Welcome to our first look of the year at the Back of Store, taking in warehousing and logistics for UK supermarkets, Co-ops and convenience store chains, with stories from the leading equipment and services suppliers in this crucial area.

After many decades of excellent service from the major supermarkets, consumers have grown up taking it for granted that they can – almost always – get what they need, when they want it. And with the drive into Omnichannel and local convenience stores, multiple grocers are now required to deliver the all-round shopping experience at all times. Amazon has further contributed to raising expectations across the board and pressuring the grocery retailers to do even more to differentiate themselves from the pack, with such services as convenience format stores, home delivery and click and collect. And the Back of Store area is what makes it happen.

On top of this pressure on the grocery supply chain, the winter brings additional hassles to deal with. The frost means the Back of Store is under siege. At this time of year the focus is on keeping the elements out and the heat in and lightening the winter gloom for the people working there with the ideal lighting solution. That’s in addition to all the usual concerns about keeping the warehouse in good working order.

The components of the warehouse needing regular attention all year round are readily identifiable – 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 great 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.

We’ll say it again for sure, but 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.

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