Farrell Furniture has been designing and manufacturing quality contract office and residential furniture for over six decades from its base in Ardee, Co. Louth, Ireland, and this family run company prides itself on its ability to develop innovative highly customised products according to individual requirements. This is an ethos shared by Farrell’s provider of materials handling equipment -Combilift, which is situated not far away in Co. Monaghan. Combilift developed the world’s first IC powered 3-wheel, all-wheel drive, multidirectional forklift in 1998, and has since grown to become the largest worldwide supplier of customised and specialist handling solutions, with lift capacities from around 1t to over 100t.
It was just a couple of years after Combilift was established that Farrell’s Joint CEO Brendan Farrell started to investigate how they could improve their storage and access to various products in the 150 x 60ft warehouse. “At the time we were using a 3t conventional counterbalance truck which wasn’t overly efficient. I got talking to Combilift and I must say they took a wholly different approach than other companies that want to sell you something, I’d call it more solution based. We gave them the plans of the warehouse, the dimensions of the sheet materials, the sizes of the crates of veneer and aluminium that we use in production. They went away and a short time later they came back with detailed plans that showed us how using one of their trucks could make a massive difference to the management of our space. So, before we had even decided to go with their products, they had proved to us that we could generate over 30% more valuable storage in our warehouse – which was a pretty persuasive argument and a refreshing attitude as to how to get customers on side!”
Brendan Farrell noted:
“So, before we had even decided to go with their products, they had proved to us that we could generate over 30% more valuable storage in our warehouse – which was a pretty persuasive argument and a refreshing attitude as to how to get customers on side!””
This was an early example of what is now a very sought after, this free of charge service from Combilift – driven by a 10 strong team of engineers, providing storage solutions for customers around the globe. “We have always seen Combilift as much more than a designer and manufacturer of forklifts and other handling solutions,” says CEO and Co-founder Martin McVicar. “Space is one of the most valuable assets our customers possess, and if our trucks can make it work better for them in terms of storage density then everyone benefits. Our products are designed to work in the smallest footprint possible for their size and design, and the continued demand for warehouse space coupled with ever rising business costs means that space optimisation is now more important than ever.”
Reconfiguring the warehouse layout also enabled efficient and easy access to stock, which had been a bit of a slow process with the old system. Brendan reckons they now stock over 50 different colours and finishes compared to around just 4 or 5 twenty years ago, so as a rule he aims for a quick turnaround. As a major supplier of furniture for student accommodation there is also the need to be very flexible as 75% of annual company turnover is generated in just five or six months. “Ideally a truck comes in, its load is taken to the warehouse and it’s cut next day. The less time we have the product in store the better value it represents. Our premises are around 100,000 ft², with as little as possible – just 15,000 ft² – being given over to storage. The warehouse is the same size as it was when we got our first Combilift, but over the last few years we have quadrupled in growth. This is testimony to how Combilift’s original layouts future-proofed us. Due to the lift height of 6m of our C4000 model we have been able to go up not out. The truck’s ability to travel sideways as well as block stack, plus its inherent stability means that even our largest loads – 3.6 x 2m for example – can be very safely moved around and easily accommodated in the space available.
“For any company experiencing growth or increased volumes of stock, I’d recommend talking to Combilift first before they even think of moving or building new facilities – they could potentially save themselves a lot of money and hassle,” said Brendan. “Getting help from the experts to improve the performance of our warehouse was an absolute eye opener. There’s a bit of a communality between us and Combilift too. Alongside our ‘making furniture work better’ slogan we have another one – ‘making spaces work better’ – and that’s definitely what Combilift have done for us. And we like to think employees in the offices in Monaghan appreciate the quality of the desks we provided them too!