co-op-birtley-pr1Co-operative Food Retail Logistics called on EnerSys to help optimise the warehouse space at its new distribution centre at Birtley in County Durham by minimising the area required for charging warehouse truck batteries. The solution was to build a three-tier battery bank – with potential to go even higher – served by a unique electric-powered changing cart, believed to be the first of its type in the EU to work without hydraulics.

This novel installation forms part of an advanced battery management system to meet Co-operative Food Retails Logistics’ key objectives of best practice and sustainability.  Sophisticated charging and allocation procedures as well as remote diagnostic facilities ensure optimum performance over an extensive projected working life for the batteries and warehouse trucks.

“This new installation continues the policy employed at our other sites and provides a good benchmark for the group,” says Chas Shepperson, National MHE Fleet Manager at Co-operative Food Retail Logistics. “We have a strong relationship with EnerSys, and they went out of their way to listen and devise what we wanted.”

The new 285,000 sq ft (26,500 sq m) distribution centre opened in April 2009 and incorporates ambient, chilled and frozen storage. From here goods and distributed to 260 Co-operative stores throughout the North East and Scottish Borders.

The Birtley site has been designed from the ground up to incorporate state-of-the-art equipment to support efficient and sustainable operations. Advanced voice picking technology helps the 500 distribution staff on site to fulfil over 200 deliveries a day and pick half a million cases a week. The aim is to pick down to a single item if needed. To meet the projected workloads Co-operative Food Retail Logistics selected a fleet of 61 warehouse trucks from its MHE partner Linde. These include pallet transporters, low level order pickers and reach trucks which handle to the fifth-level top beam at 11.455m – the highest currently in any of the business’s warehouses.

From its experience at other depots, Co-operative Food Retail Logistics had a good understanding of its requirements for the battery system. This required the elimination of manual handling and lifting of batteries and the adoption of the latest technology for battery management, charging and changing. It was important that by minimising the overall footprint of the charging area to allow more space for storage, operational flexibility was not compromised.

Co-operative Food Retail Logistics has a long-standing relationship with EnerSys and over 90% of the 2000+ batteries used across its 19 warehouses are Hawker Evolution units. With a gelled electrolyte, Hawker Evolution offers a number of maintenance-free benefits because its sealed units require no topping up and there is no risk of spillage. A highly efficient valve-regulated re-combination technology reduces gas emissions to an absolute minimum, which makes Evolution ideal for busy food distribution operations.

“We started with Hawker Evolution batteries in 2001 and they’ve got better as we have,” says Chas Shepperson. “The trucks at one of our other sites are still using batteries originally supplied back then. Gelled electrolyte means there is no spillage so they are safer and there are no problems with corrosion. Reduced gassing means we don’t need special ventilation. The training required is also much simpler. Evolution is a good battery.”

Enersys Motive Power

Karen Smith

Tel: 0161 727 3800


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