Crown’s unique low-level order pickers and fleet management system InfoLink provide the muscle at Next’s new palletised warehouses
When Next needed to find a materials handling supplier for two new 1.1 million sq ft warehouses in the Dearne Valley, the key criterion was the ability to provide a specially adapted order-picking truck.
Next required a double-pallet, low-level order picker that would allow operators to pick from two levels of pallets with cartons stored up to 3.3 metres above the ground. This arrangement has enabled Next to maximise the number of pallets stored in the picking area available.
The key design criteria for the truck included:
- An operator platform that lifts to 1.8 metres, with built-in automatic opening and closing side rails
- Elevated steering when the platform is raised
- Enough space for two picked pallets on the forks
- A shelf on which to place picked items while the platform is raised
- Use of closed 4-way pallets, placed on the forks with up to four plastic pallet collars
- Space for additional pallet collars on the truck for the picker to use during pick walks.
The order for the fleet was driven by this specification for order-picking trucks. They would be used to pick Homeware items from 4 miles of pallet pick aisles located on a 220,000 sq ft mezzanine floor. The sites were opened in spring 2008 and business growth means Next is currently adding to its fleet.
Mark Eccleston, Manager Major Accounts for Crown UK, explains:
“To gain as many pick locations as possible, Next wanted an additional level of racking. So the low-level order pickers had to be able to physically raise the driver to a height of 1.8 metres.”
As Mark says: “The obvious benefit of a platform that can be raised is the dramatic increase in safety and efficiency. However, it presented Next with an entirely new problem – the absence of a suitable truck in today’s marketplace.”
To tackle this problem, Next invited a number of manufacturers to come up with ways in which a low-level order picker could be adapted to suit the application. Crown’s solution was to take the GPC 3040 2-tonne low-level order picker and add an internal mast so the operator cabin could be raised by 1.8 metres.
Next was impressed by the thoughtful design touches and inherent efficiencies of the truck, and selected Crown as their supplier.
The uniquely adapted Crown GPC 3040
Next wanted the trucks to be able to travel in any direction while simultaneously lifting or lowering the cab. Thanks to Crown’s Access 1 2 3® Comprehensive System Control, this was relatively easy to engineer. Because the system responds dynamically to operating conditions, the truck already has built-in parameters that ensure optimum safety at all times and in all conditions – even if the cab is being raised while the truck is cornering, for example.
Safer to use, easier to service – Access 1 2 3®
The Crown GPC 3000 series low-level order picker is available in capacities from 2.0 to 2.7 tonnes. All models in the range come with Crown’s exclusive Access 1 2 3 Comprehensive System Control, which enables safe, reliable, industry-leading performance and diagnostics using an intuitive method of communication.
The system continuously monitors factors influencing performance and safety (such as load, travel speed and steering angle) and responds by optimising performance according to the changing conditions – in real time. Access 1 2 3® technology is complemented by Crown’s InfoPoint System™, which provides logical, easy-to-understand troubleshooting support. The result is much faster fault diagnosis and much less downtime.
The award-winning X10® handle
All truck functions are controlled by the award-winning X10 handle. On the GPC 3000 trucks for Next, a large display gives the operator service messages, information on battery discharge levels and operational status updates. But the main benefit of the X10® handle is increased efficiency, because all truck functions can be operated simultaneously using just one hand.
Ergonomic design – faster pick-rates
Crown also added a sturdy storage tray directly behind the operator. This serves two purposes.
First, it provides the operator with an area on which to rest boxes and picked products while working in the racking. And second, because the tray is attached to the cabin and not the chassis, it rises with the cabin, so operators no longer have to drop picked products into the pallet from a height – this improves product care and reduces unnecessary damage.
Crown also set up an area in the truck where pallet collars can be stored when they are not in use. Even this simple design element was optimised by Crown engineers, who shaped the two outer edges to ensure that pallet collars stay safely in their compartment at all times – even when the truck is cornering.
A popular addition to the workforce – superheroes!
To boost morale and add interest, the Next Operations Team came up with the idea of giving each truck a name rather than assigning it a number. To find a suitable theme, the company arranged an in-house competition: the final winner was “Sci-Fi”. After seeking and receiving permission from Lucas Films and Marvel Comics, each truck was given a ‘superhero’ name. From Darth Vader to The Incredible Hulk, C3PO to Wolverine, the reinforced steel cover of each truck has been adorned with a colourful graphic depicting a different character.
Ultimate efficiency – InfoLink®
A visit to the site is enough to show that Next is always looking to improve internal processes. Enhancements include automated pallet storage, tailor-made low-level order pickers, and even a voice picking system which allows operators to give and receive information through an integrated headset. This approach is underscored by the company’s decision to install the Crown InfoLink fleet management system.
InfoLink® is a wireless fleet management system that monitors and reports on a wide range of fleet usage and performance parameters. The system not only allows users to read and analyse fleet usage stats in an intuitive, reliable and user-friendly way; it also delivers data in real time.
Via InfoLink, Next management can monitor and communicate a wealth of invaluable fleet truck usage and performance information. By bringing together truck sensors, wireless technology, integrated electronics, automated processes and insightful reports, Next benefits from simplified fleet management in real time, saving substantial amounts of time and money.
“We believe InfoLink is the most advanced fleet management system available today, providing customers with easy-to-read management data in real time. Customers who use this system have reported a significant reduction in their fleet costs,” reports Mark.
He adds: “On its second anniversary the site is fully operational and achieving the projected pick-rates and costs. The GPC 3040 low-level order pickers are a key element, and Next is currently expanding the fleet due to growth.” Mark finishes by emphasizing: “The addition of InfoLink provides complete cost transparency across the whole fleet. With it, Next can see exactly what’s going on in their fleet in real time – right down to the performance of individual trucks.”
Crown Equipment Corporation is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of electric lift trucks. Since the company first started building materials handling equipment in the 1950s, Crown products have won numerous industry accolades. From the smallest pallet trucks through to the largest VNA trucks, Crown uses leading-edge design, innovative engineering and high-quality manufacturing techniques to respond to the full range of customer needs, achieving exceptional standards of reliability and productivity.
Crown has a unique corporate structure, characterised by the highest levels of vertical integration in the industry. This enables the company to keep tight control of development, production and customer support. Up to 85 percent of the components used in Crown products are developed and manufactured by Crown in custom-built facilities. Crown is committed to offering customers superior value that reduces TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).
Crown Equipment Corporation is a family-owned business with head offices in the USA, Australia and Germany. Crown now operates a global distribution and service network with more than 70 fully-owned subsidiaries and over 300 independent dealerships.