Hills on the innovation trail again

In 1946 when Lance Hill developed the Hills hoist, it was more than a means of drying clothes – it was a very clever piece of practical thinking. Today, Hills is a well-known multinational company, spawned from the quintessential story of Australian innovation. With manufacturing and warehouse facilities around Australia, Hills employs over 2,000 people.

When the warehouse supporting Hill’s South Australian Bailey Ladder factory exceeded capacity, compounded by expensive off-site 3rd-party storage, it was time to innovate once again. Oversized products, limited cross-dock space and disjointed off-site storage facilities created a daunting dilemma for the most experienced of logistics managers. Adding to these supply chain inefficiencies, Hills needed to integrate the recently-acquired Alquip Scaffolding business with their existing logistics operation.

Shaun Scales, national finished goods logistics manager of Hills, had a difficult task on his hands: balance the costs of business with increased efficiencies, coupled with a fresh approach to the investigation of new technologies available. With the aim of separating the cross-dock from its original location and consolidating multiple off-site storage facilities, Shaun set off on the search for the most cost effective storage system available.

In order to address these problems, Shaun needed to improve utilisation of his warehouse storage area. Many traditional warehouses require a large proportion of their floor space to be kept clear as access aisles. Any method of increasing warehouse utilisation usually involves reducing the percentage of floor space wasted on aisles.

APC Storage Solutions, another innovative Australian company, specialises in the manufacture of clever warehouse systems designed to help people just like Shaun. As a reseller of Hills’ quality products, along with a history of successfully completed projects, APC had an established working relationship with the manufacturer of this Australian icon.

Through his extensive research, Shaun concluded that APC narrow-aisle pallet racking, serviced by a rail-guided multi-directional fork lift was the perfect solution for Hills. Not only would he increase cubic metre storage capacity by 25%, Shaun would greatly improve efficiency at his cross-dock facility. Improved control of ‘remote’ inventory would guarantee that Hill’s high levels of customer service would not be compromised. With emphasis on workplace safety a priority, steps were taken to ensure forklift and pedestrian traffic were kept separate throughout the design process. As a quality assured company, Hills insisted that any systems adopted would adhere to Australian and international standards.

Careful planning paid off for Hills when they contacted APC to fit out their new warehouse with a short lead time. Extensive experience with similar installations ensured APC was able to advise on the best guide-rail system to suit Hill’s new machinery, whilst reducing start-up and ongoing maintenance costs. APC supplied detailed site drawings, competitive costing and a lead time that worked well with the tight timeframe required by Hills.

The result was over 4,000 pallet locations of narrow aisle racking, supported by cold roll-formed 6,300 mm-high single piece galvanised steel uprights. Yellow powder coated floor guide rails, spaced just 2,340 mm apart with tapered lead-in entries, were designed and installed to assist forklift operators into the narrow aisles.

Progressive handover of the installation ensured Hills was able to benefit from the greater efficiencies as soon as possible.

Hills is now considering rolling out the narrow-aisle style of pallet racking in four other warehouses nationally, with a feasibility study in Sydney already underway. The partnership between the two companies continues the Australian tradition of developing innovative quality solutions to solve tricky situations.

For more information visit www.apcgroup.com.au.


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