Narrow Aisle – Flexi : Truck brings ultra-reliable digital technology to VNA space saving
Narrow Aisle – Flexi : Truck brings ultra-reliable digital technology to VNA space saving
Narrow Aisle Flexi are recognised as a leader in the design and manufacture of articulated warehouse trucks. The company pioneered the development of Flexi VNA warehouse Trucks over 30 years ago and have built an excellent reputation for cost-effective, reliable and exceptional long-term value for money.
Narrow Aisle Flexi design and build in the UK with high quality reliable ‘Tier One’ European sourced components across the range, which also allows them to provide exceptionally high levels of aftersales parts support. The company offers technical and aftersales support through a global network of established independent distributors in over 65 countries.
John Maguire, Managing Director of Narrow Aisle Ltd spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What products or services does your company offer?
Narrow Aisle since being founded in 1976 always been a space saving warehouse truck specialist. We design, build and distribute a range of truck-based intralogistics solutions but, we are best known for our Flexi range of articulated warehouse trucks. The pioneering articulated truck’s clever design allows it to work in the same way as a conventional forklift and then operate comfortably and safely within very narrow aisles (VNA), increasing storage capacity by up to 50%. Throughput and productivity are up to 30% better compared to storage systems featuring traditional reach and counterbalance truck technology.
Which industries do your customers operate in?
Our Flexi Truck has proven to be ideal for order picking mixed pallet loads assembling full pallets of mixed product. It is especially suited to the third-party logistics and retail sectors, where products are manually picked in their supply chain every day. Our recently introduced Halo picking upgrade to create a range of customer order picking friendly features aimed at the home delivery e-fulfilment sector are proving to be very popular and this range will be extended in 2022.
Has your company celebrated any milestones this year?
We introduced in 2021 the all-digital controlled models across its top-selling Flexi range of truck-based intralogistics solutions. Each Flexi Truck product is now built with energy saving ‘brushless’ motors and ‘cambus’ digital control systems. This allows the safe use of lithium-ion battery power; the LiTHiON Flexi Truck range is proving to be of great interest to customers with many installations already working successfully.
Thanks to developments in lithium-ion battery technology, Flexi LiTHiON trucks require no battery maintenance, the truck monitors the battery function constantly and reports the battery status real time. The system precise digital control means that the lithium batteries are completely safe I use and come with a warranty of 7 years, a clear step forward for many 3PL customers.
The Flexi LiTHiON range features batteries that can be fully charged within one hour or so, even if the battery is fully discharged – ensuring that truck uptime and availability is optimised in multishift operations.
Do you have any examples of a project you have recently completed?
The entire Flexi Truck Range now has the state-of-the-art digital motor control system technology, allowing for the first time on any articulated warehouse truck the power steering to be run by an independent ‘brushless’ motor that saves 50% of the previous battery power drain.
With all drive, hydraulic and power-steering motor functions controlled by ‘brushless’ AC motors, the trucks in the Flexi digital battery power collection are uniquely safe and energy efficient in providing state of the art articulated warehouse truck technology.
The digital controls ‘cambus’ systems have allowed the Flexi Truck to have integrated, safe Lithium battery power systems. The highly prestigious fleet contract with Samsung Electronics in Mexico was a huge vote of confidence in our safe, productive Lithium power technology.
How did your company react to the Covid-19 outbreak and consequent lockdowns?
Our Flexi product range is a key part of the warehouse logistics arena in the UK. We were requested to continue to operate at full capacity during all the government COVID restrictions. We are very proud of all our team who worked bravely and tirelessly throughout the whole of this period.
The ongoing political and COVID health uncertainty is a drag on recovery in UK material handling industry. Until the many supply chain issues are resolved it is unclear what the market in 2022 might be. However, our sector of the MHE market, Intralogistics, is growing strongly on the back of demand driven by e-commerce, home delivery, e-fulfilment, and third-party warehousing. We are budgeting for a year of significant growth in demand in the UK next year, especially as supply of components returns to normal. We also expect strong growth in in-demand markets around the world, especially in the Americas.
What products or services will you be introducing in the next year?
As a result, sales of Flexi digital trucks are at an all-time high. Due to investment in our supply chain systems and planning with our suppliers, we have been able to continue to build and deliver new trucks with the correct lift height specification in 8 to 10 weeks from the date that an order is placed.
In what areas are you making technological advances?
There is no doubt that concerns are prompting many businesses to hold more stock in their supply chain, which, in turn, is leading to something of a boom period for third party warehousing and food/FMCG industry storage requirements.
Our Flexi Truck warehouse system division has developed and incorporated a number of new ‘Cobotic’ driver aid systems to make stacking pallets higher than ever before but eliminating many of the worries warehouse operators have about safe handling at lift height of up to 15m. Unique digitally controlled steering, integrated high-definition vision systems, shelf height selectors, aisle proximity sensors and reversing sensors to aid aisle entry and increase productivity. The motto is “Higher. Easier. Safer.”
We benchmark our production performance against similar sized operations in our sector and understand that our customers are very satisfied with our performance in this key performance indicator (KPI). Logistics is a fast changing and demanding market; our customers need equipment to operate correctly and on time.
What is the company’s commitment to social responsibility?
We have invested in young people during these difficult times. Apprenticeships in both engineering and commercial areas of the business have been created in.
The business has completed significant investment in all new safer LED lighting to create a lower carbon, energy efficient operation, and new heating systems across the company.
Are you helping customers boost the level of automation in their business?
Most of our customers are looking to increase productivity and save cost with appropriate investment in artificial intelligence (AI) technology. However, to make improvements available to more customers we have invested in a digital platform in our Flexi product to allow many new ‘cobotic’ driver assist systems to be specified. These systems much like in the automobile world are providing great opportunities to increase productivity, safe driving and potentially reduce driver abuse costs.
Our Flexi Truck units are now operated in many warehouses that are controlled by AI systems. Many of our customers are trading their products across from manufacturing to end customers using block chain and AI to drive efficiency.
Will you be investing in your premises over the next 12 months?
Our factory site development continues, with additional projects to increase output at our Tipton site, particular emphasis on our facilities to aid manufacturing, logistics and line feeding. An investment strategy that will see the company increase its production capacity over the next three years was announced in February 2021, these investments will allow the company to supply increased volumes for Flexi Digital Range units, battery systems and into many global markets, but with an emphasis on the Americas.
Will you be exhibiting at any major trade shows in 2022?
In 2022 we hope to attend all the major events once again in the UK, (IMHX, Intralogistex and Multimodal). Our focus is now also on markets outside of Europe. We will be relaunching our Flexi Digital Range at the key Modex show in Atlanta, USA next year. We also expect to attend key shows in Mexico and Brazil.
What industries do you believe offer your business the most potential over the next year?
The company has launched a scrappage scheme that gives operators of LPG-powered articulated trucks the chance to make significant savings should they choose to dispose of their old LPG forklifts to acquire new Flexi Truck digital models. The Flexi Truck Digital Range of LiTHION battery power trucks suit multishift work and customer applications across the whole of the global warehousing industry.
How future proof is your business?
Intralogistics development is the future of supply chains. We are at the heart of this industry, we believe our increasing global reach will sustain our company’s growth for many years to come.
How would you sum up your company in three words?
Innovative. Insightful. Friendly.
0121 557 6242
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21 December 2021, 15:35