Long loads, narrow aisles, easy access

Side-loading lift truck handles cumbersome products in confined spaces

The FABRICATOR September 2006
September 12, 2006
By: Eric Lundin

Since starting with just one warehouse in 1989, J G Kelly Supplies has grown along with Ireland's booming construction industry. Limiting factors such as the warehouse's doorway width, narrow aisles, and 90-degree turns meant the company had to rely on manual labor to handle the long, cumbersome items in its inventory. A standard forklift was out of the question. The company eventually purchased a multidirectional side-loading lift truck from Combilift for moving inventory in this challenging environment.

Ireland is called the Emerald Isle, and for good reason. Regardless of the season, much of the island is covered with lush green vegetation. The mild winter weather is a product of the Gulf Stream, the Atlantic Ocean current that pushes moderate weather north from the Gulf of Mexico. The other factor, of course, is precipitation. It rains a lot in Ireland. And that's an understatement. According to the country's weather service, Met ireann®, much of the island receives an average of 1,000 millimeters (40 inches) of rain annually, and the mountainous regions receive twice that amount.

Seeing a lucrative and growing niche, Gerard Kelly founded J.G. Kelly Supplies, a service center that provides rainwater-carrying components to Ireland's construction industry. Kelly's timing was good—the construction industry has grown significantly over the past few years. According to data provided by the Central Statistics Office Ireland, completed dwellings increased from 30,575 in 1995 to 80,957 in 2005. Meanwhile the demand for gutters and downspouts has been as constant as the rains that keep the island green, and J.G. Kelly Supplies has grown right along with the construction industry. Since it started with a single warehouse in Monaghan in 1989, which supplied western Ireland, the company has added warehouses in Dublin and Limerick and now supplies goods to construction contractors in all of the island's 32 counties.

Narrow Doorway, Narrow Aisles

After opening for business, J.G. Kelly Supplies quickly filled its 1,200-square-meter (12,900-sq.-ft.) warehouse with inventory, which includes long, cumbersome gutters and downspouts. The warehouse's main door is just 3 m (9.8 ft.) wide, whereas the products typically measure up to 6 m (19.6 ft.) long. Using a standard forklift to take the products into the building was out of the question.

Initially Kelly's suppliers left the deliveries on the sidewalk next to the warehouse. Getting the inventory into the warehouse was Kelly's problem.

"We handled every piece separately from the road," Kelly said, recalling the days when his warehouse staff provided muscle power to move the inventory manually.

The doorway wasn't the only challenge. The warehouse's narrow aisles and two 90-degree turns prevented Kelly's staff from using a forklift inside the building. Kelly needed something like a forklift, but something much more versatile.

Load It Sideways, Move It Anywhere

Kelly eventually found a lift truck that matched his needs—a multidirectional side-loading lift truck manufactured by Combilift Inc. The truck, a model C3500, has a lift capacity of 3,500 kilograms (7,700 lbs.) and a lift height of 4,040 mm (13.25 ft). It is equipped with two small front wheels and one large rear wheel. All of the wheels can rotate up to 180 degrees, allowing the truck to move forward and backward and side to side. It also is versatile in the way it turns corners. Negotiating a tight, 90-degree turn is not a problem—because it has a single rear wheel, the truck can make zero-radius turns.

The truck allows Kelly employees to move the products directly into the warehouse, eliminating manual handling of individual inventory items. It also allows them to move cumbersome products through the warehouse with ease. In addition, it also handles not-so-cumbersome loads, such as the palletized aluminum coil that Kelly supplies for on-site roll forming.

Move the Product, Not the Warehouse

The use of this specialized lift truck eased the burden on Kelly employees by eliminating the need for manual inventory transfer. The labor savings allowed Kelly to reduce his warehouse staff from 10 to six.

More important, the lift truck allowed Kelly to use his warehouse space more efficiently. As the construction market and demand for construction-related items in Ireland has grown, Kelly has been able to more effectively use the limited space in his Monaghan warehouse, allowing him to remain in the same location despite the growth in his business.

"By now we would have had to move, if not for the Combilift," Kelly said.

J.G. Kelly Supplies Ltd., Mall Road, Monaghan, Ireland, 353-47-84344, fax 353-47-84373, jgkellys@eircom.net, www.jgkellygroup.ie

Eric Lundin

Eric Lundin

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8262

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The FABRICATOR is North America's leading magazine for the metal forming and fabricating industry. The magazine delivers the news, technical articles, and case histories that enable fabricators to do their jobs more efficiently. The FABRICATOR has served the industry since 1971.

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