Started in 1965, The Potter Group has grown to become one of the UK's most experienced and professional logistics service providers offering some 1.6m square feet of warehousing and a total of 250 acres of external storage from five facilities strategically located throughout the UK. The companys North West distribution centre at Knowsley, Merseyside, provides 165,000 square feet of shared user warehousing and has recently been redeveloped as part of a plan to increase storage capacity at the site.
The facility had been used predominantly as a bulk paper store until 2007, when the emphasis was switched to the storage of pharmaceutical and chemical products, clinical nutrition and other prescription foods. To accommodate the change, additional pallet racking was required: when the site was mainly used as a bulk paper store its pallet capacity had been just over 4000 locations, but this was insufficient to cope with the demands of Potters growing client base in the private medical sector.
Various storage schemes were considered before the company settled on a high bay very narrow aisle (VNA) racking design served by articulated forklift trucks supplied by Narrow Aisle Flexi. The top beam of the new racking layout is 11.2 metres high and the aisles are 2.2 metres wide. In total, the new storage area provides 16,743 pallet locations and, because of the fluctuating production and sales patterns of the products stored at Knowsley, it has been designed to allow both slow moving and frequently picked items to be accommodated.
Our priority from the outset was to achieve maximum storage density within the square footage we had available, explains Bryan Mulvey, general manager of the Knowsley DC. We considered using reach trucks but decided that articulated forklifts offered greater throughput and flexibility.
The Potter Group operates a fleet of five electric-powered Flexi trucks at Knowsley. All of the pallet put away and picking within the racking is undertaken by the Flexis while the job of unloading and loading incoming and departing trailers in the yard is shared between the Flexi articulated trucks and some counterbalanced trucks.
The Flexi trucks allowed us to reduce aisle widths to maximise storage capacity while maintaining a safe and productive operation that allows fast and efficient pallet put away and retrieval cycles, says Bryan Mulvey. The Felxis ability to unload incoming trailers like a counterbalance machine and serve our VNA racking means we have been able to reduce double handling and cut the overall size of the forklift fleet and labour resource that we would have required at Knowsley had we gone for the reach truck option, he adds.
Narrow Aisle Flexi developed and launched the Flexi articulated truck 20 years ago and since then the Flexi has become the most popular articulated forklift truck in Europe. Over 4000 units not only in Europe but throughout the world have been sold, and over the past five years the Flexi range has been developed to cover the requirements of customers operating in hugely diverse industries.