Maintaining an efficient warehouse means properly using the space that’s available to you. In many warehouses, a large portion of available space is taken up by aisles that personnel walk through and forklifts drive through. If a significant percentage of the space in your warehouse is taken up by aisles, there’s less room for storage. However, there is a solution to this problem, which comes in the form of a very narrow aisle (VNA).
A VNA system is designed to increase your facility’s storage capacity. The only problem with this system is that traditional forklifts are unable to be used in the aisles. You can resolve this issue with a turret truck, which is a type of forklift that’s designed specifically to be used in narrow working spaces. If you’d like to improve your warehouse efficiency with VNA systems, the following guide informs you of how to do so.
What is a Turret Truck?
A turret truck is a a type of forklift that’s slightly different than a traditional forklift or pallet jack. While all three types of vehicles have similar functions, turret trucks are made with a counterbalanced design that consists of a rotating and articulating base for maximum maneuverability.
It’s possible for a turret truck to rotate 180 degrees and be driven in narrow aisle spaces. Unlike the other two vehicle types, you can move the forks on turret trucks even as the remainder of the vehicle is immobile. These trucks are classified by OSHA as Lift Code four trucks.
Types of Turret Trucks
There are three primary types of turret trucks, which include single-deep, double-deep, and triple-deep vehicles. The names of these trucks are determined based on the type of pallet rack design they can be used with. When pallets are stored just one row deep, you can use a single-deep truck to transport the pallets from one destination to another.
Double-deep and triple-deep turret trucks are meant to be used with double-deep and triple-deep pallets, which mean that they can reach further and transport pallets that are either two or three rows deep. All double-deep and triple-deep trucks come with extensible forks.
How Turret Trucks Work
Turret trucks are designed mainly to operate in a very narrow aisle, which is why they are often referred to as VNA trucks. If you wish to use one or more of these trucks in your facility, they are battery powered vehicles that come with electric engines and an operator compartment that counterbalances heavy loads.
The main mast on the vehicle allows the operator to be lifted up to a maximum height of around 45 feet depending on the exact model you choose. An operator will sit in a relatively small carriage that gives them a clear view of the entire pallet handling and transportation process. With this feature, operators are capable of performing multiple or single order picking, which ensures more precise stock management.
Keep in mind that traditional forklifts or reach trucks are designed in a manner that makes it difficult for operators to gain a clear view of the handling process, which means that most operators are forced to use trial and error while handling loads.
The forks are positioned directly in front of the operator and are placed on a small front mast that’s capable of rotating 180 degrees. Because of how this feature is designed, operators can access either side of the aisle without needing to physically move the unit. The front mast allows for an additional 6.5 feet of height, which means that the max height for pallet handling purposes is over 50 feet.
Turret trucks move via a rail guided or ground-based laser system, which allows the unit to move in and between aisles. Turret trucks can reach a maximum speed of up to 10MPH. At such high speeds, you can perform pallet handling more efficiently, which should boost productivity and reduce handling times.
Advantages of Turret Trucks
Turret trucks offer ample benefits when you use them in combination with VNA storage systems. These benefits include:
- Better storage density
- Lower labor costs
- Enhanced inventory control
- Improved accuracy and productivity
Since pallet handling can be performed at much faster rates when compared to more traditional forklifts and reach trucks, you should notice substantial productivity gains. Aisle width can also be reduced to just over five feet, which increases the holding capacity in your warehouse. Your operators will have an unobstructed view of the warehouse and the loads that they’re handling, which lowers the risk of rack damage.
Narrow Aisle vs. Very Narrow Aisle (VNA)
Along with selective storage systems, warehouses can be outfitted with narrow aisle and very narrow aisle storage systems. As a warehouse manager, you’re likely tasked with reducing costs and improving efficiency at the same time. To accomplish these goals, you should consider using narrow aisle racking or a VNA racking solution, which allows you to make better use of your existing warehouse space.
Switching to one of these systems means that you can store much more materials and products per square foot. Along with narrowing your aisles, you’ll need to maximize the height of your pallet racking system.
