Thetford is the leading global supplier to the camping, caravanning and leisure industry with its range of mobile sanitary systems, refrigerators and cooking equipment. The UK arm of its operations, Thetford Ltd, recently moved into to a new 73,000ft² manufacturing and warehousing facility in Rotherham, and took advantage of the move to implement new handling and storage procedures. Key to this was the introduction of three Aisle-Master articulated forklifts which have replaced previously used counterbalance and reach trucks.
The company’s old premises in Sheffield were spread across two sites in an urban area and not best laid out for efficient use of the space available. Being able to start from scratch was the ideal opportunity for SHE Coordinator Dean Howson to remedy this. “Although we now have an increased footprint of around 10,000ft², the three to four metre aisle-widths needed for our old trucks would have swallowed this up leaving us with no increase in storage capacity. Together with IT Coordinator Matthew Paget I consulted Paul Freeman of CAM Fork Lift Trucks and he immediately recommended we take a look at the Aisle-Master range – not just because of its space saving capabilities but also due to its versatile all round indoor/outdoor operation.”
In less than three months after acquiring the new site and with minimal interruption to the manufacturing schedule Thetford transferred production to Rotherham and took delivery of three electric powered 2 t capacity AM20 SHE models. Weekly output stands at over 2,000 units per week destined for holiday homes, motor homes, caravans and small and medium sized boats. The finished packs of these and other items manufactured elsewhere such as fridges are of varying sizes and come in different types of packaging according to end customers’ wishes.
Racking from the old premises has been laid out in the new warehouse according to the Aisle-Masters’ abilities and aisle-widths are now considerably narrower than previously possible, resulting in a total of 842 available pallet spaces. The trucks work across the board offloading components and placing them near production lines, taking finished goods to the racking and high level bulk store, picking to order and loading delivery trucks. The diverse load sizes require bespoke storage and loading solutions in some instances, such as metal cages to protect glass hobs. One of the Aisle-Masters has been fitted with double deep forks (2050mm when extended) to enable awkward packs and stillages to be easily loaded across the truck bed.
At the moment the Aisle-Masters pick to top bays of 6m, but with lift heights of 7.25m they are equipped to cope with the changing requirements at Thetford. As time goes by the company plans to install higher racking to make the most of all vertical space for increased storage capacity.
“This is an ongoing project and one that has been challenging at times,” says Dean. “From day one the Aisle-Masters’ abilities have enabled us to factor in future growth and have been well worth the investment. With the assistance of Paul and Aisle-Master’s Stephen Wells we have an efficient handling system in place with reliable trucks that do everything we want, anywhere we need them.”
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