Friday, 2 November 2012

Unique articulated forklift will save warehouses millions

It may seem pushing the limits of credulity to claim that a newly launched, special kind of forklift delivers instant truck payback and much more by cutting new/altered warehouse building and running costs. But that is just what Translift Bendi* has done with its Mini Bendi pedestrian articulated forklift developed in close cooperation with ASDA, one of Britain's largest food retailers and part of the Walmart group, the world's largest retailer.

There is nothing new about the ability of articulated forklifts to reduce new or redesigned warehouse building and running costs or even eliminate satellite warehouses entirely. What is new, however, is the introduction of forklift operations with pedestrian traffic in a safe way and so save substantial costs that would otherwise be incurred if truck operations were entirely separated from pedestrian workers.

Undeniably, the articulated forklift is by far the most versatile of forklifts thanks to its 220 deg fork mast rotation and large cushion tyres that combine all the virtues of outdoor counterbalance trucks with internal warehouse machines working in very narrow aisles (VNA) down to 1.6 mt wide. Such versatility can substantially cut forklift numbers and avoid costly warehouse expansion. But just how is the Mini Bendi, costing around £20,000, able to help ASDA not only reduce construction costs but also running costs and what are the hard figures?

A typical ASDA store in the UK costs around £10 million to build, and ASDA's Simon Grass, back-of-house development manager, believes the Mini Bendi has saved 0.5%, or £50,000, from the building cost, including £4,000 on sprinklers. As he explains: "Reducing the building costs helps to maintain hardly any cuts in the building panels, therefore no waste. The steel columns are lower, reducing steel tonnage and costs. In terms of the building and how it looks it is now lower and more acceptable when running through the planning procedure. We now have a truck that offers greater flexibility as well as efficiency and productivity benefits compared with other types of handling equipment."

ASDA has hundreds of large superstores in Britain, with more planned, which gives an inkling on the potential for multi-million pound savings that the Mini Bendi can achieve nationally, and far more if marketed globally. As Simon Grass was keen to stress: "It is not just new stores that benefit from the Mini Bendi. When ASDA reviews one of its more established stores within the estate, the Mini Bendi can save significant space, time and money in the back-of-house areas, as ASDA can reduce the capital spend on realigning the warehouse to separate colleagues and forklifts. This is because the Mini Bendi can perform the same tasks as many of the existing reach trucks within the estate. ASDA can simply swap them over and the area becomes pedestrian friendly."

As a business, ASDA constantly looks at ways to separate pedestrian and forklift trucks to minimise the cost of accidental collisions. However, when segregating it would often lead to usage and productivity becoming inefficient, explained Mr Grass, but "We no longer need to compromise."

Owing to the truck's way of working, ASDA can now have pedestrian pick within the same area, permitting the stores to drop and fill effectively. This supports the reduction in the building footprint and thus improves the building's selling efficiency because ASDA can either build a smaller store or increase the selling space. Either way, it makes no difference to the store running costs like rates, possibly rents, and all the utility costs, all of which the Mini Bendi confers for the building's lifetime -- a truly remarkable return from a humble, pedestrian lift truck.

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