Poland’s largest home improvement chain Castorama now has more than 45 Aisle-Master articulated trucks in operation across its network of outlets in the country, and the latest 2 machines have been delivered to its new Wroclaw depot.
Part of Kingfisher plc which operates almost a thousand stores in eight countries in Europe and Asia, Castorama started using Aisle-Masters six years ago and the success of the initial trucks led to them now being the preferred specification for any new depots that are opened. Group Purchasing Director Tomasz Chudowolski first encountered Aisle-Master’s articulated system when he was looking for a new concept for handling and storage that would be a more efficient replacement for the combination of reach and counterbalance trucks which had traditionally been used in this sector.
“When we took a closer look at the Aisle-Masters we realised that their narrow aisle capability would allow us to be very flexible when it came to determining aisle widths, enabling us to increase the amount of stock we can hold, “ says Tomasz. “Depending on the size of an outlet, which is typically from 7,000 to 10,000 m² we can add two or three extra aisles compared with the old reach/counterbalance system. As customers always want more choice this gives us the ability to offer it.”
The layout of racking at each individual outlet is determined by merchandising managers who take into account the size of products, with Aisle-Masters mostly operating in aisles as narrow as 1.8m. To make use of all vertical space the top beam height is 5.5m, and Castorama’s trucks are fitted with a triplex 6000mm mast to easily lift pallets, packs and boxes to this height. The ability of the trucks to work indoors and out and to offload incoming deliveries from HGV’s and take them directly to the racking is a much quicker procedure than using two types of forklift as it eliminates double handling.
The first Aisle-Masters to be deployed at Castorama were LPG trucks but the company has since moved over to electric power for its fleet which is considered preferable when the trucks are working in close proximity to the public. The standard specification at any new site is now for two Aisle-Masters, both with a two tonne capacity. Wroclaw’s trucks are a standard 20SE model and a 20WE model which comes with a wider chassis and with a semi-enclosed cab to offer more comfort for operators in the cold weather which affects Poland in the winter. Both benefit from over articulation which enables a better degree of accuracy when placing loads into very narrow aisles. According to Castorama’s requirements they have been fitted with powerful 930Ahr battery compartments and grey non-marking tyres.
Before embarking on the project, Tomasz had no experience of articulated forklifts, and after evaluating other brands on the market he chose the Aisle-Master as he was impressed with the technology and build of the machine and also felt that the company would be an innovative partner to work with. “The Aisle-Masters have been a substantial investment but well worth it as they allow our merchandisers to make maximum use of space to get as many products in our stores, which means more sales, so payback is quickly achieved. Our first truck is still going strong which proves just how robust and reliable they are, and the manufacturers have been very willing to customise the trucks to our requirements. Aisle-Masters give us flexibility and guarantee safe procedures when we open a new outlet, and our technicians and drivers are also very happy with the trucks’ performance.”