New racking Flexi digital truck system with ‘cobotic’ technology delivers optimum capacity at Rico’s new facility

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Rico Logistics the diverse high quality industrial and parts fulfilment group has maximized the storage capacity of its new warehouse facility on the outskirts of Birmingham by reconfiguring the internal lay-out of the site around a high-bay narrow aisle racking system served by a fleet of 14 metre lift Flexi articulated lift trucks supplied by Narrow Aisle.

Rico leased the 164,311 building at Minworth in Summer 2019 to support their rapidly expanding business and, following a consultation with Narrow Aisle’s Warehouse Systems Division, the original guided narrow aisle storage scheme was stripped out of the build and the company opted for a design that allowed all of the available space to be utilized.

By introducing new pallet racking that made use of the full height of the building, Rico has been able to optimize pallet locations and pick faces and ensure that the site delivers the most cost-efficient storage cube utilization.

The project was undertaken in two phases and, now complete, provides some 11,000 pallet locations – an increase of 12 per cent on the facility’s capacity previously. At its highest point, which is in the apex of the building’s roof structure, the new racking delivers a 14 metre high top rack beam.

A fleet of 5 Flexi articulated VNA trucks – all of which are the latest Flexi ACiON models from Narrow Aisle – were supplied to Rico’s new Midlands’s stores.

Flexi ACiON trucks that feature ultra reliable digital electric motor technology that uses all brushless AC drive, hydraulic and  independent power-steering motors functions to be controlled digitally to ensure the most productive and energy-efficient performance throughout the working day.  The company claim that a 16% increase in pallet movements have been achieved on each charge cycle with this new digital motor technology.

“The collaborative robotic – or ‘cobotic’ - control systems in the heart of Flexi ACiON 1500 model deliver many new safety features, a more integrated performance, greater reliability and higher productivity combined with significantly reduced operating and maintenance costs,” says Narrow Aisle Ltd’s managing director, John Maguire.

He continues: “The Flexi ACiON’s advanced suite of ‘cobotic’ technology is, in effect, connected to the truck’s nervous system and it allows features such as the operator’s vision camera height selection system and aisle sensing features, can be integrated with software without the need for hard wired relays and the like. In turn, this means that far less components are required and, as a result, truck uptime is optimized.”

Picking pallets at height is not a problem for the Flexi ACiON thanks to the truck’s integrated tilting carriage and fixed mast design which eliminates mast sway – even at heights of 14 metres this unique to Flexi feature enhances the already class leading high lift truck stability.

“By fixing the mast and allowing the operator to tilt the fork carriage, pallets can be picked and put-away on the top beam of the highest racking smoothly, safely and efficiently,” says John Maguire.

The new Flexi HiMAX digital control system has allowed an additional ‘in reverse’ safety feature to be developed.

The HiMAX truck can be equipped with ‘reverse proximity sensors’ that provide a clear audible and visual indication when approaching any object in reverse, especially useful when maneuvering at rack aisle ends.

And safety at Rico is further enhanced by the Flexi ACiON’s ‘smart stop’ system. Developed by Flexi Warehouse Systems’ team of software engineers, the ‘in-aisle sensor’ disables the truck if it has come in to contact with an object, such as pallet loads, racking or rack guards within the aisle. The truck can only be restarted once the driver has reported details of the collision to the designated line manager, thus ensuring that no potential truck/rack impact incidents go unreported.

John Maguire says: “Some of the most serious incidents of rack collapse within warehouses occur because truck operators fail to report collisions and the damage caused goes unnoticed until it is too late. The Flexi ACiON’s ‘in-aisle impact sensor’ system and cut-out feature mean that there is absolutely no chance of aisle impact being overlooked.”

Flexi believe that in the future these new ‘cobotic’ sensors that aid safe driving may eliminate the need for barriers of all types in the rack system allowing user to concentrate their investment in providing safety guards to separate pedestrians from truck operations.

The intralogistics upgrade at Rico’s Minworth unit was overseen by a team from Narrow Aisle’s Warehouse System Division and was completed on time and within budget, while Rico’s new fleet of articulated warehouse trucks were supplied on a contract hire package with inclusive service and maintenance support provided.

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