It ranks as the largest grocery delivery of 2011. Over a single weekend in November nearly 750 semi-trailer loads of groceries were dispatched from a distribution centre in Sydney’s west and delivered to the same company’s new Mega DC nearby.
The mammoth undertaking to relocate 25,000 pallets was the latest move by the New South Wales arm of IGA Distribution, Australia’s largest wholesale grocery distributor, as it streamlines its operations.
IGA>D is replacing major distribaution centres at Blacktown and Silverwater with a huge 71,000 square metre complex on a 19 hectare site at Huntingwood in Sydney’s outer west.
To give more of an understanding of the sheer volume of the DC, just think of an area the size of 12 football fields under a 13.6 metre high roof – a warehouse that is scaling up to use a 250 strong fleet of high efficiency Linde material handling equipment.
A division of Metcash Limited, IGA Distribution is the group’s largest business pillar and the Huntingwood facility is Metcash’s largest single site.
“We’ve been planning for a long time to consolidate Blacktown dry groceries and Silverwater perishables, liquor and fresh produce” NSW and ACT Distribution Manager, Paul Maraziotis said.
“We chose Linde to provide material handling equipment after a selection process which also involved other material handling suppliers. Virtually all of our warehouse staff use material handling equipment, so the evaluation phase was crucial. The feedback was that the Linde reach trucks and forklifts were very comfortable and overwhelmingly they wanted to go with Linde.
“Frankly that’s half the battle if you are going to spend your day on a fork truck. If the equipment is uncomfortable then other issues can arise.”
IGA>D needed an organisation able not just to supply the product but also to support it and while overwhelmingly positive operator feedback was one thing, Linde was ultimately successful on the strength of its total package, particularly its after sales support.
Paul Maraziotis and his team felt they knew the Mega DC’s likely requirements for reach trucks, electric and IC counterbalance forklifts, pallet movers and low level order pickers, but listened to suggestions from Linde and conducted a trial of several alternatives.
“Linde have been great helping us make the changeover to the new site,” Paul said. “We were moving to a facility with racking almost double the height of our Blacktown facility. We needed to move 25,000 dry grocery pallets in pretty much a weekend and hit the ground running.
“That involved training up to 200 storepersons to use and be productive with the new equipment in a high reach environment. We set up a racking area to the new height and general specifications at our Blacktown site and Linde worked with us over three months to give every operator a half day’s one-on-one training with several day’s follow-up practice.”
As part of its tender to supply the Huntingwood Mega DC, Linde partnered with Century Yuasa to propose a high productivity solution for the site’s operational and “power” requirements.
IGA>D has had the benefit of using Linde equipment in conjunction with Century Yuasa’s PosiCharge system in its large Crestmead DC in Brisbane for two years.
“The feedback has been good, so it was a little bit easier for us to make that decision based on our colleagues’ experience,” Paul Maraziotis said. “We felt that it improved productivity up there so we took the opportunity to introduce it to our new Huntingwood site.
“The OH&S benefits of not having to change batteries are significant, but you also have the benefit of much less operator and equipment down time. Vehicles are just plugged into charging stations when the operators are on a break or at the end of a shift.”
IGA>D has chosen Linde equipment at the Huntingwood DC based on its belief in the quality of the equipment to perform over time. Even though Linde’s national headquarters is nearby it will station technicians and replacement parts in a purpose built workshop at the Mega DC.
IGA>D has also elected to use Linde’s FleetFOCUS fleet management system, which it regards as vital to maximising the overall productivity of the new site.
“I’ve been very impressed by FleetFOCUS,” Paul Maraziotis said. “The reporting systems Linde can generate from the system will help us to accurately monitor and assess the amount of equipment we actually need for our business. This is a small margin business and there’s nothing worse than carrying more equipment than you need.
“The reporting allows different scales of information. I can see an overview with a little less detail, but the warehouse managers and warehouse supervisors can get their reporting done in a lot more detail relevant to their roles.”
By mid 2012 the IGA>D Huntingwood Mega DC will have ramped up to full scale operations, picking close to a million cartons a week. With that level of activity and concentration of employees and equipment onsite, OH&S measures will receive top level attention.
“FleetFOCUS access control measures linked to each piece of Linde equipment are fantastic, exactly what we need,” Paul Maraziotis said. “The way the Linde system prevents unauthorised use and reports impacts is great technology that is going to get better and better.”
Choosing a material handling equipment supplier with the resources to meet its ongoing requirements was vital for IGA>D as it prepared to move into its new Mega DC.
“This is a staged move, with dry grocery to be followed by perishables, produce and liquor,” Paul Maraziotis said. “We’ve already got more than 130 pieces of Linde equipment on site and that will rise to more than 250 by mid 2012.
“Linde’s capacity to deliver has allowed us to make the transition on our terms. They have been fantastic. It would have been tough if we had asked for every one of our 250 plus pieces of equipment to turn up on one day, but from what I’ve seen I don’t doubt that Linde could do it.
"I’ve been very impressed by FleetFOCUS. The reports Linde can generate from the system will help us to accurately monitor and assess the amount of equipment we actually need for our business."
NSW and ACT Distribution Manager, IGA>D