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    Flexi Warehouse System at Cold Store

    Norish is a third party multi-temperature warehousing and logistics business. The company operates seven facilities strategically located throughout the UK that, between them, provide in the region of 70,000 racked pallet spaces. Of these over 52,000 are temperature controlled. A range of services is offered – including storage, handling, freezing, de-vanning, customer order picking and cross-docking – on a local, regional and national basis.


    They have a 45,000 sq ft cold store facility in Gillingham, Kent. The site, which is ideally located close to the M2, near London, was a strategic acquisition to provide a conveniently located comprehensive cold store service to their varied client base in London.


    On taking ownership of the unit, Norish embarked on a significant upgrade of the facility.


    The previous owners had operated a storage system based around very narrow aisle racking and turret trucks.  Norish considered this arrangement inefficient: the turret trucks, for example, required a five metre wide transfer aisle – something that Norish’s management team quickly identified from their previous experience as a waste of valuable storage space and rather slow in operation. As a result, a new storage solution was sought.


    Having considered several alternatives, Norish opted for a Powered Mobile racking warehouse system to provide maximum storage density served by Flexi Cold Store articulated trucks Using aisles of only 1.8 metres the Flexi’s allowed an extra row in each of three chambers providing a 12%increase in capacity compared to reach trucks.


    The site’s original configuration had provided 4,000 pallet positions in two frozen chambers operating at – 25°C . Norish took the decision to sub-divide one of the chambers – giving three separate frozen storage chambers and self contained units in total.


    With each of the chambers upgraded with a new floor, guide tracks and powered mobile racking in very narrow aisle format fed by dedicated Flexi Cold Store trucks, the Gillingham facility now offers 6,200 pallet locations – a  50 per cent increase in pallet capacity! This remarkable expansion in available pallet spaces has been achieved without extending the physical dimensions of the building.


    “Within any type of cold storage facility it is essential not only to get maximum product density,” says Norman Hatcliff, managing director of Norish plc. “The combination of powered mobile racking WMS and Flexi Cold Store trucks allows us to maximise throughput, storage density and get individual pallet accessibility to ensure every location is always available for storing goods.” Many traditional systems, drive in racks, double deep shuttle etc require very careful management.


    Products – a wide mix of meats, sea food and raw ingredients from around the world and some locally produced grocery products – arrive at the facility throughout the whole day and are unloaded at one of five sealed loading docks by powered pallet trucks and collated within an enclosed marshalling area.


    Full pallet loads are then collected by the Flexis and delivered directly to the mobile racking where they are put away at the position allocated by Norish’s warehouse management system. The racking is four levels high and the Flexi trucks are lifting full pallet loads to heights of 8.6 metres at the top beam.


    The racking is controlled using push buttons or remote control. At the touch of a button, Norish’s cold store staff are able to slide the rack structure along floor mounted guide rails to expose the required rack face within the storage cube. This means that at any one time there can be two aisles open from which pallets can be picked. This maximizes the density of storage while optimizing individual pallet access and retrieval.


    “Our calculations indicate that a narrow aisle static racking system served by reach trucks would have given us less than 5000, 1200mm x 1000mm (ISO type) pallet locations,” says Norman Hatcliff. “The flexibility of the Flexi very narrow aisle articulated truck enables us to make the best use of the storage cube.”



    The Flexi AC Cold Store (CS) articulated trucks in operation at Norish’s Gillingham site were specially developed to suit the cold store environment in which they work. For example, because they are spending a significant proportion of their working day in temperatures of 25 degrees or less and then transferring to ambient/chill zones, all the main components of the trucks are stainless steel or zinc coated and all other drive components cold store specified.  The Flexi AC Cold Store trucks have been used by Norish at other group sites for many years, on 24 hour, 7 day shift cycles, the Flexi Cold Store battery power systems is very efficient and allows only two batteries to be used to operate three shifts per day.


    At present over 800 pallets pass through the Gillingham site each day, while in the run-up to Christmas the two Flexi Cold Store articulated trucks on site were still able to cope when this figure peaked at 1200 pallets in and out per day.


    We are very pleased with the long term reliable performance of our Flexi Cold Store truck fleet across the group.  The units are available with fully enclosed heated operator cabs for full pallet storage and retrieval.  We specify Flexi’s without heated cabs to support customer order picking operations as the drivers often need to get out of cabs to help more cases of product or empty pallets on break bulk operations.


    We have tried other brands of trucks over the years but we have found the Flexi Cold Store units to be very robust, reliable and supported by great aftersales service.


    The future is bright, Norman Hatcliff is very optimistic:  “Norish has a good mix of clients and we’re structured well. In the current climate it is clearly essential that logistics service provider such as ourselves manage our costs efficiently and the innovations we have introduced at all our facilities like Flexi Cold Store trucks means that we are making the most cost effective use of the space we have available. After all, the more pallets I can get into my warehouse the lower my operating and energy cost and the more revenue Norish can earn.”


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