Logistics firm growing greener

A Memphis-based warehousing and distribution company is not only growing its operation — it’s growing it greener.

UWT Logistics LLC purchased more than $300,000 worth of electric lift trucks to add efficiencies and cost savings to its operations.

The company has been using all propane equipment, but decided it wanted to reduce maintenance costs and fuel costs while lowering its carbon footprint, according to Jim Browder, operations manager.

Electric lift trucks are not new to the industry, but improvements to the life expectancy of motors and batteries fueled UWT’s decision to buy.

“We felt like now it made a tremendous amount of sense to go ahead and leverage that technology into our operation,” Browder says.

Many companies also are trying to be greener, which has led to electric lift trucks becoming more popular, according to David Jones, account manager with Crown Lift Trucks of Memphis.

Also, electric lifts turn fuel into a fixed cost.

“With fuel costs constantly being volatile, when you buy an electric lift, you’re basically locking in your fuel costs for five years,” Jones says.

UWT Logistics currently has 30 forklifts that operate on liquid propane. It is selling off more than half of those and replacing them with 30 electric pallet jacks.

“Because the business has grown, we were faced with having to buy more equipment,” Browder says.

The pallet jacks, which only lift products high enough to move, cost $9,000 less than fork lifts.

“By bringing those in at a lower cost per unit, they achieved a front-end reduced investment cost over replacing them with forklifts,” Browder says.

The company will continue to have some fork lifts to load and unload trucks, but has moved its operations around to better utilize pallet jacks.

“The pallet jacks are specific for the order selection itself, where the pickers are going around picking individual loose cases of product and assembling them on to a pallet to complete a particular customer’s order,” Browder says.

The company spent $47,000 annually on fuel for forklifts. Although the electric pallet lifters required $15,000 in electrical work to put on chargers, maintenance manager Lee Reeves anticipates a savings.

“Just the fuel alone, you’re talking about saving several thousand dollars,” Reeves says. “You have to pay for the power supply, but it’s very minimal compared to fuel.”

The company also foresees savings since a forklift requires more maintenance.

“You’ve got more moving parts on the forklift,” Browder says. “The pallet jacks are simpler pieces of equipment.”

Browder anticipates a return on investment of less than three years.

Allan Bowden, transportation manager, says there will also be a noise reduction in the workplace.

“The warehouse gets pretty loud and I think that adds to the stress level of our workers,” he says.

http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2010/09/13/story1.html

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