January 2012 | Case Studies | DC Solutions

High-Reach Lift Trucks: Moving On Up

Tags: Forklifts

A new high-reach forklift gives Interstate Warehousing's temperature-controlled facilities a capacity boost.

When it comes to refrigerated warehouses, the sky is the limit. At least that's how Steve Tippmann, executive vice president of Tippmann Group/Interstate Warehousing, sees it.

"A temperature-controlled facility's square footage affects its capital investment and operating costs more than its height," says Tippmann. "New facility construction is only height-restricted by materials handling equipment."

Interstate Warehousing, based in Fort Wayne, Ind., operates more than 79 million cubic feet of refrigerated warehousing space at 10 facilities throughout the United States. But even with all that space, many warehouses were near-capacity.

In fact, the only places left in many facilities were the highest rack positions. But most products were too heavy, and the spaces too high to reach, using traditional lift trucks.

Empty top-rack positions are common in narrow-aisle, cold chain facilities because most forklifts do not offer the capacity or capability to reach the necessary height to fill them. For Interstate Warehousing, the empty positions not only led to wasted warehouse space, but also meant many shippers weren't able to keep all their products in a single location.

Reaching New Heights

"We don't just focus on the cubic footage of our warehouses; we try to use every cubic inch," says Chuck Tippmann, president, Tippmann Group.

"Most of our warehouses typically waste cubic inches ," he adds. "That translates to unrealized revenue."

While Interstate Warehousing was puzzling over how to make use of its highest rack positions, Crown Equipment, a forklift manufacturer based in New Bremen, Ohio, had developed a new concept for a narrow-aisle reach truck.

Crown already had a working relationship with Interstate Warehousing and knew it was struggling with the height issue, so the manufacturer invited the warehousing company to its headquarters to discuss the new lift truck.

Interstate Warehousing was intrigued by the design. "We knew we needed a higher-reaching lift truck," says Chuck Tippmann. "We just didn't know there was already one in development."

Crown Equipment and Interstate Warehousing collaborated to modify and improve the lift truck's design.

"Interstate Warehousing was an apt company to consult when we were determining the design of the new lift truck," says Maria Schwieterman, marketing product manager, Crown Equipment. "The company's representatives saw an opportunity to use the truck to reach another product storage level in its temperature-controlled facilities."

The collaboration produced the Crown RM 6000, a narrow-aisle lift truck that can reach 42 feet high and deliver up to 1,000 pounds more capacity at height than a conventional truck.

"We didn't have to make the truck wider to add height and capacity," Schwieterman notes.

The lift truck's added reach gave Interstate Warehousing the opportunity to fill the highest spaces in its facilities. The company ordered 16 Crown RM 6000s, and put them to work in its warehouses.

Interstate Warehousing has found the RM 6000's combination of narrow-aisle lift truck dimensions and extended reach well-suited to its facilities. "Most pallets we store weigh 1,600 to 2,000 pounds," says Chuck Tippmann. "The new reach trucks allow us to increase capacity in our warehouses while maintaining a small truck footprint, so two trucks can pass in the aisle. This gives us more flexibility and versatility to better serve our customers."

Keep On (Lift) Truckin'

The company chose the RM 6000 primarily for its weight and height capacity, but since putting the trucks to work in its facilities, Interstate Warehousing has realized they provide numerous other benefits.

First, the new lift trucks have contributed quality and safety gains by improving operator sight lines and load placement.

The lift trucks' mast is offset seven inches to the operator's left, narrows the higher it goes, and includes a larger-than-average window at eye level. These features give the operator a better view of the truck's fork tips and load.

"The improved visibility the trucks offer has increased operating speed, reduced product and rack damage, and prevented accidents in our operation," says Chuck Tippmann.

Lift truck stability is always important when carrying heavy loads at height, and the RM 6000's mast was designed with this in mind. "Mast sway makes it difficult for operators to place loads properly," notes Schwieterman. "Increased stability results in less product damage and fewer injuries."

The new lift trucks have contributed quality and safety gains by improving operator sight lines and load placement.

Interstate Warehousing's operators also appreciate the lift truck's ergonomic backrest design, which features a notch in the upper right-hand corner so they can easily scan at ground level while operating the forklift.

"Operators don't have to lean out of the lift to look up and see where they are placing the load," says Chuck Tippmann.

The facilities also benefitted from the lift trucks' extended battery life, which translates to increased operational efficiency.

Interstate Warehousing uses an in-house software program to manage and track forklift batteries for maintenance and run-times. Almost immediately, warehouse managers noticed a 30- to 60-minute increase in battery run-time, which allows many fleet operators to work through an eight-hour shift while having to change the battery only once.

"The increase in battery run-time allows fleet operators to spend less time in the battery room and more time in production," says Chuck Tippmann. "For the average fleet operator, saving even five minutes per shift can translate into $50,000 to $200,000 annual labor savings, depending on the number of operators on the shift."

Up, Up, and Away

While Interstate Warehousing purchased RM 6000 lift trucks to gain capacity in its temperature-controlled storage facilities, for sister company Tippmann Construction, which designs and builds warehouses nationwide, the equipment innovation ushers in new warehouse design possibilities.

"We've always believed in building our warehouses up instead of out to save money," says Chuck Tippmann. "But the higher reach provided by lift truck innovation means we can now build even higher. We predict we'll be building customer warehouses higher as well."

"We have designed several new temperature-controlled facilities over the past year using the capabilities of the RM 6000," says Steve Tippmann. "Many customers were concerned about the quality of the facilities' operations until we gave them a tour through our latest warehouses."

Once customers see firsthand the ease with which operators handle pallets at these new heights, they get onboard.

"Our competitors can't match the capacity gains this truck offers," says Chuck Tippmann. "The RM 6000 extends warehousing's limits, and we're proud that we tested this new equipment in our facilities."