High-lift fork trucks are used to move Pallet Runner carts and pallets of product up and down at the front of each tunnel, Wick points out, while warehouse personnel use electric pallet jacks and conventional forklifts to ferry the 96” tall pallets from the floor staging area at the front of the storage tunnels to each outbound semi trailer for loading.
Only four Pallet Runner carts are needed to handle all the movement of pallets in and out of the deep racking.
The Pallet Runner Gen3 Carts themselves require minimal maintenance. Frozen Assets employs eight sets of batteries, two for each cart. The batteries generally require recharging after each shift. Fully charging a low battery takes approximately six hours. Changing the batteries out of a cart takes less than a minute. Carts are programmed to alert users before batteries run out. In fact, when the charge drops below a certain threshold, the cart will automatically come to the front of the tunnel and will not respond to further commands to move pallets until the batteries have been changed.
Managing batteries for the four Pallet Runner carts consumes considerably less time and energy than would be required to power the number of forklifts that would be needed with a conventional racking system handling the same amount of product. This does not include the additional maintenance required by forklifts, greater number of staff that would be necessary to operate, lower incidence of accidental damage, and on and on.
The system even saves on lighting costs, as there is no need to light the deep rack section of the freezer where the Pallet Runner carts operate.
McGuire adds that the productivity gains achieved are not limited to just inside the warehouse. “Our own drivers who deliver product to the distribution center, and the other carriers who bring product in and out also gain due to the warehouse’s quick turnaround time.”
Faster inbound and outbound operations also mean less truck idle time, and less time running trailer refrigeration systems while trucks just stand and wait; another environmental plus.
Another key benefit of faster turnaround times is improved food safety, McGuire points out. “Many of our outbounds are LTLs, and I can’t overstate the importance of one of our goals, which was to limit the amount of time trucks have to wait here with their doors open, while product already on the truck gets exposed. When we put an emphasis on turning trucks quickly, especially LTL outbounds, that’s a contribution to protecting the integrity of the food chain.”
POSITIVE FEEDBACK FROM PARTNERS
Nick Gruibisich, logistics director for Alpha Baking, adds that these benefits have helped him create an effective distribution program.
“Carriers are happy to come in here, knowing they will be in and out so quickly. That’s a big plus in securing carriers and negotiating pricing.”
Wick, who himself previously worked as a truck driver, adds, “Word on the street from truck drivers really travels, and that kind of reputation can make or break a warehouse. Drivers who come here know they’ll get a level of service they haven’t seen anywhere else.”
“The only complaints we get from the carriers who service our customers,” McGuire says, “is that their drivers get out so fast, they don’t have enough time to come in and take a nap.”
More seriously, he says the tremendous positive feedback and high marks on performance benchmarks which the new facility has generated among customers “has absolutely provided opportunities to grow our business and garner new customers.”
In addition to its many other benefits, the Pallet Runner storage system has several “green” advantages that provide ongoing energy savings at Frozen Assets Cold Storage. Some factors are difficult to measure, but all contribute to a more energy-efficient and environmentally responsible warehouse operation:
• Better use of costly refrigerated space (59 percent better space utilization)* means overall improved utility efficiency;
• Shorter fork lift driving distance (estimated at 40-50 percent less)* means less electrical consumption and truck maintenance;
• Faster truck loading and unloading process means reduced energy loss during “open dock/open truck door” time;
• Less idle time for waiting trucks means reduced fuel consumption (refrigerated trucks require more fuel per minute than most vehicles);
• More efficient lighting—no illumination is required in the deep lanes of the Pallet Runner system, reducing required lighted space by nearly 50 percent.*
* Comparisons are with the FACS main building which is adjacent to this Pallet Runner site.