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The virtue of Atlet at Paragon

Paragon Labels has maximised the utilisation of space at its new centralised finished goods warehouse by selecting a fleet of Atlet warehouse trucks including three Ergo stand-on pallet stackers and two OPC man-rising order pickers.

The trucks support a busy round-the-clock operation supplying self adhesive labels to predominantly food suppliers throughout the UK and were selected because Atlet was able to offer a tailored materials handling solution that met Paragon Label's exacting requirements.

“Atlet presented themselves as a highly professional organisation with an understanding of our business and the right solution to our requirements,” says Nigel Hewitt, Warehouse & Distribution Manager at Paragon Labels. “Their trucks all have a clean design and the order pickers were just the piece of equipment we were looking for.”

Paragon Labels manufactures a wide range of self adhesive labels for the food retail industry. Customers include a number of leading packers and the supermarkets they serve. The company was established in the early 1990s in Spalding, Lincolnshire and has since grown significantly through a combination of good business practice, customer service and innovation. It won a Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation in 2003 for its application of self adhesive label technology.

Paragon Labels has progressively expanded its production facilities and each site needs a warehouse to ensure continuity of operations. But the company recognised that it could achieve an improved customer service by centralising finished product warehousing for its three sites at the largest facility in Enterprise Way, Spalding. The priority in the new warehouse was to maximise the storage capacity while supporting flexibility to enable picking of items ranging from a single reel of labels up to a full pallet. This meant narrow aisles with minimal gangways and a combination of pallet racking for bulk storage and long span shelving for fast moving lines and small items.

Paragon Labels had used Atlet's pedestrian pallet stackers at the Enterprise Way factory since it opened and when it began to investigate options for the new warehouse it approached Atlet and other potential suppliers. “We gave our ideas to Atlet and they offered to help plan the warehouse and proposed a solution,” says Nigel Hewitt. “We were pleased because the information we received at the planning stage helped us make better decisions.”

Atlet worked closely with Paragon Labels and the racking supplier to devise a solution. It proposed a combination of three Ergo stand-on pallet stackers and two OPC man-rising order pickers to provide the required handling and picking flexibility. Selecting stand-on pallet stackers meant aisle widths could be minimised to just 2.1m, narrower than a reach truck would need, to maximise utilisation of available space. “The stand-on stackers made a big impact on how much racking we could get in,” says Nigel Hewitt.

The new 2,300 sq m warehouse, constructed adjacent to the existing factory, is configured with 18 bays of long span shelving on eight levels and 15 bays of pallet racking on six levels to accommodate over 10,000 lines in 2,400 bin locations. Items range from single reels of labels through cases of packed reels, with the fastest stored at low levels, to full bulk pallets stored at high levels.

Labels manufactured at two sites in Spalding and one in Boston are delivered to the warehouse every few hours. After details have been entered on to Paragon Labels' warehouse management system they are put away into designated locations using one of three Ergo stand-on pallet stackers.

The Atlet Ergo stand-on stacker is a high performance, high capacity warehouse truck with numerous ergonomic features to enhance driver comfort, safety and productivity. Its compact external dimensions make it ideal for operating in wide and narrow aisles and other confined spaces to maximise the utilisation of warehouse space. The truck's advanced ergonomic features include a driving centre that has been designed to provide maximum comfort and ease of operation for any driver. The armrest and control panel are vertically adjustable, as is the steering wheel which can also be adjusted laterally. Steering and mast lift and lower functions are servo assisted for control and manoeuvrability in tight spaces. The truck's 'floating' floor has resilient rubber suspension, and a step height of only 230mm to give easy access. The Ergo's advanced computer control enables its driving characteristics to be programmed to suit the operator's preferred driving style. For enhanced safety the truck's acceleration can be limited if the steering angle exceeds 45o, and the mast speed can be adjusted to accommodate particularly heavy or high lifts.

Paragon Labels customers can call and ask for a specific label at any time. Customer Service Centre staff check the availability of the required stock and generate a picking instruction. Items are identified during picking by a combination of location and stock information on the picking list and sample and special warehouse labels attached to items during production and put-away. Bulk picking is managed using the Ergo pallet stackers while smaller items are picked using one of the two OPC man-rising order pickers. These are rail guided in the main picking area, the long span shelving, but free range in slightly wider pallet racking areas where the lower levels accommodate small items and in the transit aisles.

With the Atlet OP the operator rises with the forks and load to the picking location. This means that all storage locations in the warehouse can be used for picking, a highly flexible use of the available space. The operator centre provides clear and unobstructed access to the picking face on either side of the aisle. Picked items can be handled safely and confidently from the racking or shelving onto the pallet mounted on the forks. The pallet can be raised and lowered independently so that the load is always easily accessible and items can be placed and retrieved at a convenient height for comfort and efficiency. Diagonal lift, where the operator centre rises and lowers as the truck travels along the aisle, minimises the time spent between locations for fast and efficient picking.

Atlet's unique approach to design and development means that all trucks in its range are based on just six chassis types to provide a high degree of standardisation and quality assured modularity. The entire product range is based on fewer than 3,500 different components and this has a major impact on reliability and servicing.

“We liked the Atlet design and service philosophy where components for one truck are also used on other models,” says Nigel Hewitt. “The local service engineer is always here whenever we need him and because of the Atlet approach any problems are fixed very quickly.”

Throughput in the warehouse averages around 80 pallets a day. Round the clock operation, with two twelve-hour shifts, means the trucks need to be available at all times. Atlet supplied spare batteries for each truck and designed a charge and change area to enable quick exchange whenever a new power supply is needed. The operator simply drives to the charge and change area and pulls the depleted battery onto a small trolley, transfers it to a free changing station and replaces it with a fully charged unit. Battery changes can be undertaken with minimal effort by one person in a simple and quick operation.

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