For more than 80 years, AP Exhaust Products has manufactured and supplied auto service professionals with a complete line of automotive, light truck, SUV and heavy-duty exhaust and emissions products. Today, the company’s Goldsboro, N.C., headquarters includes a 450,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and a 140,000-square-foot distribution center. From this facility, AP Exhaust Products’ 368 employees pick and ship up to 31,000 parts per day in a single-shift operation.
AP Exhaust Products has established a reputation for on-time delivery to its customers. If auto service companies don’t receive the exhaust parts they need, they can’t complete projects for their customers. To make sure delivery of these parts isn’t delayed by hang-ups in the plant or distribution center, AP Exhaust Products relies on a fleet of Raymond lift trucks, which are serviced through a maintenance package with Carolina Handling, an authorized Raymond sales and service center.
Less is more
In 2010, AP Exhaust Products was experiencing significant growth, and it wanted to make sure its material handling equipment was capable of keeping up with the workload caused by its current and future expansions. At the time, the lift truck fleet included several brands of both LP and electric lift trucks with an average age of 12 years. The company wanted to determine whether it was costing them more to maintain them than it would to purchase new lift trucks.
“We previously purchased refurbished equipment, but the cost of maintenance became too high,” says Ruth Long, vice president of AP Exhaust Products. “We decided to analyze our current costs and determine the return on investment for purchasing new equipment.”
Carolina Handling evaluated the lift truck fleet and submitted recommendations to AP Exhaust Products. It determined that by converting its existing fleet of LP and electric lift trucks to a fleet of new electric vehicles, AP Exhaust Products could reduce the sizes of its lift truck fleets in both the distribution center and the plant by 15 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
In the distribution center, pallet trucks with double-length forks enable operators to pick four pallets before traveling to the staging area, reducing the number of trips operators need to make to move products compared with standard-length forks. Stand-up counterbalanced lift trucks are used in the receiving area and deliver products to areas where they are needed within the facility. For order processing, new reach trucks provide increased lift and acceleration capabilities, enabling AP Exhaust Products to use fewer reach trucks for activities within racks.
Finally, a new swing-reach truck provides more battery life and extended run time for work within AP Exhaust Product’s very narrow aisles. These aisles are equipped with a digital wire guidance system to improve the swing-reach’s tracking and stability without it having to engage a guide wire on the warehouse floor to make sure was traveling down the center of the aisle. This eliminates the use of steel rails on floors and aisle-entry devices that reduce storage space on the ground levels of racking systems.
With the new generation of lift trucks, operators are able to more easily shift them between manufacturing and distribution if material handling demands change between these areas. These lift trucks both transport products through manufacturing and receive the materials that are used in manufacturing processes. This enabled AP Exhaust Products to combine several manufacturing areas, thus increasing available space while maintaining its current capacity.
Outsource Maintenance, Focus on Core Business
An updated fleet also allows AP Exhaust Products to take advantage of increased productivity and longer run times. All of the new lift trucks feature AC power systems which increase the energy efficiency of lift trucks and helps batteries last longer between charging.
“The new equipment is easy to operate, and operators are able to process more parts within the same time frame and have less downtime than we experienced with the previous fleet,” Long says.
One of the biggest benefits of investing in new equipment was implementing a comprehensive maintenance program provided by Carolina Handling. Through this program, service technicians handle preventive and unscheduled maintenance needs for a fixed monthly cost.
“Our maintenance costs have decreased between 35 percent and 40 percent,” Long adds. “Plus, we can focus on manufacturing and distributing our products.”
More Efficient Energy Use
Representatives from Carolina Handling also helped AP Exhaust Products to customize and implement a power program for its lift truck battery charging. With the program, AP Exhaust Products pays a monthly fee for its battery power, and battery charging schedules are handled by a third party.
Planning charging times and power usage during off-peak times when energy costs are lower results in substantial savings. From a productivity standpoint, the program provides the flexibility to run longer shifts or add shifts if needed, because lift trucks are charged during planned downtime or other opportunities when they are not in use. This reduces the need to stop and change batteries or LP tanks. Operators also don’t have to change batteries or drive to other areas of the warehouse to charge equipment.
“The revamped lift truck fleet has helped us move more parts within the same time frame, helping us provide on-time delivery to our customers, which is essential in our industry,” says Long. “Plus, with the additional cost savings we’re seeing from our reduced energy usage and fixed maintenance plan, we know our lift truck fleet is in a great position to support us as AP Exhaust Products continues to grow.”
Tim Hilton is CEO of Carolina Handling LLC, an authorized Sales and Service Center of The Raymond Corporation.