Cans by e Million
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ALTHOUGH canned food is a high-grade commodity, the transport of empty tins to a cannery is a relatively low-grade traffic. The cost of transport is, however, approximately the same whether the cans are full or empty, and the bulk of the cans creates storage and handling difficulties at the factory and at the customers' premises.
In the case of a large can-producing plant, dispatch delays can quickly block the can-production lines and failure to deliver at stipulated times may seriously reduce the day's output of the canneries. In effect, transport is part of a continuous production process that is quantitative and diversified and subject to major and minor peaks that vary with the weather and with unpredictable changes in consumer demand.
Of the 10 plants of The Metal Box Co. Ltd. producing food cans, the Wisbech factory has the highest output, and transport problems are the most complex. The productive capacity of the plant is on average over 15 million cans a week, and the range comprises 12 basic sizes with many variations in decoration, lacquer and so on. There are, therefore, thousands of combinations and permutations of can size and decoration.
Two Shifts Production is organized in two shifts, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.n-1. and from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., five days a week, and is augmented by night shifts and Saturday and Sunday working when necessary. The output of the production lines varies with the size of the can, the largest of which has a capacity of 1 gal., and the production rate varies from 150 a minute for the 1-gal. can to 750 a minute for smaller sizes. This gives a total output per minute of over 6,000 cans, which have to be cleared from the ends of the production lines, either direct on to road vehicles or rail trucks, or transferred to the storage area for later distribution. About 20 per cent of the outgoing traffic is railbome.
All the tin plate originates in South Wales or Monmouth and up to 70 per cent is transported by rail in closed trucks. When the factory was opened in 1953, the traffic was given almost entirely to private hauliers, but some five years ago a major portion was transferred to rail following a substantial reduction in rates. A policy of employing hauliers to carry at least 30 per cent of the tin plate was, however, approved in principle, and has been continued in the intervening years to avoid the creation of a railway monopoly and, of possibly greater importance, to provide flexibility in emergencies. A substantial percentage of the tin plate is decorated or treated at Metal Box factories in the Midland area, and in the event of a priority demand for special plate the services of the road haulier may be invaluable to prevent a hold-up in production. Whether it is carried by road or rail, the plate is loaded on 3-ft. by 2-ft. flat stillages equipped with three skids, the average load being 30 cwt. Up to 12 stillages can be transported on an eight-wheeler, and it is notable that ,a load of finished cans, carried by a 26-ft. articulated trailer, can be produced from two stillage loads of tin plate.
When planning outgoing traffic before the factory had been completed, the company was faced with the possibility of providing a C-licensed fleet to undertake deliveries, and this would have been .completely uneconomic because of the large quantities involved and the variations in traffic density. At that time, the local B.R.S. branch catered in the main for agricultural requirements, but it offereda nucleus of vehicles on which a suitable delivery fleet could be built. "A marriage of convenience" was therefore arranged by which an agreed proportion of the traffic would be allocated to B.R.S. Since that date B.R.S. tractive units have been increased from 16 to 38 and semitrailers from 40 to 170, the extra vehicles being mainly employed for Metal Box traffic. The C-licensed vehicle fleet comprises 15 prime movers and 28 semi-trailers.
It is now mutually agreed that an astonishing degree of integration has been achieved to the benefit of both " partners " and it is noteworthy that the goodwill fostered by this happy marital relationship is also symptomatic of the co-operation of private-enterprise hauliers with B.R.S. Hauliers' vehicles are hired by the B.R.S. at peak periods, and it is not uncommon to find a B.R.S. tractive unit mated to a haulier's trailer or vice versa. The Metal Box staff emphasize that there is no question of "creaming the traffic" or of increasing the fleet of C-licence vehicles at the expense of the B.R.S. fleet if surplus units are available.
The factory transport office is adjacent to the production planning office and is connected by private line to the B.R.S. depot. Transport schedules are provisionally completed a week in advance of the operation but in practice, plans for a day's delivery cannot be finalized before 5-6 p.m. the previous evening. Transport efficiency depends in part upon the extent to which traffic can be organized on a timed-delivery basis and the co-operation of customers has progressively been fostered to enable this practice to be developed.
It is pertinent, however, that timed delivery for all traffic would not be acceptable because it would not allow sufficient latitude with regard to, say, 20-30 per cent of the vehicles, the movements of which cannot be organized to an exact schedule. About 20 per cent of the loads are now scheduled to arrive at the customers' premises within a few minutes of a stipulated time (for example, at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. or 10 a.m.), whereas greater latitude is allowed in the case of a further 20 per cent in that arrival may be planned for the morning or for the afternoon with a latitude of several hours.
