Vernacare consolidates two sites into one with Jungheinrich very narrow aisle racking solution


Jungheinrich UK has provided Vernacare, a global healthcare supplier of market leading hygiene and surgical solutions, with a complete very narrow aisle (VNA) racking solution that has enabled manufacturing and warehouse operations to converge on a single site. 

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.

 Birch adds: “Our processes within the warehouse have become more efficient as a result. Rather than bringing those reels in, dropping them onto pallets and then putting them into racking, we can now take the reels straight out of the shipping containers and put them directly onto the timber decking, which has removed an entire step from the operation. We have also been able to re-evaluate our workflow. Combined with the training and consultation provided, Jungheinrich has given us invaluable support in introducing new equipment and processes, while merging two sites and two workforces. 

“The total investment by Vernacare to complete the move was approximately £1.5 million, but by consolidating all operations under one roof and eliminating inefficiencies such as transport between sites, the cost savings have been significant and immediate.”

Steve Richmond, Director – Logistics Systems, Jungheinrich UK, concludes: “We are delighted to have helped Vernacare successfully complete the consolidation of two sites into one. To maximise capacity, while carefully considering the size and scale of the move, the need for a quick completion and for implementation to happen without disrupting manufacturing operations, Vernacare required a complete racking and material handling solution that was bespoke and overseen by a single point of contact. As a provider of end-to-end intralogistics solutions, Jungheinrich could offer Vernacare a one stop shop for completely tailored solutions, working consultatively with the team to support a successful transition of people, processes and goods.”