Established in 1988 as Pennine Parcels, rebranding as Expect Distribution in 2006, Expect operates some 250,000 sq ft of warehousing and distribution space spread across three strategically located sites in Yorkshire.
The facilities – one at Halifax and two in Bradford – provide storage for a diverse variety of products ranging from medical supplies and food stuffs to industrial equipment.
The sites also act as hubs where loads are marshalled as part of Expect’s role within the Palletline pallet distribution network. Expect Distribution is the largest inputter of freight into the Palletline network and was the first haulier to put 1,000,000 pallets through the system.
The facility adjacent to the M606 in the Odsal region of Bradford is the most recent of Expect’s three sites to open. It was needed to cope with the growing demand for the company’s services and combines 54,000 sq ft of high quality warehousing space with a very busy cross docking operation and the Company’s Head Office functions.
When planning the layout of the storage cube within the Odsal warehouse, Expect opted to maximize the available space by specifying a narrow aisle storage system served by Flexi Narrow Aisle articulated forklift trucks.
"We were committed to narrow aisle storage but because a large part of our business involves cross docking it was important to select a truck that could function efficiently and safely in all areas of our warehousing operation," explains David Storrie, Expect Distribution’s Head of warehousing.
"We also needed trucks that would allow us to optimise storage density while at the same time permit fast and efficient individual pallet accessibility – which can become a problem with many other forklift based high density storage systems," he adds.
Pallet capacity at the Low Moor unit is 7,000 with pallets stored six high in the racking.
Following a period of close consultation between key personnel from Expect and the warehouse planning team at Flexi Narrow Aisle, 2.0 metres was agreed to be the optimum aisle width for the project.
While Flexi trucks can pick up and turn pallets in aisles as narrow as 1.6 metres wide, in applications like Expect where high throughputs need to be achieved and faster travel speeds are required, the speed at which a truck can safely operate in the aisleways is more important than the need to narrow the aisleways.
But, even when setting the aisles 200mm wider than the minimum wide, the Flexis were still far more space efficient for Expect than using conventional moving mast reach trucks – an option which the company had also considered.
As this site is a multi user facility, Expect do not have pick faces within the racking – the Flexis either pick full pallet loads or, if part picks are required, the trucks drop a pallet from its storage location and deliver it to a marshaling area where orders are made up, before returning the load to its location within the store.
All of the pallet put away and picking within the racking is undertaken by the Flexis while the job of unloading and loading incoming and departing trailers in the yard is shared between the Flexi articulated trucks and a fleet of 2.5 tonne LPG powered counterbalanced trucks.
"The Flexi’s ability to unload incoming trailers like a counterbalance machine and serve our narrow aisle racking means we have been able to reduce double handling and make optimum use of our forklift fleet and labour resource," says David Storrie.
"The Flexi trucks have allowed us to reduce aisle widths to maximise storage capacity while maintaining a safe and productive operation that allows fast and efficient pallet put away and retrieval cycles."
A fleet of four-wheel, electric-powered Flexi EURO VNA trucks is in operation at Premier Point, Expect Distribution’s Odsal site.
The Flexi Euro VNA AC was launched in 2010 and can lift pallets to heights of up to 9.5 metres The truck is supplied as standard with treaded cushion rubber tyres for maximum traction in wet outdoor conditions, while conventional twin front wheel drive means that the weight of the truck and any load being carried is evenly divided between the front two tyres to further enhance traction and minimise tyre wear.
At the heart of the truck is a unique compact transverse axle design which, combined with the Flexi EURO VNA AC’s ability to truly articulate through 220 degrees, allows easy stacking in the aisleways.
John Maguire, sales and marketing director of Flexi Narrow Aisle, commented: "We are delighted to be working with Expect to provide a solution for the company’s materials handling needs. The Flexi truck is popular among logistics service providers who need to maximise storage density and require safe and efficient throughput and Expect saw the benefits that articulated truck technology could bring to their operation.