First of all, John, can you talk us through the different products and services Narrow Aisle provides?
We pioneered the design, manufacture and supply of the Flexi range of articulated warehouse truck solutions. Our best-selling line is the Flexi Range Trucks from 1.3 tonnes capacity to 3.0 tonnes capacity, with lift heights available from 3 metres to 15 metres, very narrow stacking aisle performance from as little as 1.6 metres between pallets. Easy to operate and popular with lift truck drivers, the manoeuvrable Flexi truck increases usable storage space by between 25-50%, operating in very narrow aisles, unloading from transport and transfering to pallet storage in a single operation, eliminating double pallet handling.
We are specialists and do not sell any other products, just the Flexi variants. Other manufacturers make, for example, engine power forklift trucks or dock container handling equipment, which have no synergy with warehousing intralogistics. This has allowed our company to become expert in designing efficient VNA warehouse storage solutions for customers in the food, retail and 3PL sectors.
A completely different approach is required to provide intralogistics storage solutions; it’s not just about “engineering trucks,” it’s about understanding the customers’ real needs and having an understanding of the warehousing arena and we have over 30 years’ experience in this area.
The Flexi VNA range is the “narrowest” on the market for optimum aisle performance, easy turning and fast safe travel speed, and turns quickest with an outstanding 220° of true articulation across the range.
What sets your company apart as a supplier in your category?
Our company has always specialised in providing efficient, space-saving solutions to the retail, third party warehousing, logistics and manufacturing sectors. The development of the Flexi Articulated warehouse truck concept in 1990 provided a step change; it allows our customers to reduce stacking aisles and maximise storage capacity without the need for steel rails or wire guidance.
At the same time they can safely carry out efficient customers’ order assembly at the key ground level locations, allowing the operator to bulk store pallets above the ground level pick face and therefore create a real distribution centre solution, with over 30% more pallet storage density.
Our team of product managers provide a totally free design service to help businesses who have storage capacity and pallet throughput challenges to find cost-effective solutions to their needs, often utilizing their existing building, a huge cost saving.
What business sectors are your customers in? Which industry sectors are growing fastest for you?
We have seen a growth in demand across the world. In our key markets, such as the UK and USA, a lot of demand is coming from e-commerce and third-party logistics providers who use the Flexi articulated truck to save space.
In addition, new food industry and beverage customers to the articulated truck concept often have a need to lift heavier loads to higher levels – which makes our HiLOAD and HiMAX ranges an ideal choice.
This ‘high bay’ very narrow aisle market segment was once the preserve of man up lateral stackers. However, users are now aware that the Flexi HiMAX is able to provide the same functionality as these traditional VNA trucks but without the constraints of having to provide ‘super flat’ floors and mechanical or inductive guidance systems.
Which of your core products and solutions are you presenting on your stand at IMHX? Are you launching anything new at the show?
Our development and launch of the Flexi Lithium product range this past year has been very exciting, since the Hannover CeMAT launch event there has been a surge in orders for this product especially among those customers who previously used propane gas powered articulated trucks. Deliveries of Flexi LiTHiON trucks have been made to customers in the UK, as well as in France and the USA, with many more project already in the works for next year.
Since the launch, all the Flexi models across the range are available with integrated Lithium-Ion battery-power.
Flexi LiTHiON trucks require virtually no battery maintenance – the truck monitors the battery function constantly and reports the battery status real time, while the fact that the Flexi LiTHiON range’s batteries can be fully charged within one or two hours, even if the battery is fully discharged – ensures that truck uptime is optimised.
There is also a step forward in Lead Acid battery technology; Flexi Easy-Change, a new intelligent forklift truck battery ‘Call Forward’ charging and change management system, that further improves lift truck fleet efficiency for multi shift users of battery-powered Flexi articulated trucks. When combined with highly efficient HF chargers, current energy costs can be reduced by up to 50%.
Narrow Aisle Ltd has announced that remanufactured machines in its Flexi ECO AC range of ‘second life’ articulated forklift trucks are now offered with the same factory warranty terms as new-build Flexis. One year or 2000 hours parts and labour, five years parts.
Why should busy professionals from the warehouse and logistics industry take time out to visit your stand at IMHX?
At IMHX we are taking the opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the new Flexi ACiON and LiTHiON products.
Our Flexi Warehouse Systems Division will be exhibiting. They use our 30 years of industry experience to develop customers’ projects looking at all the elements that influence the efficiency of their operation and future payback of their new warehouse, especially the concept of compressing the project timeframe to accelerate implementation and therefore payback starts earlier.
This attribute is very important in the fast-growing e-fulfilment and 3PL sector, where fixed contract terms and customers needing early fulfilment start dates are critical.
The last IMHX was 2016. How has your business changed since then?
Since becoming Managing Director earlier this year, we have moved to implement a number of key technologies that will drive our company into the future. The introduction of the Flexi LiTHiON range and the next generation of fully digital controlled Flexi trucks that need 16% less energy than before.
These developments place our company at the forefront of warehouse truck technology, creating a range of VNA space saving solutions that are uber energy efficient, extremely easy to drive and have the ability to have ‘cobotic’ features and upgrades overtime to ensure they remain efficient in today’s fast moving market landscape.
Can you tell us about your major customer contract wins in the last three years? Do these represent new development areas for your company?
Our exceptional growth in the Middle East and Africa region has been a real success. Many new warehouse developments in these countries are finding the Flexi to be the perfect solution due to the rapid project implementation time and ease of operation even on ‘standard’ warehouse floors. The USA economy continues to expand, the US tendency to unload semi-trailors off level docks suits our Flexi LITE concept as it allows a quad mast truck to de-stuff the trailor and still lift to 5.5 metres.
Which other countries do you operate in besides the UK? Which overseas markets are most important for you?
We are an internationally focused company that provides innovative warehouse truck-based storage systems to the global Intralogistics industry and this is reflected in the growing number of overseas warehouse operators investing in our advanced technology.
Narrow Aisle began exporting as long ago as 1976 mainly on a project-by-project basis. However, the introduction of the Flexi truck system in 1990 saw a move towards a global distribution network. Since 2004, we have actively sought to develop this network and now have partners in 63 countries, who provide full after-sales support to their clients.
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