A flavour for flooring

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A flat and durable warehouse floor is vital in maintaining safe and efficient warehouse operations while mezzanine floors have been vital in helping companies to increase storage capacity. James Falkner scrapes back a few layers of concrete and lifts up the PVC to take a look at who is doing what with mezzanine and ground-level floors.

Keith Hancock, managing director of Hi-Store, says that mezzanine floors have become the “flavour of the year” and according to Hi-Store they are becoming the ‘must have’ for any company considering an expansion of its premises. Mezzanines have always been popular for thier ability to increase operational space within a warehouse, while demanding only a fraction of the installation costs or hassle of freeing up additional ground-level areas.

Hi-Store has been involved in designing and installing industrial ‘back-of-house’ floors for many years, meeting the needs of a rapidly expanding market. ‘Front-of-house’ mezzanines have also become popular recently, in particular with retail stores who are enjoying the extra floor space that they offer. The Hi-Store team, which was recently awarded ‘Contractor of the Year’ by Wickes Building Supplies, has been involved in retail mezzanines for more than 20 years.

When moving to a new purpose-built group administration and production centre, Carter Retail Equipment, which makes refrigerated display cabinets, contacted Keymas to supply three mezzanine floors to accommodate various processes and assist in developing a new cabinet assembly line conveyor.

Previously, display cabinets had been manually handled through the various assembly stages and the intended move was seen as a great opportunity to review manufacturing and consider proposals for automating operations. Six companies were approached and invited to tender for the project, but Carter chose Keymas because it offered the best overall handling solution, coupled to a very competitive quotation. Steve Wilson of Carter said: “Keymas provided a ‘one-stop-shop’ solution for our needs. The installation of the three mezzanine floors have enabled us to use the height of the building to good effect, while the two heavy duty chain conveyors make light work of moving refrigeration display cabinets. Keymas gave us practical support and technical advice with our planning, and we have been very pleased with the overall project and are now reaping the benefits of improved workflow, safer working environment and reduced level of product damage in transit.”

A leading logistics company recently awarded Keymas Controls and Automation a contract to improve storage capacity, order picking and handling efficiency at their new warehouse, which was involved with the storage and distribution of books and journals on behalf of an international publisher. Acting as main contractor, Keymas undertook an initial site survey before designing and commissioning the complete turnkey project. This included a mezzanine floor to create additional bulk storage space, feeding to a live storage system at ground floor and a conveying system to support order picking from some 12,000 picking locations. The whole ground floor operation was illuminated by Keymas to ensure safety of operations in re-stocking and order picking. To assist in vehicle loading, Keymas supplied Bestflex vehicle loaders to reduce manual handling.

Three-tier platform

CI Logistics have been awarded the contract to provide a three-tier raised storage platform (RSP ) for Blacks Leisure Group, totalling some 15,000 sq m. The new distribution centre, close to junction 15A on the M1 motorway at Northampton, has given the company an opportunity to review all aspects of its storage and product movement within the warehouse environment. This will help to exploit the cubic capacity of the new building. A series of safety pallet gates at each floor level will interface with a narrow aisle installation and enable goods to be selected from bulk storage and presented to the appropriate floor for replenishment into longspan shelving for picking.

This whole installation; floor, staircases and pallet safety gates will be manufactured by CI Logistics in their Wrexham Factory. Longspan shelving which is also to be supplied by CI Logistics; for installation on the first and second tiers of the RSP, will cater for the storage of boxed goods on each floor and the specification of this racking also allows for floor-level locations for pallets of bulk goods. The Blacks Leisure Group uses CI Logistics regularly to supply storage and materials handling solutions both for its distribution centres and for its retail outlets.

Mezzanine International designs and sells simple mezzanine platforms both in the UK and throughout mainland Europe. However, over the years its forte has become the design and installation of seemingly ever larger and more complex mezzanines for distribution centres. The expertise required to understand and integrate with compatible trades, such as those of conveyors, sortation equipment and racking has been paramount to the company’s success. Mezzanine International’s managing director John Porter says: “Our clients, such as Siemens Logistics & Assembly Systems, must have confidence in the fact that we are able to understand the project concept and make a valid contribution to the overall design process. By being involved in the early stages of a project, we are frequently able to assist our clients in cost saving solutions. As the mezzanine structures are among the first items on a site fit-out, we are conscious of the paramount importance of keeping to agreed programmes to ensure that we do not hold up any of the trades that are following on behind us.” In 2005 that knowledge was an important element in Mezzanine International being awarded its largest ever contract, a three level mezzanine with the upper levels designed to carry racking. The mezzanine area totalled over thirteen acres – about the size of nine football pitches. The project was completed on time for the mid-December 2005 handover to a major high street retailer.

