Rapid downsizing in European warehouses due to inhibitive cost factors is destined to be paralleled in Australia and New Zealand.
This is inevitable as increases in costs per square metre take hold.
This will have an effect on the type of forklift fleet companies employ, and in some cases – as has been proven at one notable site in Europe – will see the replacement of counterbalance and reach forklift trucks with flexible narrow aisle units that handle both these tasks.
The Flexi narrow aisle forklift – distributed exclusively by Flexilift Australia – has done so at a leading auto components supplier Magna Intier in Europe and is an example of the type of logistics solutions we are destined to see here.
"The solution on which Magna Intier decided is an interesting one not just from the view point of Australian industry, but also from our own corporate viewpoint because we are the exclusive distributor of the Flexi narrow aisle lift truck as well as Hyundai reach trucks and counterbalance trucks," said National Business Development manager of Flexilift, Mr John Fisher.
"It has put us in a very objective position where we can comprehensibly analyse which Australian businesses are best served switching to the 'anorexic' Flexi narrow aisle equipment and which are ideal to remain with the traditional concept of counterbalance and reach trucks.
"In the modern factory and warehouse operation, a major factor is the cost per square metre of floor space, so our companies are now more commonly adopting the European solution of squeezing more out of limited floor space, narrowing corridors and turning points, and taking racking higher than ever before."
Flexi's head office in the UK won the contract to supply Flexi EURO trucks (the name in Europe for the narrow aisle Flexis) to the Leipzig (Germany) factory of leading automotive components supplier Magna Intier.
The new facility provides the complete interior trim for the newly launched Porsche Panamera, an elegant four door sports car. Magna Intier also provides component parts and other services to a wide range of top-end car manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Aston Martin.
Management chose the Flexi trucks to deliver components from an on-site storage warehouse directly to the production line.
Predominantly, the contract was awarded to Flexi because of the compact dimensions of its 'anorexic' unit and its ability to work both inside within the warehouse and the factory and outside to unload in-coming deliveries.
Magna Intier is now able to use articulated forklifts to do work that previously required both counterbalance and reach trucks. This has led to a significant reduction in forklift fleet operating costs for the company as well as increased storage capacity by 25% compared to the reach truck solution.
Other German companies to recently make the switch to Flexi articulated lift trucks include Brose, Robert Bosch and Heidelberg.
Flexi is equally at home working outside the warehouse or in a loading yard. It is able to operate a complete 'road to rack' function, eliminating time consuming double pallet handling and the need and cost of a separate counterbalance truck outside.
The truck has a compact axle design and is able to articulate through 220 degrees and allows ISO pallets to be stacked and picked in 1,600mm wide aisles in two separate movements.
It features twin front wheel drive, which means that the weight of the truck and the load is divided between the truck's two front wheels, helping to achieve maximum traction and reduce tyre wear.
A compact four wheel truck, the Flexi has the ability to lift 1800kg loads and with lift heights of over eight metres making it suitable for facilities where space is at a premium.
Importantly, the fact that the truck has a stable four wheel configuration means that treaded cushion rubber tyres are standard so floor loadings are not compromised, making the Flexi EURO equally at home inside and outside.
Flexilift Australia is also the exclusive agent in Australia for Hyundai Forklifts and the Sellick range of rough terrain lift trucks.