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Tough round-the-clock operations for new Atlet pallet trucks

Leading regional cold storage and distribution company Langdons has installed a fleet of Atlet's new Presto PLP powered pallet transporters.

The seven trucks are operating in Langdons' 12 acre (4.9 hectare) distribution centre (DC) in Taunton, Somerset where they are working hard and fast round the clock, handling as many as 15,000 pallets per week. The trucks were specified for their ability to withstand such tough working conditions, and for the superior back-up service support that Atlet was able to offer.

Langdons is the south west's leading temperature-controlled storage transport and distribution company, handling cold and chilled goods from the factory to the store. The Taunton DC is dedicated to Langdons' ChillNet operation, which supplies the wholesale sector – catering companies and food manufacturers. The new Atlet trucks have been added to Langdons' fleet to cope with an impressive increase in business. Langdons has expanded substantially over the past few years, with a 20 per cent year-on-year growth resulting in a current annual turnover in excess of £30 million. The company has also broadened its nationwide distribution network, now operating eight wholly-owned or partner satellite DCs from Glasgow to Dover.

Langdons has of late successfully carved a specialist niche in the market with its ability handle smaller consignments, offering customers a high degree of flexibility allied to rapid response. “Today our average load is just 1.8 pallets,” explains Commercial Director Rob Swindells. “This means a much higher volume of smaller unit loads, which in turn requires a faster and more responsive goods-handling operation. This is where the Atlet Presto really comes into its own.”

The ride-on Presto PLPs are used, working across dock levellers, to unload incoming delivery vehicles and transfer full pallets to the Taunton DC's chill and cold stores, operating at 0 to –4oC and –18 to –23oC respectively. More than 1000 pallets arrive at the DC each day. The trucks are also used to retrieve picked goods from the chill and cold stores, and load vehicles for onward delivery, again at the rate of around 1000 pallet-loads each day. The trucks are working virtually non-stop round the clock for six days a week.

The Taunton DC is despatching up to 30 vehicles each day, making around 900 deliveries to ChillNet customers throughout the south west.

Atlet's Presto PLP, introduced in mid 2004, is specifically designed for long and hard work cycles in high-throughput distribution centres. The truck offers high performance combined with superior traction and heightened stability. It features a unique tiller steer-arm, which incorporates a computer giving PIN access and enabling the truck's driving characteristics to be programmed. The truck is also equipped with Atlet new TRAC (Truck Remote Access) system by which diagnostic tasks are carried out by linking the truck, through an ordinary mobile phone, to Atlet's remote service centre computer.

The Presto PLP's patented five wheel linkage system – Friction Force (FF) – exerts increased pressure on the spring-loaded drive wheel and ensures that all wheels are in constant contact with the ground. This gives excellent traction, particularly on slopes, dock levellers and uneven surfaces, safer braking and high lateral stability. FF is particularly valuable in cold store applications.

The Presto PLP has a powerful, energy-efficient 24 volt AC motor, with 'regenerative' capabilities whereby current is returned to the battery under braking – which gives longer work cycles between charging. The AC motor is governed, through a CanBus, by the truck's ATC4 onboard computer. The truck's battery is on an integral roller bed, to make battery changing quicker, easier and less effort.

Unlike some other pallet transporters the forks rise independent of the battery box. This gives up to 20 per cent lift energy saving, again extended battery cycle times. “The battery is also much easier and quicker to access, which means it doesn't have to be removed for charging,” says Langdon's Warehouse Manager Andy Davenport, “This greatly minimises truck downtime. It's 100 per cent better than the arrangement on traditional pallet trucks.”

Atlet has also paid a great deal of attention to ergonomics on the new Presto PLP. The flip-down driver platform is spring loaded, to give greater, shock-absorbing, comfort when travelling long distances, and foldable side protection bars are standard. This a particular benefit at the Taunton DC where long and intensive work cycles are the norm.

“We have been using Atlet pallet transporters for several years,” says Rob Swindells, “and they have always proved tough and reliable. Previously the trucks were leased, with an integral maintenance package. We have purchased the new Presto PLPs outright, but have ensured we are still covered by a sound service and maintenance agreement: Atlet's after sales back up is arguably second to none, and for us it's indispensable in maintaining as near 100 per cent uptime as is humanly possible.

“Atlet trucks are extremely well respected in the trade. From our experience, it's a respect that is well deserved.”

Atlet trucks – pallet transporters and reach trucks – are also used in Langdons' 10-acre (4.05 hectare) facility in nearby Bridgwater, which supplies the retail trade 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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