Nottingham based MKG Foods is using two AC electric powered Aisle-Master articulated forklifts in its cold-store, for faster and more streamlined handling and picking procedures of palletised frozen foods in the 24,000 ft² storage area.
Over the years, MKG Foods has evolved from a general food wholesaler into one of the UK’s leading independent frozen food distributors, with customers across an extensive area of central and northern England. The company supplies a diverse range of frozen products to independent outlets at the higher end of the catering sector, as well as educational establishments and care facilities.
When looking to update handling procedures, Warehouse Manager Wayne Merrin wanted to retain narrow aisle operation whilst avoiding some of the drawbacks he had experienced with a traditional VNA system such as damage to the guide rails and machines, and the limiting indoor-only use of trucks. The Aisle-Master’s versatility was therefore an attractive alternative.
The Aisle-Masters have replaced man-down turret trucks, and offer a greater degree of versatility according to Wayne: “They have definitely made life a lot easier,“ he says; “productivity is up – we can easily cope with 700 pallet movements per week, and the whole operation is slicker.” The two cold-store chambers accommodate 1,000 pallet spaces, and the fast turnaround achieved with the Aisle-Masters is particularly beneficial, as operational speed is crucial when dealing with frozen foods.
The cold-store environment can be unforgiving on equipment, quickly draining batteries for example. The 930 amp battery fitted in MKG’s Aisle-Masters is more than powerful enough to counteract this, and other cold-store specific features ensure reliable operation throughout long shifts in temperatures of around – 22°C to -27°C (cold-store spec Aisle-Masters will actually work in even more numbing temperatures of up to -40°C). Reliability is a crucial issue for Wayne and his team, as since old guide rails have been removed and racking has been reconfigured, the Aisle-Masters are the only forklifts that can work in current aisles.
Wayne visited the Aisle-Master factory in Ireland, and was impressed: “I saw at first hand the quality of the design and build – following the manufacturing process from the raw sheet metal through to the finished truck. I was confident that the Aisle-Master would be absolutely reliable, and this has proved to be the case.”
Despite the tight working spaces, drivers can still exit the trucks when in the aisles, (not possible with the previous trucks) and a further advantage over the old system is the ability to use the Aisle-Masters outside for loading and offloading purpose if necessary. Cost savings are on the menu for MKG too: Steve Surridge of Aisle-Master arranged for a conversion course for MKG’s drivers, which Wayne agrees has paid for itself, as accurate and confident operators ensured efficiency was on the up from day one of implementation of the new system. At very busy times, the speed at which the trucks can work, particularly when carrying out night-time replenishment, is a real asset and will also save money in the long run according to Wayne.
Aisle-Masters can work in aisles of just 1.75m, with capacities of up to 2.5 tonnes and lift heights of up to 12.5 metres, with LPG models also available. All electric models now incorporate AC technology as standard for benefits such as increased performance levels whilst at the same time reducing energy consumption. Aisle-Master design engineers also offer a site visit and warehouse layout service and supply free layout proposals illustrating how to maximise the use of available storage space.
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