Without the reliability and space-saving advantages of two gas-powered Bendi forklifts from Translift Bendi, the UK’s leading pallet network distributor, Palletways, would be unable to cope with almost exponential growth at its Lichfield site. Palletways’ expertise is on consignments of one to six pallets handled by a franchise operation comprising 106 independent hauliers in the UK. They move 13,000 pallets every day in the UK and 25,000 across Europe, where they have hubs in Belgium, Italy, Spain and central Europe. Within Palletways is Stargate Distribution, a warehouse fulfilment division offering 112,000 ft2 of covered storage in two warehouses. The company has a second site in Scotland, where there is another gas Bendi, and a third store should open this year in north London.
Bob Richards, divisional manager at Stargate, already had a competitor’s three electric, articulating forklifts on site and so was familiar with all the operational advantages over other truck types like reach and counterbalance trucks. Growth at Lichfield, however, where there is capacity for 13,000 pallets, now full, exposed the need for more articulating trucks 18 months ago, around which the warehouses were designed. The question, however, was to decide whether gas-powered trucks would be advantageous over electric.
Bob Richards explained: “The benefits of gas for me are probably a saving of 90 minutes a day in not having to change batteries, an annual saving of £6,500, which does not included the cost of standby batteries. We also chose gas because I know from experience that when we get into three or four-year old electric trucks we will start to have inherent problems. The reliability of the gas trucks has also been incredible.”
Such reliability is essential for a frenetic operation like Palletways which must cope with tight operational windows daily to fulfil its full spectrum of deliveries, including next-day timed deliveries. Dealing with 300 incoming double-deck trailers every day, the Bendis work from 6 a.m. until midnight. Between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. the Bendis work flat out on goods-in operations, unloading vehicles in the yard and placing them in the racking. From 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. they are working on replenishment tasks, ready for the pickers who start at 4 p.m. and after that they work until midnight doing full pallet picks.
The main advantage usually cited for Bendi forklifts is their space savings which derive from its swivelling mast. In Palletways’ case, the Lichfield site uses aisles 2 mt wide, but electric Bendis, in particular, can work safely in just 1.6 mt, less than any other competing articulated truck. This means that compared with a reach and counterbalance truck the Bendi can typically yield 33% and 50% more pallet storage capacity respectively. Bob Richards estimates that if the used other truck types he would lose at least 2,000-3,000 pallet spaces.
Other advantages, however, can also be very considerable. Not least of these is the Bendi’s versatility, which allows internal and external work on the roughest of yards, a dual functionality beyond reach and dedicated, very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks. Palletways uses RF technology for stock location but it is currently working on product recognition by customer barcode which will allow the Bendis to scan loads on incoming lorries and place them directly into the racking, thus cutting out any double handing. In all other yard working respects, Bob believes the Bendis are just as fast and agile as counterbalanced trucks, but with the advantage that they can work in much less space than the latter.
Safety is another big advantage. The Bendis allow a much clearer view of loads when interfacing with racking compared with other truck types and they have no rear end swing, which can lead to much rack damage. Their design geometry also makes them inherently more stable. When stacking at maximum heights of over 12 mt, mast sway is an important consideration. Unlike its competitors, the Bendi does not use a slewing ring for the articulation, which tends to wear and make the mast floppy at height, like a daffodil. The Bendi uses a heavy duty roll pin which rotates via two by 32-ton taper bearings and which carries a 3-year warranty on the articulation. Translift Bendi has also patented the rear-wheel drive as they found that front-wheel drive was inferior with regard to traction when used outside.
Leased with a full maintenance contract, the two refurbished Bendis lift loads to 8.2 mt, with a capacity for 900 kg to 7.7 mt. Training was done on site by Palletways own RTITB-trained instructor.
The multi, award-winning Bendi offers the widest range of gas and electric articulated forklifts in the world by far, which includes the world’s only man-up version launched last year at the International Materials Handling Exhibition in Birmingham.