The Gas Superstore was established in 1969 with its first retail outlet in Leicester. The company specialises in supplying kitchen appliances, fires, fireplaces, and barbeques and, while the retail stores remains a popular destination for consumers from across the East Midlands, sales from The Gas Superstore's online presence now account for up to 70 per cent of all customer orders.
Such has been the success of the company's online e-commerce business that the Gas Superstore needed to upgrade its warehouse operation to ensure that it is in a position to fulfill every next day delivery promise it makes to its loyal internet shoppers.
A 65,000 sq ft new build distribution centre facility was acquired in Coalville – only 14 miles from its original retail store, allowing it to support a rapid click and collect service for the East Midlands.
To maximize the storage capacity and handling efficiency of the new site, The Gas Superstore with the help of Flexi Warehouse Systems planned their new racking scheme around a very narrow aisle configuration (VNA) served by Flexi articulated fork trucks.
Storage racking needed to be some 6.5 metres high to fully utilize the new building with aisle widths set at 1.9 metres with end of aisle transfer aisle of only 3 metres, the Flexi trucks are able to handle ISO and EURO or appliances individually. In order to increase throughput and reduce the average travel distance between picks, a central transfer aisle only 2.7 metres wide with bridge bay storage above was created.
Opting for this Flexi based narrow aisle storage solution has enabled more than 3,000 pallet storage locations to be achieved within the new building's footprint as well as the other important work zones required, goods receiving, picking and packing, dispatch and administration offices.
The Flexi AC trucks in the operation are the latest generation high throughput model. These units with 220 degrees of articulation, precise independent power steering and unique 'True Radius' chassis design allow pallets and appliances to be handled easily in the 1.9 metre aisles. The Flexi trucks were both supplied with optimal hydraulic white goods/ appliance clamps to ensure that the risk of damage to white goods and appliances was eliminated during the handling process, in fact uniquely the Flexi, when fitted with the hydraulically operated clamps can place appliances individually into specially adapted decked out pallet racking locations further improving safe storage capacity and reducing manual handling.
Thanks to their ability to operate both inside the warehouse and outside in the yard, the Flexis are used by The Gas Superstore to unload incoming trailers and deliver stock to the storage cube.
When it comes to outgoing orders, the Flexis pick items from the racking and transfer them directly to The Gas Superstore's own fleet of delivery vans for shipment and installation into individual clients' homes across the East Midlands and increasingly nationwide.
The Gas Superstore's Director Paul Fenn said: "We decided that the best way to maximize the capacity and efficiency of our new building was to go down the very narrow aisle (VNA) route. But we wanted the flexibility of handling pallets or individual appliances in a very narrow aisle that Flexi articulated trucks offer when compared to traditional trucks."
Flexi Narrow Aisle's marketing director, John Maguire, commented: "After undertaking a detailed site survey and ensuring that we fully understood The Gas Superstore's intralogistics requirements, we recommended a solution that allowed appliances to be stored and then picked for individual customers deliveries as well as handling pallets".
"Because all Flexi AC used trucks are built with an independent power steering motor to eliminate kickback, which then allows the main hydraulic system to power all appliance handling attachment, we had no hesitation in recommending our machines for this client's application."
Paul Fenn added: "We considered other makes of articulated truck but were impressed by the way the Flexi team looked carefully at our requirements before designing a solution that ultimately has fulfilled all our needs and more. The Flexi's engineering and quality build are excellent, however operator clear forward visibility and smooth steering system has proven to be most important when handling our customers' fragile white goods with clamps."