Truck switch brings big savings for wholesaler

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Business supplies wholesaler Kingfield Heath estimates that the switch to Atlet warehouse trucks has already saved more than £17,000 at its Lutterworth distribution centre. The replacement programme was designed to improve performance and reliability. Kingfield Heath also took the opportunity to reorganise its battery facilities and, working with Atlet, has consolidated operations into a dedicated “Energy Centre” which occupies less space, has improved management processes and eliminated manual handling.

The warehouse replenishes eight Kingfield Heath sites in the UK and Ireland. It also completes the entire first day pick for customers in the UK with orders placed before 6.30pm normally delivered next day. Kingfield Heath reviewed its lift truck operations during 2006 in preparation for scheduled replacement in 2007. Goods-in manager John Farnath says: “We went to a number of reference sites.”

The resulting fleet included a slight increase in the number of VNA and counterbalance trucks to cope with the growing workload. Kingfield Heath also decided to replace pallet tuggers with conventional powered pallet transporters with extended forks for order picking.

Ultimately Atlet supplied seven Omni DCR man-rising combination stacker pickers, five ErgoPicker OPS high level order pickers, 11 Forte UHS reach trucks, 12 Presto PLP pallet transporters, seven counterbalance trucks, 13 Atlet low level order pickers and two Atlet PLL pedestrian pallet transporters.

One of the main requirements for the new contract was to improve battery handling and management. Charging and changing had previously taken place inside the main warehouse close to loading bays or where the trucks were operating. Kingfield Heath realised this was taking up valuable space that could otherwise be used for storing products. Atlet proposed consolidating battery operations into a dedicated area known as the Energy Centre. Adjacent to the main warehouse this houses the battery chargers and spare batteries and incorporates space for service engineers to work on trucks. Each truck was supplied with a spare battery and these are changed whenever required. Atlet configured the Energy Centre with batteries grouped by type in banks either side of short aisles. Chargers are positioned above the battery positions to minimise the overall footprint.

Trucks requiring a battery change are driven to the Energy Centre and reach truck batteries are changed using Atlet’s ‘Powerbed’ automatic battery change system in which the drivers change their own batteries in around one minute. The previous system took more than ten minutes per battery change so the difference is marked.

Counterbalance & VNA trucks are changed with an Atlet ‘Batsman’ powered battery change device as they are all fitted with battery on rollers. Smaller batteries are changed with a similar device based on a hand pallet truck with a roller bed which requires simple manual roll-on, roll-off handling.

Some powered pallet transporters only have one battery and are recharged overnight in locations close to their normal working areas to reduce unnecessary truck movements. Because the batteries are not changed there is no need for these trucks to visit the Energy Centre.

Engineering manager Mike Orange says: “We evaluated the labour, energy and space costs and estimate that changing the way we handle and manage batteries has already saved us around £14,000.”

Kingfield Heath’s other objective in changing supplier was to improve the reliability and servicing of the fleet. Atlet has a full-time engineer on site to support the fleet. It also aims to maximise first fix rates and this is in part achieved because all of its trucks are designed around just six chassis types. This minimises the number of potential spares which means service engineers can carry a much larger proportion on their vehicle at all times.

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