heals-pr.jpgFashionable home accessories and furniture retailer Heal’s has maximised storage and handling efficiency at its brand new distribution centre by adopting narrow aisle racking and warehouse trucks from Atlet including two Omni DCR combination pallet stackers/order pickers. Palletised items are stored more densely than in the previous warehouse but with greater load selectivity so that Heal’s can fulfil orders more quickly and with greater productivity. Heal’s has been at the forefront of stylish, contemporary design ever since it opened its first store nearly 200 years ago. Today the retailer has a total of six stores in London, Manchester and Leeds offering a wide range of high quality modern furniture and home accessories. Many of the 7500 items it stocks are exclusive to Heal’s.

When the company relocated its distribution and home delivery operations to a brand new warehouse in North London it took the opportunity to review its materials handling and lift truck provision. In the old warehouse items were block stacked and handled using counterbalance and hand pallet trucks which were also used for order picking. This operation had served the company well but as the business grew it was apparent that it was no longer suitable. The company decided to introduce narrow aisle racking in the new warehouse to help it maximise storage capacity and promote better load selectivity.

After reviewing a number of potential warehouse truck suppliers Heal’s purchased a fleet from Atlet comprising two Omni DCR narrow aisle man rising pallet stacker/order pickers, a reach truck and two powered pallet transporters.

Storage in the warehouse is in two sections. The first stores home accessory and furnishing products at ground floor and mezzanine level on shelving and items are picked onto trolleys. The other half of the warehouse comprises 7500 narrow aisle pallet locations of varying lengths and heights – to accommodate products of different shapes and size – which hold furniture items. The lift trucks operate exclusively in the narrow aisle racking and loading bay areas of the warehouse.

The Atlet Omni DCR trucks operate in the narrow aisle racking to pick palletised furniture loads. The truck is designed to provide users with a combination of pallet handling and order picking capabilities for total flexibility. The operator rises with the forks and load which means they can pick full pallets or single items from any storage location. The forks can traverse and rotate through 180 degrees quickly so that pallets can be placed and retrieved on both sides of the aisle without turning the truck round. This feature was particularly attractive to Heal’s because the majority of items are picked by pallet and the ability to work both faces without turning the truck reduces the time spent resetting after each pick and improves overall productivity.

The Omni DCR is wire guided in the aisle which means there are no rails at ground level to obstruct access to ground level pallet locations. The wide guidance system operates in conjunction with the on-board computer to ensure the truck’s travel speeds are restricted as it reaches the aisle end or free ranges in the rest of the warehouse for enhanced safety.

The ‘diagonal lift’ capability of the Omni DCR, where the cab rises as the truck travels down the aisles, enables the operator to arrive at the required location in the shortest possible time. The truck’s control centre is ergonomically laid-out for efficient picking, with a spacious cab area and a control panel adjustable to suit the driver’s preference. The operator has a clear and unobstructed view of the load, forks and racking at all times for same and productive work.

A smooth continuous action, with a damping device at the limit of travel, eliminates shocks to the load when lifting or rotating. For added productivity the forks traverse and swivel simultaneously allowing transitions to be made inside the aisle.

The operator has easy access to either side of the aisle when picking cases and single small items and can place them conveniently onto a fork-mounted pallet or cage. The infinitely-adjustable secondary fork lift allows the operator to position the pallet or cage at the most comfortable working height. These features are a significant benefit in a warehouse like this where items can vary in size.

Pallet movements and order picking tasks are managed by a computerised warehouse management system. After the Omni DCR trucks have completed each pick they handle the pallet to a dropping zone at the end of the aisle where it is collected by one of the powered pallet transporters and taken to the loading bay for order assembly. The reach trucks are used for pallet putaway, pulldown and replenishment tasks.

The warehouse operates from 7am to 8pm serving all the Heal’s stores and despatching items for the growing home delivery side of the business. The warehouse team of 20 has been trained to be multi-skilled to promote flexibility and most are able to operate at least one type of truck although some are qualified for all. Heal’s has its own fleet of delivery vehicles for the London area and uses third party carriers for other parts of the country.

After the warehouse opened in the first half of 2006 Heal’s added to its fleet by renting an Atlet man rising order picker to help it pick more single items from any storage location. This will provide additional picking capacity and allow greater flexibility as the warehouse enters its busiest period during the Autumn.

Atlet Limited
Paul Forster
Tel: 01844 215501