Switch to VNA storage brings benefits for online fulfilment specialist

Switch to VNA storage brings benefits for online fulfilment specialist

By switching to a very narrow aisle (VNA) racking scheme served by Flexi Truck articulated forklift technology, e-Commerce fulfilment specialist FuturePro Logistics has increased storage capacity by some 30 per cent at its newly built 50,000 sq ft warehouse in Thatcham, Berkshire. 

The racking aisles at the Thatcham warehouse are now two metres wide – whereas a traditional reach truck would require three metre aisles within which to safely work. The top beam is set at eight metres high. 

Replenishment stock is held in the upper levels of the system and pallets are dropped to ground level, where order picking can take place as and when required. In addition, a 7,000 ft mezzanine structure provides additional floor space for order picking and packing, while client dispatches and returns are processed in the area created underneath the raised structure. 

A diverse range of products – from FMCG goods, beverages, and electronics – is stored and fulfilled often overnight for a client list that includes both well-known brand names and start-up businesses.

The Flexi Truck’s iconic articulated design is ideally suited to modern fulfilment centre operations because it saves space, increases productivity and allows safe access to stacking aisles and stored products.

Initially two Flexi Trucks are in operation at FuturePro’s Thatcham warehouse where they are used for a range of tasks including unloading incoming delivery vehicles and transferring loads to their allocated position within the racking. Activity levels are always high with the volume of customer orders driving the need to constantly replenish picking stock on the mezzanine and at floor level within the store’s main racked area. 

Flexi Trucks feature digital electric motor technology and independent drive and hydraulic motors are standard. The truck’s unique independent power-steering motor provides precise steering with no ‘kickback’ and, because 20 per cent less battery energy is consumed, one overnight battery charge is all that is required to ensure that the truck performs at optimum efficiency throughout a full working day. 

“The control systems at the heart of the Flexi Truck deliver greater reliability and higher productivity combined with significantly reduced operating and maintenance costs,” says John Maguire, managing director of Narrow Aisle Ltd, manufacturer of the Flexi Truck range.

Picking pallets at height is not a problem for the Flexi Truck thanks to the truck’s integrated side-shifting carriage and tilting HiViS heavy duty ‘I’ beam mast design that eliminates mast sway – even at heights of eight metres and over. This feature – which is unique to Flexi ­- enhances the truck’s already class-leading operator visibility to both sides of the aisle.

“With the Flexi Truck’s unique, smooth independent power steering, pallets can be picked and put-away on the top beam of the highest racking smoothly, safely and efficiently,” says John Maguire.

Having opened its first facility some nine years ago, FuturePro has grown rapidly and today the company operates a total of five fulfilment warehouses located close to Reading, some 35 minutes from West London. 

Mark Wallace, FuturePro Logistics’ managing director, comments: “To achieve optimum on-line order fulfilment performance it is important to deploy the most suitable materials handling equipment. Our investment in Flexi Trucks was based, in part, on the Flexi’s ability to deliver improved space-efficiency, enhanced productivity and the benefits of multi-tasking which are so important in our highly flexible operations.”