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2019 saw the completion of the new extension of Toyota New Zealand’s national parts warehouse – but the work didn’t end with the warehouse expansion. It was the catalyst for a Toyota drive to become a leader in the areas of health and safety for the 44-plus staff who pick and pack parts to distribute to Toyota’s 67 stores nationwide.
The extension project revealed shortfalls in the seismic strengthening of the original, 40-year-old building – so the next task was to upgrade the facility to meet 100 per cent of the Building Code.
In order to do so, the existing building, which housed 1.4 million parts, was treated like a massive game of Tetris, claims Warehouse Manager Mark McDowell. “The warehouse was broken into 10 areas of 2,500 square metres, and the upgrade involved removing the parts and racking, then fencing off each area.
“It also provided an ideal opportunity to upgrade the sprinkler system to the latest standards, which enabled the system to put a fire out rather than just suppress it.”
Alongside the sprinkler upgrade, the lighting was overhauled to implement the latest low-energy LED technology that would also improve efficiency and lead to power savings.
“One thing led to another; then it was replacing the warehouse racking system to meet the latest racking standards. And if that wasn’t enough, it was decided to rotate the entire existing warehouse layout 90 degrees to achieve a better workflow and more efficient operations,” Mark says.
The total space for parts storage is just under 35,000 square metres, the size of about four rugby fields.
On the safety front, the new layout features a better separation of people and machines, assisted lifting for heavier items, and narrower, single-direction aisles. New boom gates have been installed to achieve the separation of people from machines such as forklifts.
The team looked at the best possible way to ensure this approach was foolproof in keeping people and machines separated. It came back to ensuring that within each ‘operation pen’ there was a boom gate at each side, and the ‘person’ remained in control of the boom gate. Some larger areas have a degree of automation that controls their gates.
Additionally, pedestrian and safety barriers (in some places as high as three metres) were installed in certain areas to separate staff from stock and operating machinery.