While selective pallet racking aisles come in at around 12 feet or wider, a narrow aisle racking system is spaced at around 8-10 feet. In comparison, VNA racking designs are much narrower at just 5.5 feet, which allows you to store as much as 50% more product in the same space. Because of the limited amount of aisle space that’s available with a VNA system, you’ll need to use specialized equipment like turret trucks if you want to operate effectively.
VNA Design Considerations
There are numerous design considerations that must be taken into account when implementing a VNA system in your warehouse layout. Some modifications may need to be made to your warehouse to accommodate this design. For instance, the ground needs to be relatively flat. It shouldn’t be any higher than 15 millimeters from the reference point.
It’s also essential that your warehouse layout incorporates columns. In VNA systems, aisles need to have the exact same width. They can’t be flexed narrower or wider to account for different column positions. Since aisles are narrow, this type of forklift should be outfitted with a guidance system, which can involve guide wheels or magnetic wire. As mentioned previously, aisles in a VNA system should have a width of 5.5 feet.
VNA Height and Capacity
The maximum weight capacity for a VNA system is around 3,500 pounds. As for the maximum height, it’s close to 45-50 feet. It’s highly recommended that you select turret trucks that are rated for the required lift height and load capacity that your VNA system has.
VNA Safety Considerations
If any of your personnel are expected to operate turret trucks, they must adhere to safe operating practices, understand how to navigate hazards, and wear personal protective equipment at all times. Only people who have received the necessary training and licensing should operate this equipment. The personal protective equipment that your employees wear should include hard hats, safety shoes, and high-visibility jackets.
All material handling equipment needs to be inspected on a daily basis. If any issues are identified, they should be repaired immediately to avoid accidents and injuries. Make sure that your personnel never handle this equipment with greasy or wet hands or shoes. Hand grabs and steps should be available with all of the equipment you use. Only operate the truck when you’re sitting in the operator’s seat. Personnel should keep an eye on all warning signs as well.
Even though forklifts can travel at speeds that are as high as 10MPH, operators should only drive within the facility’s specified speed limits. When turning corners, it’s important to travel slowly to avoid a tip over. As for hazard avoidance, all operators should stay away from loose materials, holes, or bumps when driving in a turret truck. If there are any objects on the ground, don’t drive over them. When close to exits, entrances, corners, or doors, reduce your speed. Some additional safety considerations to remember include:
- Don’t move or lift loads that aren’t stable
- Use bindings or ropes to secure loads if necessary
- Don’t exceed equipment capacity
- Make sure that loads are evenly distributed
- Observe any changes to the operating environment
- Refuel when necessary
Turret Truck Operator Training
Turret trucks are part of the OSHA standard 1910.178 guidelines. Turret truck training is available if you want to learn more about these safety guidelines and how to properly use a turret truck. When taking one of these programs, you’ll learn about:
- How to avoid hazards
- Pedestrian traffic
- Turret forklift safety
- OSHA safety guidelines
- Safety concepts
- Basic operating techniques
This form of training should be provided to every employee who will be operating a turret truck.
Maintenance of Turret Trucks
Turret trucks should be maintained regularly to ensure that they remain in good condition and continue functioning properly. During your daily inspection of this equipment, you should look at everything from the tire pressure and condition to the overhead guard and load backrest security. You should also check for any signs of leaking from radiator coolant, fuel, or engine oil.
When the forklift is powered on, use the accelerator, steering mechanism, parking brake, and service brake to ensure smooth operation. If you notice any problems with your turret truck, you should address them immediately.
Turret trucks are highly effective vehicles that can increase your facility’s efficiency and productivity if you use them with a VNA system. These systems significantly reduce aisle space to allow for more storage space. If you want to increase storage capacity, it’s important that you select the right equipment.
Turret trucks are available in single-deep, double-deep, and triple-deep designs. The one that you choose primarily depends on the pallet racking setup you have in your facility. Once a VNA system is implemented in your warehouse, make sure that your personnel receive the necessary training and that you maintain your trucks to keep them operating effectively.