The Co-operative has installed a four-high lift truck battery charge and change unit, designed by EnerSys, at its St Helens regional distribution centre.
The 582,000 sq ft warehouse was originally opened by Somerfield eight years ago to serve the North West and Wales. Somerfield was subsequently bought by The Co-op in 2009 which decided to refurbish the facility.
The Co-op’s first three-tier system was installed at its Coventry site in 2005. At St Helens, the Co-op and EnerSys decided to go further and install a four-tier system to maximise productive storage space and eliminating manual handling of batteries.
Chas Shepperson, national MHE fleet manager at the logistics arm of the Co-operative, said: “Multi-tier battery banks have proved themselves at our other distribution centres and going four-high is a safe and flexible solution which follows best practice.”
Batteries are stored above each other and handled in and out of racks using specially adapted handling carts.
Previously, batteries were generally restricted to two or three levels because of limitations with the hydraulic performance of the handling equipment.
EnerSys solved these issues at the Co-op’s Chester-le-Street warehouse by creating a fully-electric battery changing cart without any need for hydraulics.
A version of this machine, which was based on the Pro Series BBH, was modified for handling batteries on four levels at St Helens.
When a lift truck battery change is required, the truck approaches the changing area and the driver disconnects its battery. A trained member of staff completes the change using the Pro-Series BBE which runs on concealed rails alongside the charger banks.
The battery is removed by the powerful extending electro-magnet on the BBE, placed on its on-board roller bed and pushed into place for charging.
A charged battery is then loaded by the BBE onto the truck. Batteries on all four levels can be handled in this way.
Two identical banks of batteries arranged back-to-back, each with its own BBE allows flexibility at peak periods and during maintenance.
One of the banks can be taken off-line for short periods and the central aisle between the banks enables engineers to monitoring and maintaining batteries and chargers without entering truck operating areas.
The site will use 230 reach trucks, order pickers, pallet transporters and counterbalance trucks. When fully operational it will run 24 hours per day, via a fleet of 300 vehicles including some 250 trailer units.