 'specials'. Given the brief in July 2007, the design team from the Lüneberg plant traveled to Dagenham to see at first hand the list of changes Hovis requested on the existing trucks and spoke to the operators who actually use them.
Jungheinrich's designers then respecified a truck to meet Hovis' requirements. As the development progressed and a prototype was built, Jungheinrich invited Hovis to Lüneberg to approve it. The 51 trucks were then built with the last few trucks of the order delivered to Hovis in June 2008.
“That's a great achievement,” says Jim Wright. “Jungheinrich hit the design specification and the delivery schedule without any complications and that's very important to us.”
Jungheinrich support for the trucks ensures downtime is minimised as Clive Beeston, Hovis' RDC Manager explains: “Our Jungheinrich service and repair team are fantastic. Nothing seems too much trouble for them and they understand the operation and its importance to Hovis. Indeed, Jungheinrich understand that.”
Jim Wright concludes: “Our experience with Jungheinrich has been superb. I think they have done an absolutely excellent job and we have an understanding working relationship with them.”