office2office has simplified and streamlined its warehouse truck operations by appointing Atlet to meet all its lift truck supply and maintenance requirements. A contract for trucks at office2office's Oldham site is the latest stage in the standardisation programme.
“We wanted a single source agreement to avoid dealing with multiple suppliers,” says Mike Weston, Group Operations Director at office2office. “Atlet has the range of trucks to meet our handling requirements and the expertise to offer a complete package of services that support the flexibility we need as a business.”
Originally formed when part of HMSO was privatised, office2office supplies a range of office services and products through three full-range businesses – Banner Business Supplies, first2office and esp2office – and a number of value-added services. Now a plc with annual revenues exceeding £160 million the company operates six warehouses at strategic sites in the UK and Ireland that enable it to provide a rapid response to its private and public sector customers.
Mike Weston instigated a review of operations after joining office2office in 2001 from another office products supplier. At the time the company had a 9300m2 (100,000ft2) warehouse in Oldham supplemented by smaller depots in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There was a mix of aging trucks, some up to 12 years old, from different suppliers on each site.
“It was clear there were lots of service issues but we needed reliability to maintain our 24/5 operations,” says Mike Weston. “The priority was to replace the fleet at Oldham as this was the biggest site.”
The initial requirement was to replace five VNA man-rising order pickers. The site had a mixed fleet at the time and each truck supplier provided its own maintenance engineers. The company recognised that consolidating maintenance into a single agreement would simplify the whole process and make it easier to resolve any issues quickly and efficiently. Mike Weston approached Atlet and other potential suppliers for their recommendations.
“Having used Atlet trucks in previous roles at other companies since the early 1990s I was familiar with their products and service capabilities but I had to sell the company to our directors,” says Mike Weston. “We tested the market, of course, but wanted a single source agreement to avoid dealing with multiple suppliers. Atlet came up with a complete package that included the new trucks and allowed us to consolidate maintenance for the whole site within a manageable timeframe.”
Atlet supplied the new order pickers and took over the maintenance of as many of the existing trucks as possible. As the remaining trucks came to the end of their contracts Atlet supplied replacements or took responsibility for their maintenance. The process took almost three years because of contracts already in place but office2office then had a single point of contact with Atlet for its lift truck supply and service.
While the consolidation was taking place in Oldham, office2office was planning a brand new 7440m2 (80,000ft2) warehouse in Basingstoke to open in 2002. The company had an advanced specification for the site and wanted a supplier who could co-ordinate everything including warehouse trucks, racking and batteries. Added to the challenge was the need to complete the project and deliver on time in less than five months.
“I called in Atlet because I knew they could do it and it provided continuity with people we know and trust,” says Mike Weston. “I like dealing with one company.”
Atlet supplied a fleet that included VNA order pickers, reach trucks and low level order pickers to provide handling, storage and picking flexibility for office2office. It also supplied battery charge and change facilities and project managed the installation of the new racking to meet office2office's specification. Maintenance is provided as part of the agreement.
The next project was to relocate operations in Scotland from a building that was coming to the end of its lease to a new 3255m2 (35,000ft2) facility in Livingston. Once again, office2office wanted a single supplier to manage the whole site. This time Atlet supplied a fleet which included two VNA man-rising trucks with very high lift, reach trucks and electric counterbalance trucks. As with Basingstoke the company also provided battery facilities and managed the design and installation of the racking.
Upgrading the Belfast site presented some different challenges. The warehouse was relatively small but office2office needed to ensure maximum storage density. Part of the solution proposed by Atlet involved reconfiguring the racking for double-deep storage. This offers an excellent compromise between load selectivity and maximum utilisation of available space and is often suitable for bulk items that do not require first in, first out stock rotation. In addition to managing the installation of the new racking, Atlet supplied extending fork versions of its reach trucks to operate in the double deep aisles as well as order pickers and counterbalance trucks.
“Every project is different and Atlet has a lot of experience with double deep,” says Mike Weston.
As part of its ongoing business development, office2office decided to open a facility in Dublin to enhance its support for customers in southern Ireland. The company wanted a lift truck partner that could offer local service. With numerous customers in the country, Atlet again fitted the bill.
The final part of the programme involved office2office bringing transport operations in-house. To do this the company has established network of 15 out bases, operating on hub and spoke model, to provide localised services around the UK. Atlet has provided an electric counterbalance and offers maintenance at each site to provide local managers with a single point of contact.
“We needed to make it simple for local managers and this arrangement means that Atlet takes responsibility for service and maintenance,” says Mike Weston. “We know that the equipment will be looked after properly and routine tasks will be carried out on time in support of our health and safety policy.”
The truck replacement programme that started in 2001 has now come full circle as office2office has recently ordered replacement Atlet trucks for the equipment first installed at the Oldham warehouse. The company is also planning to move to a larger building in Basingstoke and has extended the contract for the trucks at the existing facility so that the scheduled replacement will take place at the same time as the relocation.
“Atlet gives us that sort of flexibility,” says Mike Weston. “The close working relationship we have means that we can discuss our requirements and plan ahead, such as replacing the trucks in Oldham and extending the contract for Basingstoke.”