Natures Menu is a producer of nutritionally healthy raw and raw-inspired pet food for cats and dogs. The UK-based company has a long-standing relationship with Toyota Material Handling, having first acquired hand pallet trucks more than 15 years ago. Since then, they have continually increased their fleet in line with their business growth.
Natures Menu employs 215 people nationally across two manufacturing and four distribution sites. They supply specialist pet food retailers such as Pets at Home and Jollyes, and has a partnership with the grocery giant, Waitrose.
In autumn 2017, the company opened a new £17 million, state-of-the-art production facility with bold ambitions to increase food production by more than 200 tonnes per week.
When learning about Toyota Material Handling's Logistics Solutions division, Craig Taylor, Natures Menu's Managing Director, invited Toyota during the planning stage to come up with a solution for different areas in the factory such as racking types, a special mezzanine floor for a cold store area, and forklift trucks for ambient and low-temperature areas.
The fact that Toyota can offer a complete package with forklift trucks, rack design and flooring solution was appealing to the customer: especially the drive-in racking solutions within cold stores motivated their decision. Toyota delivered conventional racking for the ambient area and drive-in racking for the frozen raw material storage. The racking solution is four pallets deep and allows for storage of 1000 pallets in an area of 675 square metres.
A key requirement of the project was a mezzanine floor structure to support an overhead conveyor system above the drive-in racking. This required a complex layout solution, designed in close coordination between Toyota, the customer's architects and construction engineers, together with the conveyor suppliers. This to ensure that all elements of the mezzanine were able to support the conveyor within the constraints of the floor design.
The entire design was completed against a tight schedule in order to meet the customer's requirements and to be installed for the operational start-up date of the facility. "Toyota was able to demonstrate that they can offer a complete turnkey solution for every aspect of material handling equipment and storage project. This gave us the confidence to select Toyota as a partner in this project," says Craig Taylor.
With the goal to achieve a much greater output from the new factory, Natures Menu needed a material handling equipment provider that reacts quickly and fixes trucks if necessary within a short time span.
In addition to their previous truck fleet with hand pallet trucks and electric counterbalanced trucks, four new trucks were introduced to meet the new demands. Two reach trucks and two rider-seated powered pallet trucks made for operating in a cold store environment. Not only does Natures Menu have a previous positive experience with Toyota, now they are also given the added benefit of money-back and performance guarantee. This means that they are guaranteed continuous good service, and that the material handling equipment provided will continue to operate at maximum efficiency as the business grows further.
With a state-of-the-art facility and new truck types to familiarise themselves with, Natures Menu wants to utilise the latest technology in order to efficiently manage their material handling equipment and operators.
Toyota's I_Site fleet management system with pre-op checks has given the company everything they need in terms of trucks, drivers and fleet management. This has also played a big role in their decision-making process and the system is actively used within their operations every day.
Toyota will continue to offer innovative solutions to the customer, with the idea to consider lithium-ion batteries as a next step.