Woolworths processes some 6.5 million customer transactions a week and runs five main distribution centres based at Swindon, Rugby, Bedford and two operations at Castleton near Rochdale. Together they represent about two million square feet of warehouse space.
Prior to the evaluation, the materials handling fleet consisted of some 300 lift trucks with a mix of different types, ages and makes of equipment employed across the five distribution centres, with each of the centres having ultimate responsibility for procuring and running their own fleet. The lack of central fleet management meant that some trucks were not used as effectively as possible and, owing to compatibility issues, trucks could not easily be swapped from site to site to cover differential peaks in demand.
Because of this, Woolworths decided to centralise procurement and wanted to identify the partner which could best optimise the utilisation, efficiency and flexibility of the fleet. The evaluation team was headed by productivity and planning manager Keith Lythe. The appraisal system evaluated compliance and cost of suppliers against a weighted checklist.
Part of the final phase of evaluation consisted of equipment trials at each of the main distribution sites. Woolworths did not have any prior experience of Barloworld or Hyster trucks but national asset manager Peter Mulock said: “The trucks performed well and I was particularly impressed at the way Barloworld organised themselves so that equipment and people arrived at the right time, just as they said it would”.
The initial contract covers 80 per cent of Woolworth’s fleet of which 40-50 per cent will be replaced in the first year with new Hyster trucks.
Barloworld will continue to maintain and manage the non-Hyster branded equipment until they reach the end of their rental period. Owing to the seasonal nature of Woolworths’ business, the fleet will be managed around a core fleet of highly used trucks which will be supplemented by standby trucks held on site or from Barloworld own short-term rental fleet. The advantage of this is reduced fleet size and cost reduction.
The new trucks include Hyster Matrix reach trucks fitted with warehouse management terminals which offer the latest in wireless LAN connectivity and interface with an onboard barcode scanner.
The drivers receive the latest work instructions and complete each job using the scanner. Drivers and supervisors can monitor their performance against target in real-time helping productivity.
Hyster LLO2.0 low-level order pickers are used throughout order picking operations. The extended forks of the LLO2.0 enable three roll cages to be towed behind the truck, the operator then completes a branch order using a pick list.
Hyster P2.0S powered pallet trucks are used in goods receipt and despatch for loading and unloading trailers. These trucks are fitted with a stand-on platform with mountings that provide the operator with protection in the event of impact. All of the Hyster trucks come with the latest electric AC motor drives offering high performance and adjustable speed settings for safer operation.
Barloworld has installed a ‘smart card’ access control system to each of the trucks. Each driver is issued with a smart card which contains the drivers identification, the truck type for which the driver is authorised and the departments in which the driver may drive trucks.
The smart card also doubles as the driver’s identity badge for gaining entry to the premises. This system improves safety by preventing persons from operating any truck unless they are trained and authorised to do so.
At the end of the shift, data can be downloaded using a data wand and a computer-generated report can be produced showing the last ten driver log-ons with driver name and truck utilisation.
This information helps management teams to review driver and truck performance and identify responsibility for any damage.
Another area where Barloworld has been able to improve operational efficiency is in battery charging. At the Castleton site, Woolworths’ existing charging system consisted of batteries being hoisted out of trucks on to pallets for recharging.
Barloworld has installed a ‘Rhino II’ battery removal system which extracts the batteries from the side of Hyster trucks onto a roller bed and then into place in the new battery charging bay. The result is far less truck downtime between shifts and a smoother process for the drivers.
In addition the latest Hoppekke ‘Trak Air’ batteries have been installed on the trucks, which reduce the requirement for maintenance and topping up to only once every three months.
The Hoppekke batteries last a full eight-hour shift and have the facility for opportunity charging as and when required.