Spreading the load

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Dairy Crest, the UK chilled dairy foods company, manufactures a range of everyday dairy brands including the award-winning Cathedral City cheddar, Clover spread, Country Life butter and FRijj, the top selling flavoured milk drink. Dairy Crest also supplies milk to retailers throughout the country, from major supermarkets to village stores, while the company's milkmen deliver milk - and much more - to thousands of doorsteps in England and Wales every day.

Dairy Crest's 38M national distribution centre and cheese maturation store in Nuneaton dispatches some 2,500 pallet loads of dairy products daily to over 500 delivery points throughout the UK.

With a footprint of 27,000 square metres, the facility comprises two fully automated high bay warehouses one handling cheese maturation with storage capacity for over 35,000 pallets and a second with the capacity to store 10,000 pallets of finished products.

Incoming goods at the NDC are transferred from trailers to one of four automated receiving conveyors using Jungheinrich ERE 225 powered pallet trucks with fixed stand-on platforms. Because of its compact design, the ERE is particularly suited to working within confined spaces such as lorries.

The ERE's powerful 3-phase AC drive motor delivers the highest performance, while Jungheinrich's ShockProtect system protects the operator, truck and load from vibration. The trucks are also fitted with Curve Control for increased safety when cornering.

Following a profile check, each incoming pallet's identity is verified against information held on Dairy Crest's warehouse management system (WMS) before being sent to its allocated location within the store. A rapid pallet transport monorail system delivers each pallet to its allocated aisle where it is put away in the racking by automated crane.

Finished products ready for dispatch are stored in a two-tier picking hall. The picking aisles are replenished by five storage and retrieval cranes and there are 1000 picking locations at ground floor level.

A fleet of Junghenrich ECE 220 low level order pickers is at the heart of the picking operation. The ECE 220 offers high acceleration and travel speed with low energy consumption factors that were particularly important at a facility with such a high throughput.

To plan the optimum picking route, the ECE 220s are fitted with radio data terminals.

Once picked, orders are delivered by the order picking trucks to a marshalling area where they are loaded onto trailers using the Jungheinrich ERE trucks.

Dairy Crest had, until recently , been using another make of lift truck at the Nuneaton store. One of the reasons for switching to Jungheinrich was the fact that the batteries used to power both the Jungheinrich order pickers and the ride-on pallet handlers are interchangeable. This means that Dairy Crest has been able to minimise the number of batteries it uses resulting in cost savings of 18 per cent.

"Picking and loading is very hard on a truck's batteries,"  says Warehouse Operations Manager, Brandon J. Moss. "Apart from the significant cost benefits that have resulted from reducing the number of batteries we need, we have also been able to allocate an area of our charging bay to other things."

In all , Dairy Crest operates 33 Jungheinrich order picking trucks, 12 ride-on pallet trucks and four electric and diesel counterbalance trucks at the Nuneaton store.

"By automating the bulk pallet operation and then designing the picking operation to be as flexible as possible, Dairy Crest's Nuneaton site is an excellent example of how automated and manual handling systems can work together," says Jungheinrich's Craig Johnson, Jungheinrich UK Ltd's marketing manager.

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