Battle of the bulge

Increasing property costs across the country is taking its toll not only on Australian homeowners but also manufactur ers who own, rent or lease ware housing facilities.

For many companies, expanding or decreasing property size is out of the question, and manufacturers are now being forced to make better use of existing warehousing space.

As a result, materials handling equipment suppliers have seen an increasing demand for forklifts that can provide greater lift heights to reduce floor space requirements and aisle counts.

Powerlift Nissan national sales manager, David Miller, says the company has noticed a steady change in customer requirements over recent years.

“As the world becomes more crowded and demanding, compa nies have to do more with less. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of logistics,” Miller told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“The global financial crisis has compounded this in many ways; including reduced access to credit that’s seen many businesses unable or unwilling to maintain significant stock levels, and some having to reduce warehouse size and associated overhead simply to survive.”

Reacting to new demands

Miller says Powerlift Nissan has developed a range of battery-electric Warehouse Reach Trucks in response to the high demand for narrow application forklifts.

“Our reach trucks are helping businesses to store and move things more efficiently so they get the best returns from expensive floor space and equipment,” Miller said.

He says although narrow aisle and reach trucks have always been popular, the trade-off is the need for more specialised equipment and highly-trained operators.

“When you’re storing products 11 metres off the ground you need an operator with a high degree of skill and a specialised forklift,” he added.

“These trucks [Warehouse Reach Trucks] are battery powered and we’re seeing significant development focused on increased battery life, reduced charging times and maintenance.”

According to Flexilift Australia national sales and finance man ager, Michael Chaouk, organisations which require expansion and are still using traditional methods for storing goods are finding a cost-effective alterna tive in reach trucks like the Flexi narrow aisle forklift.

“The narrow aisle forklift values for around $80,000 to $85,000 but if you advertise that cost over a five-year period it becomes cheaper than expand ing into a new warehouse base,” Chaouk said.

“The cost of moving is not feasible against buying one or two units that can do the same job and just reduce old spaces.”

Chaouk says although the forklifts are expensive to pur chase upfront, companies in the long-run can save up to 30% in costs and up to 30 to 40% more storage space as a result of reduced racking. He claims driv ing the articulated forklift is sim ilar to driving a car, in which there is real-time steering and a turning radius 50% better than a standard forklift.

The narrow aisle forklift also reportedly has a short operator time of about three days due to its large-capacity battery.

Flexilift says it has assisted fine paper manufacturer, PaperlinX, to increase its warehouse capacity in the company’s Melbourne and Brisbane facili ties by using a fleet of smaller- footprint forklifts.

The paper manufacturer added two Flexi NA-20s to its fleet which reportedly enabled the company to reconfigure a large proportion of its pallet racking from 3.6-metre aisles to 2.1-metre aisles, creating an extra 20% capacity to the existing warehouse.

Based on the success of space utilisation in the Melbourne facility, PaperlinX introduced a narrow aisle configuration and four of the same Flexi forklift models to its Brisbane warehouse.

The company says, in this circumstance, it has been able to create over 30% more pallet capacity, representing a large financial saving.

Toyota Material Handling Australia brand manager, Dean Watson, says narrow aisle forklifts are not necessarily smaller in size compared to tra ditional vehicles but rather it’s the areas of improved visibility, maneuverability and ergonomics which give the impression of a ‘slim’ unit.

He adds the market is shifting towards battery-electric forklifts with more than 50% of all new units sold being powered by a battery.

“Generally they are smaller than the equivalent engine-pow ered unit and offer the added benefit of no emissions during operation which is ideal for enclosed manufacturing sites,” Watson said.