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 50,000 sq. ft multi-client store in Thatcham, Berkshire.

The racking aisles at the Thatcham unit are now 2 metres wide rather than three metres wide with the traditional reach truck, and with the top beam set at 8 metres high, the storage cube provides 4000 pallet locations.

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 steel mezzanine structure provides additional floor space to allow order picking and packing space while client dispatches and returns are processed in the area created underneath the structure.

A diverse range of products – from beverages to apparel – are stored and fulfilled often overnight from FuturePro’s Thatcham facility for a client list that includes well-known brand names.

The Flexi Truck’s iconic articulated design is ideally suited to modern fulfillment centre operations because they save space, increase productivity and allow safe access to stacking aisles and product stored. The activity levels are always high as the volume of customer orders to fulfil and replenishment of the mezzanine locations is a constant activity.

A single Flexi Truck model is in operation at FuturePro’s Thatcham store and is used for a range of tasks including unloading incoming delivery vehicles and transferring loads to their allocated position within the racking.

Flexi Trucks feature digital electric motor technology. Like others, the independent drive and hydraulic motors are standard. However, the unique independent power-steering motor provides precise steering with no ‘kickback’. 20% less battery energy is consumed and functions to be controlled digitally, the most productive and energy-efficient performance is achieved throughout the full working day on one overnight battery charge.

“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 which eliminates mast sway – even at heights of 8 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 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 seven years ago they have grown rapidly, today FuturePro operates a total of six fulfilment sites all located close to key urban areas, offering rapid delivery of products to customers homes. The company’s other facilities are all located in the Thames Valley and within the boundary of M25 on the outskirts of West London.

Marcus Watson, FuturePro Logistics’ managing director, comments: “To achieve optimum online order fulfilment performance it is important to deploy the most suitable materials handling equipment. Our choice of a Flexi Truck was based, in part, on the Flexi’s ability to deliver improved space-efficiency and enhanced productivity but the safety of our warehouse staff as they carry out customer order picking duties at lower levels was our number one consideration.”