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Near 100% Atlet uptime for just-in-time engine builders

A newly-commissioned fleet of Atlet trucks is performing at 99.74 per cent uptime for a just-in-time component supply operation at Cummins Engines' manufacturing plant in Daventry.

Cummins' new Atlet fleet comprises twelve UNS Tergo reach trucks, two Presto PLP pallet transporters and a TSP Nova pedestrian stacker. As part of the deal Atlet also supplied a pair of Nissan counterbalance truck. The trucks are operating in a new purpose-built 3,700 sq m warehouse, which replaced a previously shared warehouse holding components for Cummins' nearby plant that manufactures high-Horsepower diesel engines for Marine use , generators and Construction vehicles. These engines, produced in Daventry at the rate of around 18 per day, are exported worldwide and sales are at a record high.

The warehouse stocks all parts required to assemble an engine – from complete cylinder heads to individual springs and nuts and bolts. Parts arrive in a wide variety of containers, including pallets and stillages, and are offloaded by the counterbalance trucks. The Atlet UNS Tergo reach trucks put the goods away into a 4,000-slot racked store. Small components are stored in shelved boxes and on flow-racks at floor level.

As engines pass through the build stages on the assembly lines, parts are requested by picking slips from the assembly plant . The items are delivered by a pair of 7.5 tonne trucks that constantly shuttle between the sites, which are about 3 kilometres apart. Working to a just-in-time supply system, the time between call-off and required delivery to line can be a short as 45 minutes. Fast and, more importantly, accurate component picking is therefore critical.

Cummins uses the UNS Tergo reach trucks for retrieving full pallets of bulky items from the warehouse racks, so that teams of pickers can load the required items into delivery containers. The reach trucks then take the containers of picked goods to a marshalling area from where they are loaded onto the shuttle trucks. The Atlet Presto PLP pallet transporters are also used for general handling duties around the warehouse.

The Atlet Nova TSP pedestrian stacker is used to transfer items, such as cylinder heads, onto purpose built containers, on which they are taken to the assembly lines. The Nova TSP is ideal for this type of operation, with its 1400kg capacity, 3.5m lift height and excellent manoeuvrability in tight spaces.

Atlet's Logistics Analyser (ALA) warehouse simulation programme was used to determine the best battery management regime to provide optimum truck uptime. ALA indicated that, given the demands of the manufacturing plant and the truck work rates required to meet them, one battery per truck was sufficient for the current two-shift operations. However to accommodate future expansion of the warehouse's operations – in particular the possible addition of a third shift and the requirement to change batteries between shifts – the Atlet trucks have been supplied with roller bed battery compartments, to enable the batteries to be changed easily, quickly and with minimal effort.

With the rapidly-growing worldwide demand for Cummins engines, particularly for generators, the establishment of the single consolidated warehouse was essential in maintaining the efficient and timely flow of components to the assembly lines. “The reliability of the new materials handling fleet was therefore critical,” says Cummins' Transport Analyst Paul Woodcock. “As part of the tendering process we demanded that the trucks were capable of providing a minimum of 92.5 per cent uptime.”

“The Atlet fleet has more than exceeded our expectations. We monitor truck uptime very closely indeed, and the Atlet trucks are currently running at an average of 99.74 per cent.”

Cummins put the tender for the new warehouse's truck fleet out to four companies. One was almost immediately discounted because it was unable to offer a truck with 2000kg capacity – vital for handling Cummins' wide variety of stillages and containers – that could operate in the warehouse's 2.7m aisles. “Of the remaining three, Atlet put the most effort into winning the deal,” reports Paul Woodcock. “Nothing was too much trouble and with Atlet's ability to virtually build trucks to order we didn't have to compromise on anything. For example, instead of the arm-rest mounted mini steering wheel that's standard on the UNS Tergo reach trucks, which would have been inconvenient as the drivers are constantly on and off the trucks when order picking, Atlet supplied the trucks with dash-mounted steering wheels. And already having roller-mounted batteries on the trucks will make a move to battery changing, rather than on-board charging, quick, simple and economical. Atlet's service back up has also proved first class.

“Everything Atlet said it was going to do, it has done. Almost 100 per cent uptime speaks for itself.”

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