FBIN, Featured, Food Manufacturing

How Aisle Master is helping food manufacturers into narrow spaces and wider opportunities

1.8 metres. It’s six 30cm rulers. It’s the length of a motorcycle. And it’s the aisle width required to operate a Combilift Aisle Master.

Capable of navigating the tightest spaces with ease, Aisle Master very narrow aisle (VNA) forklifts are a dynamic, dependable solution to drive down cost of ownership for food manufacturing businesses.

Combilift Senior Design Engineer, Shane McNally, explains how the Aisle Master is tackling some of food manufacturing’s top pain points; and how, by unlocking storage space at scale, it’s fuelling exciting growth opportunities for its customers.

Scaling your storage – without breaking the bank

It’s an exciting time of growth for Australian manufacturers. However, this comes with the less exciting logistics of expanding warehouses to accommodate more stock and product offerings.

But why purchase new warehouse space when there could be untapped potential in an existing building? It’s a question Combilift asks – and answers – with aplomb.

All the Aisle Master’s features – from its compact design and low entry steps to its ability to be accessed from both sides – are oriented towards user-friendliness and efficiency. And for efficacy in the narrowest of aisles.

“You can enter and exit from both sides of the Aisle Master,” McNally explained, “and get to the pallet from the front of the machine, rather than having to squeeze by either side of it.”

Importantly, as part of the initial consultation process, Combilift provide a free warehouse planning service: offering racking layout proposals and storage density calculations to help food operations understand exactly where – and how – they can save space.

Coupled with this complementary service, Aisle-Masters can increase warehouse storage capacity by up to 50 per cent compared with a counterbalance or reach truck.

“The Aisle Master combines into one truck what you’d otherwise need two or three trucks to do,” said McNally – but the same could be said of warehouses.

That, by optimising your racking layout and making your space work harder, the Aisle Master allows businesses to combine into one warehouse what they’d otherwise need two or three warehouses to store.

Making the safety of staff a priority

With an eye-catching yellow design and high-grade steel and castings, Aisle Master forklifts are as easy on the eye as they are to operate.

Yet, though Aisle Master’s forklifts look great, Shane says most Combilift customers are more interested in substance rather than style. Which is why the safety-oriented features are so popular.

“All our Aisle Masters now have a park brake system with switches that turn the brakes off, plus presence switches in the floor of the machine,” said McNally.

“When the operator gets off, the brake comes on – so there’s no chance of them walking away while the machine rolls down a slope behind them!”

The Aisle Masters also have a built-in deceleration feature that kicks in when the forklift is turned, allowing operators slower, smoother, simpler – and, most importantly, safer – handling at corners.

Putting sustainability at the forefront

It’s not only the public clamouring for brands to be more sustainable – increasingly, it’s employees and stakeholders, too.

That means it’s never been more important for food manufacturing businesses to manage their carbon footprint. And what better place to start than in the warehouse?

Aisle Master’s electric-powered models enable businesses to not only reduce their operational carbon footprint, but benefit from improved acceleration and gradeability, too.

What’s more, the Aisle Master’s electric option has fewer wearable parts, making them easier to maintain while maximising their uptime. This makes them a long-term solution in all the right ways.

A clever, customisable approach to warehouse management

Shane has worked for Combilift since 2013, but the company’s history of innovation stretches back much farther. In fact, the Aisle Master was first developed in 2003, indicating that manufacturers have been seeking solutions to optimise space for decades.

Like many proven products in the market, the Aisle Master’s central concept and design have stayed the same. However, Combilift’s commitment to a constant cycle of iteration and optimisation has meant that, like the Aisle Master itself, the company has never stood still.

The recipe? A blend of collaboration, communication, and customisation, according to Shane.

“About 80 per cent of my job is working on customisation,” said McNally.

This is as it should be – there are very few cookie-cutter or ‘off the rack’ solutions at Combilift. Each machine is tailored to the the precise needs of manufacturing businesses and their warehouses’ spatial restrictions.

“For us, it’s about working towards what the customer wants. It’s about finding out what they need – not what we think they need,” said McNally,

Companies can, for instance, work with Combilift to modify parts of their Aisle Master’s makeup or key specifications, such as the colour, ground speed, tyre size, fork length, and lift height, to create a machine that’s truly fit for purpose.

The other key element that sets Combilift and its products apart is a flair for experimentation.

“We’re constantly doing new stuff, and we’re always testing,” says Shane, admitting that no two days at Combilift are ever the same,” said McNally.

“We’ve always got customers from overseas – including the UK, the US, and New Zealand – coming here to Ireland to test their machines with us, together.

“Each day here at Combilift is different because each customer is different. There’s always something new to be doing, someone new to meet. It keeps the mind ticking!”

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