Features

Lifting their inside game


As Australia’s largest e-commerce warehousing and order fulfilment provider, eStore Logistics treats every square metre of floor space as a valuable commodity. The Combilift Aisle Master articulated forklift helps lift their inside game through the use of very narrow aisle racking, freeing up critical floor space for robotic automation handling operations. 

Australia’s e-commerce boom has increased demand for both third party logistics provider (3PL) eStore Logistics and leading global forklift manufacturer, Combilift. Yet both are acutely aware that to stay ahead of the game, they must continue to innovate and customise solutions that directly fill their customers’ needs.

For eStore Logistics, that has involved developing a fulfilment solution that harnesses robotics and human smarts to provide same day delivery.   

“The pandemic has accelerated digital literacy and in turn, encouraged more people to shop online frequently which has resulted in increased demand for our services,” explains eStore Logistics Strategic Projects Manager Kieran Boyce. “For example, eStore Logistics customers sold 181 per cent more items in June 2020 compared to that of June 2019.” 

Moreover, eStore Logistics data indicates that the shift to online sales is permanent as consumer confidence in e-commerce has lifted since the lockdown experience.  

“E-commerce was already growing rapidly in Australia before the pandemic, at a rate of about 20 per cent per year. Part of the reason for this is that we’re still catching up with more developed markets like the US and UK,” acknowledges Kieran. 

“What is interesting though is that people who experienced the convenience, choice and price benefits of e-commerce during lockdown are unlikely to fully return to bricks-and-mortar retail – so this is far from just a flash-in-the-pan. Retailers need to be prepared for this.” 

Significantly, Kieran notes that consumer expectations are increasing in tandem with online sales growth. Therefore, “the power to offer faster, more efficient, and more cost-effective deliveries is a crucial step to building a loyal customer base.” 

For many retailers, the costs of expanding or developing their own warehouse operation is not tenable, particularly as this requires investment in warehouse space, as well as exponential technology such as AI-powered robots to deliver a speedy and cost-effective service. A 3PL strategy is often the more practical choice. Which is why eStore Logistics has been upgrading and developing their own offering to retail customers.  

“In response to increasing consumer demand for fast delivery, eStore Logistics set out to develop an industry-wide fulfilment solution which cost effectively supports same day delivery and all-day fulfilment with a 4pm cut off for same day fulfilment,” he expounds. “eStore Logistics’ mission was to make enterprise level logistics available to retailers of all sizes.” 

This solution was enabled by innovation – eStore Logistics have built their services “from the ground up” to increase the speed and efficiency of their operations. This includes the use of Combilift Aisle Master, an articulated forklift designed to work in very narrow aisles (VNA) of 1.6 metres, with a reach height of 15 metres. The Aisle Master is deployed across all eStore Logistics facilities nationwide. 

“eStore Logistics is a highly innovative business – each square metre of floor space is a value commodity that can be used for advanced robotics, storage or manual handling operating areas,” says Kieran. “The Combilift Aisle Master allows our business to minimise the footprint of our bulk pallet storage through the use of VNA pallet racking, which allows us to maximise storage per square metre, and to reclaim valuable warehouse floor space for other value-added activities.”  

Those “value-added activities” include the autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that eStore Logistics has in their employ. 

“The availability of floor space is critical for the allocation of robotic automation handling operations,” Kieran explains. “The Aisle Master helps reduce our racking footprint to maximise the available floor space for our robotics footprint.” 

Importantly, the Aisle Master provides eStore Logistics with the versatility they require to optimise warehouse space and their operational efficiency. 

“The Combilift Aisle Master has great versatility across a variety of applications, this is the key strength of the product. It can be used in VNA pallet racking, traditional standard racking configurations, for internal pallet movements and vehicle loading or unloading,” enthuses Kieran. 

“This supports the equipment having limited downtime between tasks as it is flexible in work assignments across the business. Unlike other VNA products in the market which require expensive wire-guidance installations, the Combilift Aisle Master doesn’t have these limitations.” 

The Aisle Master also meets eStore Logistics’ foremost consideration in the warehouse – safety.  

“Safety is the first consideration at eStore Logistics. The Aisle Master is designed with a range of essential safety features that make it suitable for deployment in our operation,” says Kieran. “Selection of the Aisle Master was driven by the most efficient operating design and speed when compared to other articulated forklift products that were fit for purpose in our operation.” 

The fact that the Aisle Master meets eStore Logistics’ key criteria is no coincidence. Combilift as a company prides itself on listening to customer needs and developing products that are truly fit for purpose.  

“Combilift as a company doesn’t manufacture conventional forklifts – that’s not our forte,” states Martin McVicar, CEO and Co-Founder of Combilift. “The products we bring to market are designed to save space and for handling products more safety – those are our key drivers.” 

Innovation is also central to Combilift’s offering – in fact, the company’s tagline is ‘Lifting Innovation’, which is a promise the company takes seriously.  

“Safety is at the forefront of every Combilift innovation. That, and listening to what our customers actually need is what differentiates us. We invest heavily in R&D – 7 per cent of our turnover actually,” stresses Martin. “And we’re not blinkered by what other companies are doing, we’re just interested in solving the issues that our customers have raised with us.” 

Combilift’s success – much like that of eStore Logistics – can be ascribed to this commitment to innovation and tailoring services to meet customer needs. Which is no doubt why the two companies will continue to work together in future.  

“The Combilift Aisle Master is an innovative product that will continue to see demand within the Australian market, particularly in cities with rapidly increasing land costs – every square metre counts,” concludes Kieran.

“eStore Logistics look forward to continuing to work with Combilift, they are a high-quality business, and the Aisle Master product is a best-of-breed design of articulated forklift. Combilift are a pleasure to work with and have gone above and beyond for eStore Logistics.”

For more information on Combilift, click here

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