New Flexi fleet for ‘the UK’s largest online garden centre’

New Flexi fleet for ‘the UK’s largest online garden centre’

Online garden supplies retailer, Primrose, has upgraded the materials handling fleet at its Sharpness, Gloucestershire, high-bay fulfillment centre with a new fleet of Flexi articulated forklift trucks from Narrow Aisle Ltd. 

Flexi articulated truck technology has been deployed at the Sharpness facility for several years and when the operation was due to be revamped to keep pace with Primrose’s expansion, the company had no hesitation in turning again to Flexis. 

The new models specified are the latest ‘Digital’ Flexi trucks and have a lift height of 12 metres. 

‘Digital’ Flexis are designed to ensure optimum battery efficiency and minimal maintenance costs. For example, the truck’s high capacity lead-acid battery maximises the time between recharges, which means that even over the longest shifts the high lift Flexi trucks will sustain peak levels of performance to deliver optimum pallet throughput. A spare battery charging and changing system means Primrose’s trucks can operate around the clock if required to do so.

Like other models in the latest Flexi ‘Digital’ range, the trucks specified by Primrose feature precise independent power-steering which means they are easy to maneuver in the aisles. Articulated ‘over rotation’ and smooth digital steering combine to ensure that one turn of the steering wheel is all that is required to enter or de-stack a pallet.

Importantly for Primrose, operating Flexi articulated truck technology means that the company is able to create key order picking locations at every picking level – something that would prove impossible had the company opted for a guided Man-Up VNA installation.

At its Sharpness facility, Primrose – ‘the UK’s largest online garden centre’ – relies on its Flexi fleet to handle over 8,000 product lines that include garden furniture, water features and fencing.

Some 3,000 customer orders are processed at the site each day and Primrose guarantees next day delivery on all orders placed before 3.00 pm. 

The intensity of the throughput pace at the Sharpness site increased markedly during the pandemic as gardening became a popular way of passing time during lockdown. This, combined with the fact that the huge variation in the size, shape and weight of the products handled, makes any Primrose lift truck operators’ role particularly challenging. 

That is why warehouse safety is regarded particularly seriously by Primrose: the company’s lift truck operators all receive regular refresher training on both stacking and safe order picking within the aisle and to further reduce risk, each of the Flexi trucks within Primrose’s fleet has been fitted with Narrow Aisle’s unique ‘Smart Stop’ in-aisle sensing system. 

Developed by Flexi Warehouse Systems’ team of software engineers, the ‘Smart Stop’ in-aisle sensor immediately disables the truck if it comes in to contact with an object, such as a pallet load, racking or rack guards within the aisle. The Flexi truck can then only be restarted once the driver has reported details of any incident to the designated line manager, thus ensuring that no potential truck/rack impact incidents go unreported and order picking personnel are protected at all times

In the time since the new Flexi trucks with ‘Smart Stop’ have been in service at Primrose’s Sharpness facility, incidents of rack damage have been completely eliminated and costs incurred by carrying out repairs reduced to zero.

Mike Costello, Primrose’s Head of Operations at Sharpness, says: “While rack repairs are costly and also have a negative impact on productivity, we were particularly conscious of the fact that some of the more serious safety problems within warehouses occur when truck operators fail to pass on details of collisions with racking or storage systems. If damage goes unnoticed there is a chance that a more significant safety issue will occur. The Flexi ‘Smart Stop’ in-aisle sensor system means that there is absolutely no chance of aisle impact being overlooked within our operation.”

John Maguire, managing director of Narrow Aisle Ltd, commented: “Abuse of racking and valuable products caused by some forklifts being recklessly driven in and around the warehouse continues to cost companies thousands of pounds each year.

“The Flexi is one of the most straightforward trucks to operate on the market and now the availability of the Flexi’s unique independent power steering and the ‘Smart Stop’ system has made one of the world’s most driver-friendly lift trucks even easier and safer to work with.”

The Flexi truck range is in operation in 65 different countries worldwide and it meets – and in many cases exceeds – all safe design standards in each of these markets.