STILL Very Narrow Aisle Trucks
Exceptional handling performance
A combination of high rack warehouses and very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks provides comparable efficiency benefits to the construction of skyscrapers on valuable real estate. Expensive storage areas are exploited to the full with higher racks and narrower aisles. And when combined with VNA trucks – which can be automated if required – handling performance and picking frequency can reach unimagined levels. Further efficiency is provided by the assistance systems that STILL has developed, which are tailored to the specific topography of the warehouse. The Active Load Stabilisation (ALS) system, for example, reduces mast vibrations, while Active Floor Compensation (AFC) compensates for any unevenness in the floor.
The first high rack warehouse
Pivoting mobile masts in the aisles
As early as 1962, the first high rack warehouse in Germany went into operation, at the Bertelsmann warehouse in Gütersloh. This was the first time that pivoting mobile masts had been found in every aisle to move load lifters up and down to where the goods were located. These forerunners of the modern VNAtrucks were controlled manually, from a cab on the machine. The rail-mounted ‘storage and retrieval machines’ could in fact also be operated automatically by means of a punchcard control system. Moreover, the mechanism that moved the goods could be moved up or down and simultaneously to the left or right. The result – more movements of goods over a given period than with any previous warehouse design, and hence significantly improved handling capacity. In the ensuing years, high rack warehouses started to spring up everywhere. And STILL became a sought-after partner when it came to implementing and equipping these new warehouse worlds.
STILL grows rapidly
En route to becoming narrow-aisle experts
This successful principle received a major boost in 1979 with the introduction of the first very narrow aisle (VNA) truck, the EFSG-MX. This was the forerunner of today’s MX range by STILL. STILL’s strong position as an expert partner for networked flows of material and information in high rack warehouses would not, however, have been possible without the incorporation of other businesses into the company – businesses that were already market leaders in the sector. Wagner, for example, was gradually integrated during the 1990s, operating initially as STILL Wagner. Based in the southern German town of Reutlingen, Wagner was a specialist in warehouse technology and developed machines such as combination material-handling trucks, explosion-protected forklifts and, above all, very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks. Wagner were quick to recognise the operational benefits of having the operator and cabin moving up to the required storage location on the high shelving.
Success of the VNA truck
Efficiency – the skyscraper effect
A high rack warehouse offers essentially the same efficiency benefit as a skyscraper. As property prices rise, so the increasingly expensive storage areas can be more efficiently exploited through the use of higher shelves and narrower aisles.
The problem is how to store and retrieve goods quickly with shelves of up to 18 metres height, whilst keeping the error rate to a minimum. This is where VNA trucks, tailored to the specific topography of the warehouse, come into play. In conjunction with innovative assistance systems such as Active Load Stabilisation (ALS) to reduce mast vibration and Active Floor Compensation (AFC) to compensate for uneven floors, the benefit in terms of handling performance can be huge.
Sustained boom in online trade
Efficiency and flexibility are trump cards
E-commerce has seen enormous growth in recent years. Demand for VNA trucks also continues to grow and there seems to be no end to this trend in sight. Experts agree that the need for fast-moving and often granular flows of goods, driven by the boom in online trade, can only be met by measures such as tightly controlled combinations of high rack warehouses, individually configured VNA trucks and intelligent automated solutions – especially where this warehouse automation can also be seamlessly integrated with the company’s previously automated process chains. This ensures that flexibility of process design is maintained at all times, since all the automated machines in the STILL range can, if necessary, also be operated manually.
Cycling at an all-time high
Warehouse design for logistics service providers
Cycling is very much in vogue. Therefore, logistics specialist Hellmann Worldwide Logistics use an individually tailored high rack warehouse with STILL equipment in their operational warehouse management for Derby Cycle, manufacturer of Germany’s top-selling premium bicycles. This equipment includes induction-guided MX-X VNA trucks, for which a special work platform was developed. The platform makes it possible to pick and move complete frames, including the bicycles that they contain.
The high rack warehouse with 24 aisles has the capacity to hold up to 150,000 bicycles. As Hellmann’s branch director Andreas Bothe emphasises, “With our tailored logistics system, even taking seasonal fluctuations into account, we can service demand from almost 5000 specialist retailers in over 60 countries centrally. Meticulous planning and seamless operation throughout the entire supply chain is vitally important here.”
Alongside areas such as goods receipt, order picking and loading, the warehouse operation also covers ‘added services’ such as repacking the bicycles from outer cartons into solid cardboard boxes and adding instructions for use for the booming e-bike models. “In this pilot project,” explains Bothe with satisfaction, “STILL’s experience, consultancy and comprehensive service were critical for success.”
Eye-catching logistics for fashion brand
VNA trucks with smart assistance systems
Business is booming for lifestyle clothing and sportswear, and it relies on efficient distribution and logistics. For the precisely managed 24/7 distribution for the traditional Swedish brand CRAFT, New Wave GmbH relies on an efficient logistics centre with high rack warehouses – and STILL is responsible for their design, implementation and servicing.
Andreas Dürlich, planner for STILL shelving systems, explains why a high rack warehouse with VNA trucks is the best option when it comes to order-picking some 3000 promotional goods items a day. “In order to use the height of the warehouse to the full, a high rack warehouse system is being installed. To optimise floorspace utilisation and flow of materials, this warehouse has been divided into a narrow-aisle area with ten aisles and a wide-aisle area with eight aisles.” In the narrow aisle storage area, an MX-X VNA truck is used both for order picking and for storing and retrieving full pallets. Highlights of the truck include two assistance systems. First, Active Floor Compensation (AFC), an intelligent assistance system that allows the MX-X to reach its maximum speed without the need to smooth down an uneven warehouse floor. Without AFC, a high quality and absolutely level floor would be required in order to prevent the truck from shaking. The second assistance system is Active Load Stabilisation (ALS). Vibrations in the mast can also develop if the driver’s cabin is extended out a long way. ALS counteracts these, allowing the truck to get on with its work without having to wait for the vibration to stop.
In the wide-aisle storage area, the shelves are served by two FM-X reach trucks and five EK-X vertical order pickers. Operations manager Mario Hammer is impressed with the result: “In a short turnaround business such as ours, orders that arrive from headquarters before two in the afternoon can be picked the same day.”
Steep upward curve
Logistics surpasses itself
In the future, intralogistics will surpass itself still further. We are getting closer to the day when classic horizontal (and hence space-consuming) warehouses at the edge of town start to disappear. In their place, businesses will be erecting more and more vertically-arranged skyscraper warehouses at interfaces in urban centres. This shift will also reflect the changes that have taken place over the years in the function served by many warehouses. Where they used to be primarily for the purpose of long-term centralised storage, these days they often represent hubs for the rapid movement of goods.
The pace of movement and the required differentiation in flows of goods and information will also accelerate the trend towards automation and intelligent assistance systems. Visible steps towards this future are already apparent. In the MX-X automated VNA truck, for example, the optional 3D camera provides an additional cognitive dimension. It allows the truck not only to respond to obstacles but also to identify incorrectly stored pallets, pick them up safely and transport them to the correct location. The story of the VNA truck and the high rack warehouse is therefore sure to continue into the future.
Very narrow aisles trucks by STILL
Do you have any questions regarding our very narrow aisles trucks? Please feel free to contact us.
Or get your information online: Overview of the VNA trucks by STILL.