Flexi – driving supply chain efficiency in 2014

Flexi Narrow Aisle has developed its Warehouse Systems Division

Flexi Narrow Aisle – the UK-based articulated forklift truck technology pioneer– expects global sales of its Flexi range of articulated trucks to more than double over the next five years and the company has recently announced a number of initiatives and product enhancements that will help to support this growth strategy.

For example, Flexi Narrow Aisle has developed its Warehouse Systems Division.

The new Division is offering a comprehensive range of warehouse planning and design consultancy services to the Logistics and Materials Handling Industry. These services
Are supported by a wealth of accurate throughput data gathered in many practical warehouse operations. This approach has proven to be of great benefit in reconfiguring
existing outmoded warehouse rack installations at reasonable cost.

Impartial warehouse planning and optimisation advice
“Flexi Warehouse Systems offers impartial advice on a broad spectrum of warehouse based intralogistics solutions. Our aim will be to offer the most space efficient and cost effective system for each application – even if the solution does not involve Articulated or VNA trucks!” explains John Maguire, Flexi Narrow Aisle’s sales and marketing director.

John Maguire adds: “Using warehouse planning and throughput simulation software and drawing on the many years’ experience of the Flexi development team, the Flexi Warehouse Systems Division will deliver tailored and impartial input and advice to any intralogistics development process.”

The dedicated Flexi Warehouse Systems team employ the use of computer aided design to identify cost effective space saving, high throughput pallet storage and customer order picking solutions especially suited to existing warehousing operations that have reached the end of their useful life and have often become unfit for purpose.

Flexi Narrow Aisle was formed in 1976 as a provider of forklift based space saving solutions for the warehousing industry; the company developed the Flexi articulated truck in 1990’s since which time many thousands of units have been sold throughout the world to customers operating in hugely diverse industries.

With their ability to operate in aisleways as narrow as 1.6 metres – articulated to 220 degrees – and lift pallet loads to heights of over 12 metres, Flexis can save warehouse operators at least 30 per cent of their storage costs. Furthermore, the ability to unload pallets from road vehicles or goods in marshalling areas and deliver loads directly to the storage racks can reduce existing handling costs by a further 50 per cent.


The easy to drive option
Of course, as more and more warehouse operators realise the space saving and efficiency benefits of the articulated warehouse truck concept, the number of warehouses being developed using these trucks is rising significantly.

But, despite the large (and growing) number of articulated trucks in operation worldwide and their proven ability to maximise storage and handling efficiency, some potential users hesitate to invest in the technology because of a misplaced perception that compared to, say, a traditional counterbalanced or moving mast reach truck, articulated forklifts may be more difficult to drive.

John Maguire, sales and marketing director of Flexi Narrow Aisle – manufacturer of the Flexi articulated truck range – says that these ‘operator difficulty’ concerns are groundless.

He comments: “Flexi trucks are in use at thousands of sites in 40 different countries around the world and our sales have been driven to a large extent by the fact that operators enjoy working with their Flexi trucks. Indeed, a truck operator at one of our customers’ sites told me recently that it is easier to stack pallets with a Flexi than it is to park a car!”

He continues: “People seem to have all sorts of misconceptions about articulated trucks. I have heard them described as difficult to drive, likely to damage loads and racks and slower than other truck types.

“We have been designing and building Flexi trucks for over 20 years and in truth every aspect of the Flexi’s design concept has been optimised to ensure easy driving, safe and highly productive pallet movements and long battery shift life.

“For example, wheel arches have been designed out of the Flexi’s unique `True Radius’ chassis which means that the risk of pallet rack or product damage when turning at 90° in the aisle has been eliminated – no matter which rack aisle or pallet load configuration has been chosen – because the operator can see exactly where the outer radius of the truck is in relation to the pallet racks and loads in the aisle.

“It is impossible for a Flexi operator to damage loads or pallet racks when turning so, after a short conversion training, forklift operators are soon able to achieve optimum safe productivity rates,’ says John Maguire.

“This narrow rear axle development across the Flexi range is even more important when travelling at speed down narrow rack aisles. Trucks with wide wheel arches are prone to striking pallet loads on the ground level and these `high speed’ incidents can often lead to major product and rack damage,” he adds.

“In Germany, for instance, the strict DIN aisle security standard for Very Narrow Aisle operation can easily be achieved by the Flexi, as its wheel arch-free design provides maximum security clearance when travelling at high speed down the aisle.”

The Flexi’s `True Radius’ wheel arch eliminating design and minimal use of plastic covers and other easy to damage components, means that repair costs incurred due to truck damage are minimal. Indeed, thanks to their robust design and easy-to-operate functionality, most Flexis finish typical five year contract hire agreements with zero or minor return costs.

To ensure that all drivers and warehouse operators not only get the best from their Flexi but work safely, Flexi Training (www.flexi-training.com) offer a number of on the job, training courses. The courses are approved by HSE through an authorised training board and conducted by factory trained and registered instructors at a user’s premises or at Flexi Training’s centre in Droitwich.


… and easy to stack
To further improve the efficiency of the Flexi range, Flexi Narrow Aisle Ltd – manufacturer of the Flexi range of articulated forklift trucks – has introduced wireless, solid state laser lift height selector technology across its range of very narrow aisle trucks.

The height selector allows the truck operator to pre-set the required pallet storage height simply and efficiently which results in faster throughput and reduced fatigue – particularly in larger, high bay stores.

Unlike other forklift height selection systems currently on the market, the Flexi Narrow Aisle technology does not rely on wires, tapes or other cables to monitor the height of the forklift carriage as it is raised or lowered in the aisle. Instead it uses state-of-the-art laser technology developed in consultation with a leading German sensor-solutions specialist to precisely check the carriage height.

“Traditional lift height sensors have used tape to measure the carriage’s height. The tape becomes stretched and worn and has to replaced, whereas our wire-less system is virtually maintenance free and remains accurate no matter how many times the mast is raised or lowered,” says John Maguire, sales and marketing director of Flexi Narrow Aisle

The system automatically stops a forklift load carriage at the correct height when the operator is performing a pallet put-away or retrieval operation. Importantly, the sensor allows the load to be raised or lowered at the optimum speed – bringing it to a controlled stop at the desired location.

John Maguire added: “Because Flexi articulated forklift trucks enable pallets to be picked and put-away up to 14 metres high they are increasingly used in the high bay warehouse sector. Indeed, some 40 per cent of all trucks we supply are already fitted with high definition LCD CCTV screens to enable the operator to clearly see the load, pallet and racking system at all levels. The quality of the images provided to the operator allow some customers to carry out remote continuous stock checking.

“The new Flexi Narrow Aisle lift height sensor is an additional piece of technology that will further eliminate operator error, enhance throughput reduce fatigue and, of course, improve safety in the warehouse.”