An established supplier to more than 94% of NHS Trusts in the UK and in more than 50 countries worldwide, Vernacare took steps to expand into new areas of the healthcare industry in 2017, with the acquisition of Synergy Health Healthcare Consumable Solutions (HCS). The acquired manufacturer of personal hygiene wipes, products for wound care and surgery had two sites in operation – a manufacturing plant in Chorley, Lancashire, and its distribution warehouse several miles away in nearby Walton Summit.

As Steve Birch, operations manager, Vernacare, explains: “On acquiring HCS, we quickly identified an opportunity to improve operational efficiency by redesigning the internal layout and streamlining the number of SKUs manufactured at the Chorley site. By our calculations we could free up enough space to move the distribution warehouse onsite from Walton Summit, which would eliminate the need to transport materials between sites and result in considerable savings on storage costs.”

Working consultatively with Vernacare during a competitive tender, a number of solutions were discussed and adapted before Jungheinrich was brought on board to build a very narrow aisle racking solution of 22 aisles, which created sufficient space at the Chorley site to comfortably accommodate the holdings of the original storage site plus headroom for growth. In just seven months – on Christmas Eve 2018 – the project was fully completed, with the racking being built in phases in order to continue manufacturing and move stock at the same time.

“While plans were already in place to streamline our stock and SKUs,” says Birch. “It was important that we could fit as many pallet spaces as possible into the Chorley site. Jungheinrich designed a solution with us that maximised all available space and provided a complete package, including racking, materials handling equipment, consultation and training. The solution was completely tailored to our requirements, and to addressing the unique shapes and sizes of the materials we store.”

To manufacture particular products, Vernacare imports large reels of material from all over the world. The reels vary in size and weight, with the largest being around 800mm in diameter. To accommodate non-palletised goods such as these, levels of timber decking were installed across eight aisles, with specially developed clamps fitted onto the VNA trucks in order to grasp the circumference of the reel, squeeze and lift the reels for transportation and storage.