When ‘flat’ just isn’t flat enough

Monofloor Technology recently installed a 250,000 sq ft warehouse for Gulf Warehousing Co in Doha. Super-flat flooring consultants Monofloor, which is based in the UK and Singapore, trained a local team with no previous experience to install a super-flat floor with less than one per cent grinding being required.

The facility included: freezer rooms, a chill store and a dry store. It is the first super-flat floor to be completed to this standard in the region. A common method of achieving super-flat floors in Europe and Eastern Mediterranean is by the application of a ‘fresh-on-fresh’ topping.

This method comprises laying of the base concrete, re-adjusting the formwork, carrying out an early initial power-floating operation and then applying a slurry of topping material up to 10 mm thick. This results in a very narrow window in which to carry out the sawing and straight-edging operations.

However, Monofloor has trained teams that can achieve super-flat tolerances without the need for grinding using this method.

Not only is this system advantageous in the case of coloured floors, but it also results in a fibre-free surface where steel-fibres are used for structural purposes in the base concrete. One example is the warehouse for a US-listed pharmaceutical company in Israel, constructed by a team with no previous experience of super-flat floors:

It is very likely that most super-flat floors will need some grinding, even when great care is taken to achieve the tolerances directly through the casting process itself. Opinions vary on the amounts to be expected, but a figure in the order of three to five per cent of aisle length overall is often quoted.

Anything less than this would be considered a success, particularly as super-flat floors are not as common as large area pours, and installation crews have to rapidly ascend a learning curve at the start of each project.

However, many floors have been installed to super-flat specifications throughout the world, without the need for any grinding. Much of the success of a super-flat floor installation is determined in advance of the installation. The concrete mix and its consistent delivery are critical.

ASG Services, which supplies durable floor marking systems, has recently completed work with the Port of Tyne on a project aimed at improving safety and efficiency of their multi-unit facility on Tyneside.

The previously installed floor marking system had problems with severe cracking and damage noted with the existing material. A combination of forklift truck movement and an original coating better suited to external rather than internal environments were identified as the cause of the problem.

ASG’s floor marking methods and purpose-designed machinery were employed at the site to prepare and then coat the floor with a two-part-epoxy paint. The completed work now features 1,727 linear metres of floor lines, alongside numbers and letters that clearly identify areas for temporary pallet storage, pedestrian walkways and parking with restriction zones also clearly marked.

The installation was timed for three consecutive weekends to minimise disruption. This was a key consideration.

Gordon Dodds, maintenance manager at the Port of Tyne says: “We prepared the facility, as required by ASG Services, ahead of their installation teams arriving on site the work was completed as required and to time and we are delighted with the results”.

ASG Services has completed many floor marking projects over the years and believe the work for Port of Tyne is a good example of the company’s capability. Managing director Tony Gresty, said: “It is a very impressive installation on Tyneside and we are extremely proud that ASG Services has been responsible for it.”

Superflat floors are required where very narrow aisle trucks are employed to place and pick goods stacked to heights over 12-13 metres, where the path of the truck is fixed and the truck is floor supported rather than where the materials handling system runs on a crane rail.

In the last ten years, PVC interlocking floor tiles have become a popular alternative to traditional warehouse floors such as concrete and epoxy resins. The Versatile Flooring Company supplies and installs the ‘Ecotile’ range which consists of standard 7mm thick tiles and runs through to 10mm heavy duty tiles.

This is principally used in areas where the floor is subjected to extremely heavy loads and impacts. An advantage of the range is that it does not need to be stuck down, so installation is quick and easy and it is not necessary to close an operation in an area being covered, which is a huge advantage to many 24/7 operations. The interlocking tile system also means the tiles can be used immediately as there is no curing time.

Versatile Flooring has recently completed two substantial warehousing projects; the mezzanine at Wincanton’s DC in Gloucester and the ground-level floor of the warehouse and production facility at Nampak in Haltwhistle.

The two main problems facing Wincanton was the cold and the fact that the warehouse had to continue to operate at full capacity. 4000 sq m of the light grey flat-textured tiles were installed throughout the Wincanton facility over the course of two weeks while business continued as usual.

‘Ecotile’ solved both Wincanton’s problems as there is no curing issue so the temperature wasn’t a problem and the interlocking tile system allowed installation to be completed in sections.

The Nampak facility in Haltwhistle is located in an old building with damaged and crumbling concrete floors.

Versatile says: “In some places the floor had become so uneven that product was falling off the forklift trucks and pallet trucks while it was being moved round the warehouse. To shotblast and re-lay a concrete floor would have been time-consuming, expensive and messy so Nampak decided to cover the floor with ‘Ecotile’ 7mm tiles”.

Patch repairs were carried out, first using a quick-drying screed and then the tiles were dry-laid over the top. “The thickness of the tiles compensates for unevenness in the substrate and the installation of 2000 sq m was completed without any disruption,” it said.

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