Gallery Direct was established in 1973 as a small family business and is now a leading British based designer, manufacturer and worldwide distributor of home décor, furniture and accessories. It has experienced a period of exceptional growth in recent years and has extended its warehouse in Sittingbourne to cope with ongoing global demand.
The 130,000 sq. ft. facility houses over 1,600 product lines which range from pallets of vases to king sized beds, all of which need to be offloaded, stored and reloaded for despatch with the ultimate efficiency. Five Aisle- Master articulated forklifts look after the majority of the handling and storage procedures, and work round the clock from Monday to Friday to keep pace with Gallery Direct’s tight schedule.
“We got our first three Aisle- Masters a couple of years ago and were impressed with their reliability and versatile indoor and outdoor capabilities compared with reach trucks which struggle outside, so it made sense to go with the same brand when we were looking at enlarging the site,” said Warehouse Manager Richard Swann. “The trucks are really manoeuvrable and nifty, the drivers love them and their narrow aisle ability has enabled us to achieve maximum storage density.”
Gallery Direct’s materials handling consultants Locators and the manufacturers of the Aisle-Master brand, Combilift Ltd., worked together to configure the racking which comprises a mix of 2057mm wide aisles for standard UK pallets and 2650mm where oversized products are handled.
This enabled 8,000 pallet spaces to be accommodated in the extension, making a total of 11,000 in all. Richard points out that this is at least 25% more than would have been possible when using less manoeuvrable forklifts.
The two new Aisle-Masters, delivered in the autumn of 2016 to coincide with the opening of the new facility, are heavy duty 20SWE models with large 930 amp batteries and are on 5 year contract hire with Locators. The 2 tonne capacity is more than adequate as very few of the loads handled by Gallery Direct weigh more than 1 tonne. An 11m 3 stage mast was specified as the top beam is two bays higher than in the original storage area at 10.5m. Three charging stations and a spare battery for the smaller Aisle-Masters ensure constant availability for the 24/5 operation.
An in-cab camera aids drivers when storing and picking from the highest beams and shorter than standard forks were also fitted to prevent them from protruding to the other side of the racking.
Gallery Direct’s Operations Manager Ciaran Aldous comments: “Growth has mushroomed in the last year or so and we have furthered our expansion by incorporating Dreamworks Beds Ltd. and Frank Hudson furniture makers into our portfolio, so it was crucial to find a system that promised forklifts with optimum flexibility and the best possible use of every inch of space, and Aisle-Master and Locators made this happen.”