Norish is a third party multi-temperature warehousing and logistics business. The company operates seven facilities strategically located throughout the UK that, between them, provide in the region of 68,000 racked pallet spaces. Of these 52,000 are temperature controlled. A range of services is offered – including storage, handling, freezing, de-vanning, picking and cross-docking – on a local, regional and national basis.
In March 2008 the company completed the acquisition of a 45,000 sq ft cold store facility in Gillingham, Kent. The site, which is located close to the M2, had previously been operated by Premier Food Group but had become surplus to the food manufacturer’s requirements.
On taking ownership of the unit, Norish embarked on a significant upgrade of the facility.
The previous owners had operated a storage system based around very narrow aisle racking and turret trucks. Norish considered this arrangement inefficient: the turret trucks, for example, required a five metre wide transfer aisle – something that Norish’s management team quickly identified as a waste of potentially valuable storage space. As a result, a new storage solution was sought.
Having considered several alternatives, Norish opted for a system with powered mobile very narrow aisle racking supplied and installed by Index Procon and served by Flexi articulated forklift trucks from Narrow Aisle at its heart.
The site’s original configuration had provided 4,000 pallet positions in two frozen chambers operating at – 25°C . Norish took the decision to sub-divide one of the chambers – giving three separate and self contained units in total; one of which would be operated at chill whilst the other two would operated as frozen storage chambers.
With each of the chambers fitted with powered mobile racking with very narrow aisles and fed by Flexi trucks, the Gillingham facility now offers 6,200 pallet locations – 50 per cent increase pallet capacity. This remarkable expansion in available pallet spaces has been achieved without extending the physical dimensions of the building.
“Within any type of cold storage facility it is essential to get maximum product density,” says Norman Hatcliff, managing director of Norish plc.
“The combination of powered mobile racking and Flexi trucks allows us to maximise storage density and get great individual pallet accessibility.”
Products – a wide mix of meats, sea food and raw ingredients from around the world and some locally produced retail goods – arrive at the facility throughout the day and are unloaded at one of five sealed loading docks by powered pallet trucks and collated within a marshalling area.
Full pallet loads are then collected by the Flexis and delivered directly to the mobile racking where they are put away at the position allocated by Norish’s warehouse management system. The racking is four levels high and the Flexi trucks are lifting to heights of 8.6 metres at the top beam.
The racking supplied by Index Procon is controlled using push buttons on the ends of the racks. At the touch of a button, Norish’s cold store staff are able to slide the rack structure along floor mounted guide rails to expose the required rack face within the storage cube. This means that at any one time there are only ever two aisles open from which pallets can be picked. This maximizes the density of storage while retaining individual pallet access and retrieval.
“Our calculations indicate that a narrow aisle static racking system served by reach trucks would have given us 5000 1200mm x 1000mm (ISO type) pallet locations,” says Norman Hatcliff. “The flexibility of the Flexi very narrow aisle articulated truck enables us to make the best use of the storage cube.”
The electric-powered Flexi Cold Store (CS) articulated forklifts in operation at Norish’s Gillingham site have been adapted to suit the cold store environment in which they work. For example, because they are spending a significant proportion of their working day in temperatures of 25 degrees or less and then transferring to ambient/chill zones, all the main components of the trucks are zinc coated and all other parts cold store specified.
At present some 600 to 800 pallets pass through the Gillingham site every 6 days on a single day shift basis, while in the run-up to Christmas the two Flexi CS articulated trucks on site were able to cope when this figure rose to 1200 plus pallets in and out. The facility is currently operating at 60 per cent of its capacity, but at current growth rates it is forecast to be close to fully utilized by the second quarter of 2009.
Despite the general mood, Norman Hatcliff is optimistic: “Norish has a good mix of clients and we’re structured well. In the current climate it is clearly essential that logistics service provider such as ourselves manage our costs efficiently and the innovations we have introduced at our new Gillingham facility means that we are making the most cost effective use of the space we have available. After all, the more pallets I can get into my warehouse the lower my operating and energy cost and the more revenue Norish can earn.”