Freedom grows with Toyota Material Handling

Distribution Centres rely heavily on their material handling equipment, but Steinhoff Asia Pacific’s Kings Park, Sydney DC has thrown up more challenges than most.

When it opened less than a decade ago the 35,000 square metre site provided wide aisle warehousing and a home delivery base for furniture specialist Freedom. Counter balance forklifts took care of all the material handling requirements.

Now Freedom is part of Steinhoff Asia Pacific, a furniture and homewares retailer with additional brands including Freedom Home, Snooze, Bayswiss and Bay Leather Republic.

The demands on the Kings Park building progressively forced the leasing of additional nearby warehouse space, a switch to narrow aisle configuration and most recently a major building program that’s pushed total floor space out to 45,000 square metres.

Through the whole process one of the few constants has been the choice of an increasingly large and hard working fleet of Toyota, Raymond and BT counter balance forklifts and specialist warehouse equipment, sourced from Toyota Material Handling.

Distribution Centre Manager Susan Hillier now runs an operation which employs 120 staff and acts both as a national import facility, and a base for NSW and ACT home deliveries.

“Toyota has been excellent as a supplier of our material handling equipment, but they’ve also had to go beyond just supplying turret trucks, forklifts, order pickers and reach trucks,” Hillier says.

With 80 pieces of equipment hard at work for two shifts each day to maintain, Toyota Material Handling has two technicians permanently on-site.

And in recent years “on-site” grew to include nearby warehouses leased to handle additional capacity demands.

Now, as the 6.2 kilometres of aisle space in the expanded distribution centre is progressively occupied and satellite warehouse space is relinquished, Toyota Material Handling is dismantling the satellites’ turret trucks and bringing them back to the upgraded site.

It also worked with Steinhoff Asia Pacific to organise wire guidance installation in the new racking area.

“They’ve worked well with us, even making special arrangements to install the wire guidance over a weekend, to ensure that disruption was kept to a minimum and designing the wire guidance systems so that a problem in one area won’t affect others,” Hillier says.

“Until four years ago we were a wide aisle warehouse but then we re-racked the site and introduced Raymond turret trucks and order pickers and BT high level reach trucks,” she says.

“All that equipment which we introduced for the narrow isle environment is still here today and still doing the job.”

“There is such a wide variety of goods on site that we need the full range of the best available warehouse equipment. Sometimes you are moving a pallet and other times you are moving furniture pieces — particularly sofas.”

“Toyota has been great in helping us to modify order pickers and put frames on the back so that we can manage different types of products,” Hillier says.

“Originally all sofas were stored in wide aisle areas on pallets and moved by forklifts. The damage problem was horrendous. Now we store sofas in narrow aisle areas on mesh and the damage is absolutely minimal.”

Toyota Material Handling used Raymond’s expertise in warehouse equipment to configure an extended turret head to accommodate sofas up to 2.95 metres in length.

Despite the extra space added recently, the Kings Park facility still faces the constant challenge to work safely in a fast paced environment with equipment maintained to a level of reliability suitable for a two shifts a day.

“Toyota has managed the relationship with us brilliantly,” Susan Hiller says.

“The system under which our fleet maintenance program operates gives full accountability.”

“We are involved in all the decision making and no repair is conducted without our sign-off, so that we can understand the issues. The technicians consult with us on a regular basis, especially if significant costs are involved, such as a new battery.”

Toyota Material Handling has also worked with management in establishing a dedicated battery charging area with a fully automated system designed to maximise efficiency.

“We don’t have spare equipment for our material handling needs,” Hillier says.

“The challenge is to manage the staff we have on our two shifts so that the work gets done and the equipment is always fully utilised.”

“The service from Toyota Material Handling has been great, not just in carrying out repairs, but in performing the routine maintenance that keeps it all going. You look at the use we make out of our equipment and the reliability has been remarkably good.”

The distribution centre’s material handling equipment fleet consists of a blend of Raymond turret trucks and high level order pickers, BT high level reach trucks and Toyota gas forklifts.

Steinhoff Asia Pacific’s IC counter balance forklift requirements are currently being upgraded with a progressive switchover to the high-tech Toyota 8 series models, fitted with speed limiters, catalytic converters, load handling controls and Toyota’s unique System of Active Stability.

“The Toyota people really know this site and that is a very big advantage,” Susan Hillier says.

“They understand our needs and work with us to manage the mix of our equipment.”

“It is such an advantage to have the best available equipment from counter balance forklift trucks to sophisticated reach trucks and turret trucks all from the one supplier and that has been Toyota.

For further information please contact Toyota Material Handling on 1800 425 438 or visit on-line at

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