As part of its strategy to streamline intralogistics processes and reduce the impact of the labour crisis on its business, Primafruit – a leading name in the fresh produce industry – has introduced a fleet of fully automated counterbalanced lift trucks from Toyota Material Handling’s Autopilot range at its Vale of Evesham-based production and storage facility.
The Toyota automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are utilised at every stage of Primafruit’s mission critical storing and packing operation. Fresh fruit arrives at the 41,000 square metre site from Primafruit’s suppliers and grower partners across Europe and South America and is taken by the automated trucks from the goods-in bay to the chilled very narrow aisle storage area.
The AGVs are then deployed to transfer palletised loads of fruit from the chilled storage system to the facility’s packhouse area where two production lines – one for packaging citrus fruits and another dedicated to processing berries, such as grapes, strawberries etc – are in operation. From the packhouse the automated trucks take palletised loads of individually packaged fruits to the building’s despatch bay where orders are loaded into vehicles by manual trucks for onward delivery.
In all Primafruit operate seven Toyota Autopilot OAE120CB counterbalanced trucks at the Vale of Evesham site. The models specified have a 1.2 tonne load capacity and a lift height of 4.15 metres.
All models in the Toyota Autopilot range are programmed to complete tasks and work alongside manual operators in total safety. The trucks use built-in safety scanners and obstacle detection units to negotiate obstructions, while load sensors and multiple sensor devices further ensure accurate and safe load handling.
The trucks are controlled by Toyota’s in-house T-ONE automation software. Capable of working as a standalone system or as a communications layer in tandem with the client’s warehouse management and production systems, T-ONE tracks goods storage, orders, traffic and flow thanks to its intelligent fleet control functionality and its ability to integrate with the user’s ERP/WMS if required to do so.
Since switching to automated forklift technology, Primafruit report that the Vale of Evesham facility has become a more serene working environment, as the company’s general manager, Jordan Beckley, explains: “The implementation of the Toyota Autopilot AGVs has certainly had a calming effect on our operational areas due to the controlled manner in which they complete the work,” he says. “We have also seen the system reduce a huge amount of manual pallet movements around the site, which has allowed our teams to focus on other more profitable tasks,” Jordan continues.
Automated pallet handling equipment has been shown to consume less energy than driver-operated forklifts – a benefit which, along with the other advantages that the technology brings, contributes to a typical return-on-investment time of less than two years.
Toyota provided the automated counterbalanced trucks on a rental package with full ongoing service back-up and technical support included in the monthly fee. “We chose to work with Toyota because of their reputation in the industry and the comprehensive package they offered to us. The Toyota team worked closely with us to implement a flexible solution which can adapt to the constantly changing challenges that our industry presents,” adds Beckley.