Welcome to this year’s final Back of Store feature, our regular look at the warehousing and logistics side of the multiple grocery supply chain, with stories on the latest equipment and solutions from the major suppliers and innovators in this crucial area.

chazThe dark months of autumn and winter are a very busy time for the multiples. First there’s the Christmas bonanza. And the long evenings and twilight weekends also bring a welcome, major uplift in sales of treats for sharing across the product categories as people spend longer indoors and want to enjoy themselves.

But it comes at a price. At this time of year the pressure is on the warehouse to perform and meet expectations. All the promotions and seasonal stock coming into store have to be received, held and put out on sale. Sales positions have to be kept replenished and seasonal staff hired to do the job. It generates welcome work for people at this time of year, good news for stores’ links with their local communities and a chance to try out new people.

But the change of seasons also brings added hassles for store managers and others in the grocery supply chain. As the frost sets in, the Back of Store is under siege. The components of the warehouse which need regular attention are readily identifiable – doors, lighting, racking and shelving, forklift trucks and pallet trucks. Of these, one stands out most of all, the forklift trucks. The faster your trucks work, and the more productive you try to be, the bigger the possible risks become. And so do the consequences.

Forklift trucks need the maximum respect, because they are the single biggest safety hazard in the modern retailer’s warehouse. Your doors get checked periodically: the racking and shelving are inspected at intervals: lights get changed when they fail. But none of these move at the speed of your forklift trucks, or have the same potential for serious injuries. Whether your forklifts are loading and unloading lorries, moving pallets around or working in the racking, these activities demand the maximum care and attention from forklift operators and supervisors.

You need to take a critical look at the way your staff use forklifts and impose strictly observed speed limits, backed up by clearly visible signage. All staff operating forklifts should be given adequate training by accredited trainers as part of a safe working culture. Take the right precautions, and be sure of a good autumn.

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