One of Irelands leading providers of stationery products has recently switched its supplier of articulated forklift trucks and re-equipped its warehouse fleet with a number of award-winning Flexi G4 articulated forklifts from Narrow Aisle.
The company had been operating articulated trucks at its facility for some three years, and, although it remained convinced that the articulated forklift truck concept brought significant efficiency and productivity gains to its operation, the decision was taken to seek a new supplier after the firms forklift fleet developed persistent mechanical problems that led to unacceptable downtime in and around the warehouse.
The stationery producer had been operating a fleet of Liquid Petroleum Gas powered articulated trucks at its site which is close to Dublin. However, the trucks converted LP-Gas engines potential to leak a combination of water, hot engine oil and hydraulic fluid left the company with little alternative but to reconsider its choice of supplier for their primarily clean warehouse application.
But it wasnt just the leakage issues that the company had experienced that prompted the rethink. With the cost of propane rising due to the record oil prices, the trucks were proving much more expensive to run than had been anticipated, as John Maguire Narrow Aisles Sales & Marketing Director explains: Propane, which is commonly used in LPG mixes is extracted from natural gas or oil refinery steams and, since it is produced as a by-product, its production levels cannot be increased when demand for it is high hence the recent huge price increases.
Once we had demonstrated the efficiency of our electric-powered Flexi G4, the company needed little convincing that their long term interests would be better served by selecting what is the original front wheel drive electric powered articulated truck, the Flexi.
LP Gas-powered articulated forklifts are, of course, in operation at many, many sites around the world and their ability to combine the very narrow aisle performance of an articulated forklift truck, with the power and availability of a propane powered forklift is attractive to many specifiers. Narrow Aisles own Gas-powered Flexi GAS model features a three-way catalytic converter, plus proven GM LPG engine provides power on demand for maximum productivity.
However, as with any piece of materials handling equipment, it is essential to specify the most appropriate truck for the application and environment it has to work in. It was clear that, for the stationery companys requirements, a gas-powered truck was not the best choice, says John Maguire.
John Maguire continues: Gas powered articulated trucks are at their best at sites where they are required to operate on demand, perhaps for an hour at a time and then left idle for a long period, over two or three shifts. In such cases a single bottle of gas is usually sufficient to power the truck over three shifts and this can be more economical than frequent battery changes. Gas trucks should also be considered where more than 50 per cent of the trucks work will be carried out outside. In any case, warehouse buildings should always be well ventilated when Gas trucks are operated.
Unfortunately, I believe that there is a tendency among some suppliers to oversell the advantages of LP gas powered trucks and, as a result, some users operate them for applications where electric-powered trucks would certainly be more efficient. This appears to have been the case with our Irish stationery client.
Sadly for the company concerned, the resale value of their original trucks was not high. This meant that the whole experience, cost them several thousand Euros although, I am really delighted to say, they are so content with their new electric-powered Flexi G4s that they have no regrets about making the change.
Based in the industrial heartland of the United Kingdom, Narrow Aisle Ltd has been one of Europes foremost manufacturers of very narrow aisle (VNA) equipment for over three decades.
The companys range of VNA products includes man-down and man-up trucks, order pickers and reach trucks, but Narrow Aisle is perhaps best known as the original manufacturer of front wheel drive articulated forklifts, the award-winning Flexi range.
The Flexi is now the biggest selling articulated forklift truck model in Europe. Trucks for the European market are designed and built at Narrow Aisles UK manufacturing facility and distributed through a fully supported distributor network.
Over the last 15 years we have focused our attention on building an authorised distributor network across the globe and all FLEXI front wheel drive articulated trucks are built by us and supplied to customers with properly organized after-sales service and parts support, says John Maguire.
This has brought a number of benefits not the least of which is the fact that the resale value of a five year old FLEXI truck in the European market is often over twice that of, say, some US, Irish or French-built alternatives.
Effectively two trucks in one, the Flexis design enables it to load like a counterbalanced machine both inside and outside but it can also work in very narrow aisles. This dual purpose functionality guarantees the user a wide range of benefits not the least of which is the ability to load and unload lorries and deliver pallets directly into the racking in a single operation. By doing so, it increases efficiency and productivity while abolishing double handling and the costs associated with operating a bigger truck fleet than is necessary.
The most significant recent development from the company the Flexi Generation 4 boasts all of the design features that have established the FLEXI as Europes biggest selling articulated forklift, and also includes a number of significant operator safety-related advances. The trucks contribution to improved safety in and around the warehouse, was recognized when the Flexi G4 was named winner of the prestigious British Materials Handling Federation (BMHF) Safety Award for 2007.
Operator safety is a key consideration within any materials handling operation and with forklift trucks implicated in around one-quarter of all serious workplace transport-related injuries and some ten fatalities a year, its easy to understand why, says John Maguire.
Successful warehousing is always a balance of productivity and safety, but safety has to be the foremost consideration. Forklift truck design has an important role to play in safety and Narrow Aisles FLEXI G4 articulated truck demonstrates how a lift truck can be built to aid a drivers safe practice.
Narrow Aisles many years of experience in the development and manufacture of exceptionally reliable front wheel drive articulated lift trucks is reflected in the attention the company gives to often overlooked design details.
For instance, unlike other articulated trucks on the market, operators can access the G4 from either side and step into the cab on a wide footplate, which, as John Maguire explains, is a feature that operators welcome. There are certain articulated trucks on the market where the footplate step is barely wide enough for an operator to put a foot in to, he says. In wet conditions I am told that it is not uncommon for an operators foot to slip off of the narrow footplate - leaving the operator with very sore shins!
Meanwhile, the G4s roomy operators cabin ensures greater comfort throughout even toughest shifts and the trucks the automotive style accelerator and brake pedal layout (which is recommended by FEM) ensures even more leg space for the operator and improved safety. Some articulated truck cabs look spacious from the outside but, when you sit inside them in the operators position, the front overhead guard posts seem very close, says John Maguire
John Maguire concludes: During the development of the G4, Narrow Aisles design team set out to produce a product that incorporates all the safety features required by the North American market and also meets all the relevant safety legislation demanded by the European Community. The resulting award-winning G4 is, we believe, by far the safest and most productive articulated on the market.