James Latham started to introduce Combilift 4-way forklifts into its depots over ten years ago when it decided to replace a combination of sideloaders and counterbalance trucks to achieve better storage density and improve overall handling procedures. The initial projects were so successful that Combilifts are now Latham’s preferred trucks, with around 50 in operation at the company’s 10 sites across the country. The latest addition is a fleet of six 4 tonne machines for the new Leeds depot.
With a footprint of 69,000ft² the Leeds depot is slightly smaller than the former Ossett site, but an impressive 39% more storage space has been achieved. “The key element for the extra capacity was the ability to store the whole of our wide product range as high as possible,” says Director Andrew Wright, “and close collaboration with Combilift’s design engineers, racking provider Stakapal and Latham personnel enabled us to realise this by installing the top beam of racking to 9.3m, the highest at any of our depots. Guided aisle systems have also enabled us to keep aisle widths at a minimum in certain areas of the warehouse to further maximise available space.”
James Latham has a standard specification for its Combilifts – the C4000 4 tonne capacity LPG powered model, which enables trucks to be moved around from one depot to another if necessary. Due to the demands of lifting full loads to the top bay of racking it was initially thought that larger trucks would be needed for this particular application, but Combilift engineers incorporated extra capacity into the trucks, which have a 9.3m mast height, whilst maintaining the same physical dimensions as the rest of the fleet. “This is just one example of Combilift’s flexibility to accommodate our very specific requirements,” says Andrew Wright.
The combination of guide rails fitted to aisles and rollers on the trucks offer the advantages of quicker access and travel down the aisles for drivers as well as a greatly reduced risk of product damage. Combilift and Stakapal came up with a new system to replace the traditional steel elements with new style larger diameter polyurethane rollers and rubber mounted lead-in sections which improves shock absorption, reduces steel on steel wear and which also results in much quieter operation.
Other features on the Combilifts include hydraulically operated fork positioners for easy in-cab adjustment to handle the varying sizes of panel products and packs of timber, and telescopic forks have been fitted to some of the trucks for manouevering larger panels with a depth of 2050mm.
“Most of our customers don’t want to hold stock until they need it, and same day or next day delivery is a typical scenario,” says Andrew Wright, “so efficient handling, storage and picking is vital. As well as the excellent storage density in the new premises we have doubled and in some cases tripled throughput, eliminated double handling and picking errors to offer excellent customer service. This is down to the efforts of all involved in this six month project which was completed with no delays and is just what we envisaged.”