Prime movers of the Metal Box fleet comprise Seddon tractive units, powered in the main by Perkins 6.354 oil engines, which operate at the commendably low fuel consumption of 13-14 m.p.g. Ten of the semi-trailers are of the " raising-roof" type, the roof being elevated by a haniclopera ted screw mechanism (a hydraulic type is undergoing trials) to give ample room for the side loading of pallets. It is lowered after loading to secure the pallets in position. Of the type evolved by B.R.S., the remaining two roofed-in trailers are equipped with an internal clamping mechanism, which has a fixed roof but performs the same function as the raising-roof system with regard to securing the load. Both types have a weight capacity of 10 tons and a cubic capacity of 1,500 to 1,800 cu. ft., whilst the 26.5-ft. deck is designed to carry 24 box pallets. The 16 flat-platform trailers are of the 6-ton type and have the same platform length. Fifth-wheel couplings are used throughout, Leyland, A.E.C. and B.M.C. tractive units are employed by B.R.S. in conjunction with 12 clamp-type trailers with fifth-wheel couplings and 170 platform trailers, some of which are equipped with Scammell automatic couplings. The Metal Box Company operates one slave prime mover, whilst the B.R.S. run two slave vehicles and also a shunting tractive unit, which is used for the movement of trailers between factory and depot, a distance of half a mile. On average, Metal Box vehicles deliver about 25 per cent of the cans distributed by road.
Some of the cans are loaded direct on to the trailer (after cartoning) from a roller conveyor, and the remainder are either stacked in cartons on flat pallets or are packed loose in weld-mesh" box pallets in readiness for vehicle loading by fork-lift truck. The advantage of direct loading is that it obviates intermediate handling and can be per formed at the convenience of the operatives if time allows. The trailer is, however, immobilized for a comparatively long period, whereas load handling by fork truck enables the pallet to be transferred to the dispatch bay or store for later transfer to a trailer at a convenient time.
The cartons may be the property of the company or the customer, but all the pallets are owned by the company. In the case of cage pallets, the number collected from the cannery must equal the number delivered, which is regarded as an "unfortunate necessity" in that it increases the turnround time of the vehicle at the cannery.
As indicated in the general survey of traffic problems, the quick turn-round of vehicles is essential to transport efficiency. The average delay in the case of rigid lorries delivering tin plate to the factory is about one hour, the actual unloading time being 7-8 minutes, whilst the prime mover of a collection vehicle may leave the factory within 15 minutes of entering the area after uncoupling from an empty trailer and coupling-up to a laden unit in the 100-vehicle park. When they occur, collection delays are mainly because of last-minute production changes.
A particular production and transport problem is created• by a peak demand ior cans over a period of four to six weeks starting around mid-June, when a very large tonnage
of peas is handled by the canneries. Increasing the produc tion potential of the factory to cater for this peak direct from the line would have been uneconomic with regard to capital expenditure and the use of labour, and has been avoided without penalty by establishing a peak store, which
is built up over several months before the critical harvesting period. The cans are loaded. on pallets and stacked six-high in the store building by fork truck in readiness (-4
THE COMMERCIAL MOTOR November 16 196Z for collection as required. A stock of 25 million cans is normally in hand at the start of the peak period. The extent of the pea peak is dependent on the weather; this also applying to the numerous minor peaks, for example in the bean, tomato and carrot seasons. According to the transport officer of the company, the senior staff have to have the instincts of a farmer, as well as an expert knowledge of transport and canning, and must
keep one eye on the cans, one eye on the customer and
a. third eye on the weather ".
The reception of carton packs on makers' vehicles creates a particular handling problem in that there is a spate of deliveries in a short period every working day and it is necessary to unload the cartons in the outward-loading bay. Moreover, because the cartons are the property of individual customers, the louts have to be accurately checked and recorded, and this is a time-wasting procedure. The vehicles are, in the main, of the rigid type and the majority operate from factories in the London area. Turn-round time might be reduced if it were possible to apply timed-reception to the traffic and to arrange that loads were delivered by appointment. The magnitude of the problem is shown by the average stock of cartons, which is more than two million.
Repairs Every type of repair is performed in the Wisbech work. shops excepting the major overhaul of Perkins engines, full use being made of the maker'sperpetuity scheme. These engines are giving very good service, the vehicle with the greatest mileage to its credit having covered well over 100,000 miles without an engine overhaul, apart from
the fitting of new piston rings at around 80,000 miles. A replacement engine and gearbox are kept in stock, but the
majority of spares are of thefast-moving type, a reduction in parts to the minimum quantity being made possible by the efficient spares service of the vehicle distributors. All operations of the fleet are accurately costed.
Visiting semi-trailers from other Metal Box factories are serviced, if required, in the workshops, every trailer carrying a plate on which are stamped service records in code covering every month of the year for five years. This virtually eliminates any possibility of a service being over looked (at Wisbech or any Metal Box factory), even if the trailer spends a long time away from its base.
The extent to which mechanical handling is employed at Wisbech is indicated by the number of fork-lift trucks, of which there are 14. These are Coventry-Climax trucks of 4,000 lb. capacity powered by 3-cyl. diesel engines. One fitter is solely engaged in the maintenance and overhaul of the trucks for which a special pit is provided.
• In conclusion, it is appropriate to re-emphasize the company's high valuation of close liaison and good personal relationship between Metal Box staff and of friendly co-operation with the B.R.S. and private hauliers. There is probably no better example of transport being given its proper due despite the exigencies a n d complexity o f production control.