Hi-tech modelling boost for Palletforce

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On the day Palletforce cut the red tape on its £30 million, 380,000 sq ft hub in Burton-on-Trent it saw, for the first time, the result of nearly two years’ worth of careful planning.

The aim was to model daily operations and plan the warehouse interior to ensure efficiency would be at its highest from day one.
With some 400 vehicles entering and leaving the site each day, the main challenge was to control traffic flows and parking. As a result Palletforce proposed a dedicated fast-track lane served by a section of the warehouse designed to provide a cross-dock operation. It was thought that this would help reduce pallet footprint, number of parking spaces, and boost warehouse capacity.

Palletforce chose Class, a warehouse modelling and simulation tool designed by Cirrus Logistics, and spent 18 months using it to examine the cross-dock idea. When Class revealed that initial ideas for articulated lorry parking were not viable, alternative traffic movements and parking areas were modelled and then the whole flow was reversed in a series of exercises that built on each other until the best system was found.

Palletforce could then identify the best layout across the site and the most suitable size and orientation of the warehouse building – a blueprint from which the contractors developed their schemes. Further modelling then took place to assess the contractors’ revised plans before building began. Simulations were also undertaken, stress-testing the warehouse operation at current volumes and running “what if?” scenarios looking at the impact of substantial increases in pallet numbers.

The hub has 273 lorry spaces – some 60 fewer than would typically be the case given throughput levels. Palletforce says the fast-track operation is proving “highly efficient”, and when volumes are high, will potentially reduce the need for warehouse capacity by several thousand square metres.

Electronic and hard print edits of the models were provided to all forklift truck and depot drivers so that they could familiarise themselves with the new site ahead of opening.

Palletforce senior business analyst Christian Mander, says: “Class helped us save potentially 25 per cent of space inside the hub and also 25 per cent on outside parking, and it reduced the warehouse planning process by some six months. On the day of opening, there were simply no glitches. From the beginning, the hub operated 24 hours a day, providing ‘smart technologies’ to ensure faster delivery turnaround and an impressive transport distribution operation.”

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