Custom trucks for Hovis depots

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Hovis has acquired 51 low level order pickers from Jungheinrich, to help keep on top of the 9,000 daily deliveries it makes to various retail outlets around the country.

When ordering the new fleet of EKS 105 trucks, Hovis requested changes to the design so that the order pickers have cage attachments to enable them to handle three stacks at a time.

The trucks have replaced the existing Jungheinrich fleets at three of the bread maker’s major distribution centres in Dagenham in Essex, Motherwell in Scotland, and satellite depot in Mendelsham, Suffolk.

The 134,000 sq ft, regional site at Dagenham – the largest bread-making delivery distribution centre in Europe – deals with 1,700 of the 9,000 daily deliveries, and received 30 of the new trucks. The Motherwell site took 18 and three went to Mendelsham.

Every week 3.5 million units leave the 24/7 Dagenham site, supplying 120 delivery routes to retail store orders across a large part of south east England – from Milton Keynes down to Sussex. Pre-ordered goods arrive from Hovis’s bakeries in 45 ft articulated lorries – an average of 80 a day – which are unloaded at one of 16 bays.

Hovis’s range totals 480 SKUs and products are stored in plastic baskets, stacked up to 12 high, reaching a total height of 1.87m and a total load of 446kg. The order pickers offload the trailers three stacks at a time and deposit the goods in the warehouse to be assembled into customer orders.

The cage attachment that has been added has chamfered leading edges of the cage to guide the stacks straight inside, together with a wider aperture that allows several extra millimetres either side of the baskets to allow easier entry without catching. This has helped reduce the amount of damaged baskets, and saved time as the driver does not have to stop the truck to get out and straighten the stacks.

When the 1.87m-high stacks are in the cage they obscure the driver’s forward view. This forces them to twist round at the controls and travel in the other direction to the truck’s natural direction of movement. To help prevent this Jungheinrich developed dual controls in the cab, which allow the driver to operate the truck easily in either direction while still facing the direction of travel. When the driver picks up the stacks into the cage attachment he turns round and uses the controls which are duplicated on the other side of the cab to allow travel with a clear view ahead.

Hovis operates a paperless, put-to-light system to assemble customer orders, which sees pickers taking the baskets of stock on the order pickers to the customer order locations. There is no racking in the warehouse; the stacks sit on the floor in streets under a string of put-to-light terminals that run overhead.

By 1.30am all of the orders are completed and the distribution centre starts out-loading using the order pickers to transport them from their street locations to the loading bay and into the 120 daily delivery vehicles – again three stacks at a time. The distribution centre out-loads 43,000 baskets during a typical weekday, and up to 56,000 baskets on Fridays, within a tight time frame.

“We have to move all of those baskets onto 120 vehicles (28 ft rigids) within a four hour window,” says Jim Wright, equipment manager at Hovis. “In a normal regional distribution centre of this size you would expect to see eight loading bays; we have 70.”

With the previous model, Hovis had experienced instances of grounding when travelling over the dock leveller into a trailer, because of the variety of trailer heights and specifications. So the new order pickers feature better ground clearance.

Hovis picks to zero every day, so at 5am the warehouse is empty, ready for the delivery of the next day’s fresh bread and for the operation to start again. As Hovis needs the trucks to cover long distances over multiple routes each day, the new order pickers’ durability has been improved. They now have a higher cast iron bumper and the battery cover is more securely located with screws.

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