Photographic accessories supplier DayMen International has avoided the need for relocation to new premises by increasing the capacity of its existing distribution and storage warehouses in Wolverhampton using double-deep racking served by Atlet lift trucks.
“Atlet gave us something that works for our business,” says Debbie Green, Operations Manager at DayMen International. “We needed a solution which would quickly provide an additional 300 storage locations in the warehouse and Atlet was able to work with us and the racking supplier to deliver what we wanted.” DayMen International was formed in 2000 to distribute the Lowepro range of camera cases and other accessories made by its parent company and selected third parties. From the Wolverhampton warehouse and a similar operation in the Netherlands products are distributed to retailers and wholesalers throughout Europe. The company has grown significantly in the past ten years due largely to the emergence and popularity of digital photography. The range of products has also increased to meet demand for a complete selection of cases, tripods, filters and accessories for traditional and digital compact and SLR cameras. The warehouse had been adapted to meet the increased stock levels but by 2009 significant change was required. Relocation was not an option so the only realistic solution was to store more in the same space. Over time the site had evolved with the main distribution warehouse configured with narrow aisle racking while simple block stacking was employed in an adjacent building used for storage. After assessing a number of options and discussing its requirements with potential suppliers DayMen identified that introducing double deep throughout both warehouses would provide the additional storage capacity it needed.
Atlet was one of two potential suppliers that DayMen asked to prepare detailed proposals. The lift truck manufacturer used its ALA logistics analyser program to prove the case for double deep and assess the best configuration of the racking to maximise the storage capacity in each building. It then worked with racking supplierRack Safe Solutions to agree a work schedule for the reconfiguration that would allow the warehouse to maintain its operations without the need for any outside storage. “The other truck supplier was cheaper but the team from Atlet swung it for us,” says Debbie Green. “They were honest and reliable and demonstrated quality and attention to detail in everything they did.”
Introducing double deep into the distribution warehouse created an additional 300 pallet locations, bringing the total to around 3000, along four aisles rather than the six of the previous operation. There is enough duplication of palletised product to minimise any potential impact of double deep on load selectivity in this particular application. At the same time double deep racking was introduced into the storage warehouse next door to eliminate any need for block stacking. This also provides much better load selectivity when transferring stock to the distribution warehouse which in turn has reduced the amount of handling required to access pallets with a commensurate improvement in safety, productivity and efficiency. According to Brian Selwood, Managing Director of Rack Safe Solutions, the strong working relationship the racking supplier established with Atlet helped to simplify the installation and ensure a highly successful project outcome for DayMen. With double deep two rows of racking run along each side of the aisle with the pallets in the rear row sitting behind those on the front face. Proportionately more of the available floor space is used for storage racking than in conventional single-deep applications. However, double deep requires lift trucks with extending forks that can reach into the rearmost pallet locations.
Atlet was a pioneer of the concept in the UK and offers a wide selection of reach trucks with extending forks. DayMen selected two Atlet UNS-T Tergo Forte double deep reach trucks for the main pallet handling tasks. It also selected an Atlet ET15 Balance three wheel electric counterbalance truck for general handling tasks, yard work such as loading and unloading transporters and for transferring palletised loads from the storage to the distribution warehouse. Operations on the site are well organised and efficient, managed by a team including many long term employees. Products arrive on pallets on transporters and in containers and are unloaded and transferred to the appropriate warehouse using the ET15 Balance truck. This compact electric counterbalance is ideal for any operation which requires a combination of yard and warehouse handling. Once inside the pallets are handled in and out of the double deep racking using the UNS-T Tergo reach trucks. These have been equipped with cameras mounted on the fork carriage and a screen in the cab so that drivers can see the loads. This is particularly useful when handling loads to the rearmost positions of the upper racking levels because there is otherwise no clear line of sight.
“This was paramount for health and safety,” says Debbie Green. “All of the drivers have been trained by Atlet to use the double deep trucks.” Atlet bases all of its warehouse trucks on just six different chassis designs with many components shared between models. Relatively few spare parts need to be carried by service engineers. In addition the latest on-board computer systems monitor truck performance and can perform diagnoses that can be interrogated remotely by service engineers before they visit. This means that the first time fix rate is very high and truck downtime very low, essential in any operation but particularly where there is little or no additional handling capacity on site.
“One thing we like about the trucks is that if we ever have a problem the engineer knows what’s wrong and can bring the right part to fix it,” says Debbie Green. “Atlet knew the importance of service and reliability to our business. If the trucks are ever down they come straight away.” Items are picked by single item and case at ground and first level using simple push-along trolleys. Full pallets for larger customers can be picked from any location using the lift trucks. The ET15 Balance truck can handle pallets in the front locations which allows it to supplement the operation during busy periods. Stock movements are driven by a combination of warehouse management system, RF scanners and barcodes.
Since the warehouses were reconfigured Atlet has continued to work with DayMen to identify new ways of improving the operations. A second ET15 Balance truck will be delivered soon and the companies are now looking at new methods of unloading packed containers. “We’ve put resources in place to allow us to manage the stock better,” says Debbie Green. “The new warehouse layout, the ease-of-use of the trucks and the management and flexibility of the operation means we have much more capacity to cope with the growth of the business.”