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CoGri on AGVs and forklifts in VNA warehouses

Very Narrow Aisle warehouses are designed to maximise storage density by raising the racking height and narrowing the aisle width. Image: CoGri.

CoGri explains to MHD how it provides industrial flooring services to its clients’ facilities so they can use Automated Guided Vehicles and semi-automated forklifts in their Very Narrow Aisles.

One of the first major automated systems introduced in an Australian warehouse was in 2018 for the supermarket chain, Woolworths in Dandenong, Victoria. As the largest automated distribution centre in the Southern Hemisphere, it has 14 kilometres of high-speed conveyors, 13 automated cranes, and 50 robotic heads working in pairs to pack 650 cartons an hour.

Although introduced a little later than in some other countries, automated and robotic systems are now rapidly being inaugurated into Australian warehouse operations as their benefits are recognised. These include improved efficiency, reduced labour costs, and enhanced inventory management, all of which are willingly embraced by both large and mid-sized companies.

The introduction of semi-automatic forklift trucks has occurred organically. As advancements in technology evolved, so too did the desire for labour-saving and efficient materials handling.

VNA Warehousing

Very Narrow Aisle warehouses are, as the name suggests, designed to maximise storage density by raising the racking height and narrowing the aisle width. Their design, however, imposes strict demands on the equipment operating within it. Slowly but surely, manual forklifts are being replaced by semi-automated trucks and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) which can navigate narrow spaces efficiently and safely.

Both types of vehicles have advantages over human labour and manual forklift trucks, such as reduced labour costs, maximised storage and retrieval, and minimised damage to racking and stock. However, the efficiency of any automated system is unequivocally linked to the condition and quality of the floor on which they operate.

The Importance of a Flat and Level Floor in VNA Warehouses

Flat and level floors are essential for both AGVs and semi-automated forklift trucks which follow a defined path. Uneven floor surfaces risk unbalancing the vehicles, and the higher the reach, the more likely they are to tilt, endangering stock, and racks. Not only this, but speeds will decrease, navigational errors may occur, and the automated systems experience increased wear and tear.

Joint stability ensures vehicle longevity and efficiency. If joints between concrete slabs are unstable, vehicles will incur jolts and vibrations. Systems slow down and mechanical failures may happen, leading to increased repairs. Once joints have been stabilised, a carefully arranged maintenance plan must be implemented for system longevity and efficiency.

Sufficient load-bearing capacity is critical for VNA floors using automated and semi-automated systems, for both the racking and the vehicles, which are frequently heavier than their manual counterparts. If the capacity is insufficient floors may occur settlement or damage.

This leads us to floor surface integrity. Floors must be smooth and free from imperfections such as spalls, cracks, and surface defects, otherwise, the vehicle’s navigational systems might be disrupted, leading to potential safety hazards and operational inefficiencies. Floors in warehouses must be regularly maintained and repaired promptly, but none more than in automated warehouses.

Look to Your Warehouse Floor First

The floor of your VNA warehouse is more than just its surface, it’s the bedrock of your warehouse operations. A high-quality, flat, and level floor is essential for deploying AGVs and semi-automated forklift trucks.

Choosing the right concrete flooring solutions provider is essential. The floor is critical to your operations, from load-bearing requirements to surface regularity. Face Consultants are experts in the design, surveying, and testing of commercial/industrial concrete flooring. CoGri Australia specialises in the upgrading, refurbishment and repair of warehouse, factory, and industrial concrete floor slabs, including new and existing VNA / narrow aisle warehouses.

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