Toyota engineers solutions for wine business

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  • Plant & Equipment

With space at a premium at its new DC, Rathbone Wine Group (RWG) turned to Toyota Material Handling Australia for support.

Toyota engineers solutions for wine business
TMHA offers solutions for inner city spaces such as for leading wine business Rathbone Wine Group

When RWC moved to its new Port Melbourne Distribution Centre (DC) and headquarters five years ago, the organisation needed to find the most efficient packing and picking methods.

The smaller-than-ideal floor space required RWG to look at ways to maximise warehouse capacity.

In conjunction with its logistics arm, 14 Degrees Logistics, RWG's plans called for an extra-high 14-metre roof, subsequently allowing pallets to be stacked higher than usual.

The difficulty was being able to reach the heights that would allow for the maximum storage capacity in the 4500 square metre facility.

Rathbone Wine Group Logistics Manager Paul Viani has spent 20 years in logistics.

He says any company working in logistics is going to be required to get the most out of the increasingly limited floor space available - especially in city environments.

"This premises came about as a result of us wanting to consolidate our bottling and warehousing activities," Viani says referring to the specially designed warehouse, which is kept at a constant 14 degrees - the ideal temperature for storing wine.

"Obviously, the closer you get to the city the less space is available - with this site, we had to try to maximise what was available to us, and that meant going up.

"The problem is that good, safe picking equipment doesn't really reach as high as we needed.

TMHA supplied a BT Vector-A Series Turret Truck - which, at the time, was the only one in the country capable of reaching these heights.

"The Turret Truck reaches higher than any similar product we had available to us, and allowed us to add an extra seventh level of pallets - which gives us an extra 1,000 pallets of storage," Viani says.

"That's an extra $3,000 to $4,000 of storage per week - or around $200,000 per year."

The BT Vector-A Series Turret Truck moves around the 14,500-pallet capacity building via a narrow, magnetic groove - the machine's inability to deviate from its track represents a key safety feature.

"Sticking to that very small groove means that the machine doesn't bang into the racks as it moves around the facility," Viani says.

"When you're working at the sort of heights this machine can, and with fragile goods like wine bottles, it is an important safety aspect."

Viani adds Rathbone Wine Group is constantly looking to improve its packing efficiency.

Another Toyota Material Handling product that is enhancing the RWG business is a new, specially engineered Raymond 5200 Series Order Picker.

"The high-level order picker is an excellent product, but we wanted to have a cage to safeguard the products our guys were working on with those machines," Viani says.

"Again, we asked TMHA for their input as to how we could go about that - and they sent a designer to work with us on what we needed, and to come up with some concepts.

"They came back with a design that featured a cage attached to the machine - we had always thought that the best way of doing it would be somehow attaching the cage to the pallet.

"Normally the guys in the warehouse would pick the pallet, take it to the floor, get out of the machine, work on the pallet, pack the pallet back up, get back in the machine, and return it to the rack.

"This design allows the operator to pick the pallet and work on it while elevated, then simply return it to the rack - it's extremely efficient and saves a huge amount of time."

With more than 10,000 cases heading out of the warehouse each week, Viani says anything that saves RWG time and makes it easier on its pickers is a huge benefit.

"The most important thing for us is that all of our TMH equipment is very rarely out of service," he says.

 "Combined with the regular monthly servicing and the strong aftersales support, reliability is just not an issue for us."

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