The company’s Acton site operates around-the-clock, seven-days-a-week. Raw milk arrives at the facility from UK farms in insulated tankers and is emptied into storage silos before undergoing processing and bottling. Once filled, PET containers or flexible ‘pouches’ are delivered from the bottling line to the adjacent cold store where they are held prior to onward delivery to Freshways’ clients.
Palletised loads destined for Freshways’ various UK-wide distribution sites are put into waiting refrigerated trailers, while a fleet of over 100 Mercedes Sprinter vans is used to deliver orders directly from the Acton site to retailers across London and the south east of England.
Historically, Freshways has relied upon a fleet of counterbalanced forklift trucks to load the vans with full containers and unload the empty ones that come back to the Acton site using the van’s side and rear doors. However, the loading and unloading process was resulting in unacceptably frequent damage to the Mercedes van fleet so an alternative handling method was sought.
Alex McDougall of Freshways says: “We were recording high incidents of damage to the vans’ ‘T-bar’, bulk head and floor. We attributed this to the difficulty our lift truck operators were having when loading the first of the ‘clappers’ through the side door and the impact caused when the second container was loaded through the rear doors and pushed into the first unit.”
Safety was also a concern. McDougall adds: “It is not unusual for a coffee store to return all or part of their order due to order amendments, so vans returning to Acton with product on-board have to be unloaded. Retrieving a full or semi-full container from a van involves applying a strap to the container which allows it to be pulled out – either manually or by lift truck. The need to add the strap brings an element of manual handling that we are keen to avoid.”
After discussing the various issues with the company’s materials handling equipment supplier, Hiremech, Freshways opted to trial JCB Teletruk technology at the Acton site.
The Teletruk’s telescopic mast design gives a forward reach of 2.4 metres, which allows the Teletruk to deliver a pallet or container to the far end of a delivery vehicle without touching the floor or sides of the vans, until the pallet is gently lowered in to position. In this way, the Teletruk greatly reduces the risk of load and vehicle damage and, of course, cuts the likelihood of injury associated with manually handling loads in to vehicles.
Freshways experienced an immediate and significant drop in vehicle damage during the trial, while the exposure of warehouse staff to the risk of manual handling injury was also significantly reduced.
In addition, throughput speeds at the site improved noticeably, as McDougall explains: “The ability to load and unload our van fleet using only the vehicles’ rear doors has speeded up the goods-out and container returns process. When it comes to unloading containers, the Teletruk’s boom mast allows both ‘clappers’ to be removed from the van without the need to apply a shackle strap to the container at the far end of the van as had previously been required.”
Following the success of the trial, Freshways has taken delivery of a diesel powered Teletruk from the JCB Logistics range, which has been supplied by Hiremech on a five-year service and maintenance contract.