In most warehouses, space is everything.
Narrower aisles means more rows of racking & therefore greater storage density. Being able to operate in smaller aisles, therefore makes narrow aisle equipment more productive. The downside is the likelihood that these machines cannot operate outside on uneven surfaces.
That’s where the motivation for articulating machines came from – two machines in one meant less cost, faster turnaround and, potentially at least, fewer operators. There are three types of articulating trucks on the market – Narrow Aisle Flexi, Bendi and Aisle-Master. By articulating between the chassis and mast, all exploit the ability to turn/pivot in a smaller space.
Bendi was the first to be introduced and the name has, in some cases, become synonymous with the concept.
As the truck arcs towards the pallet when moving forward, the angle at which the tips of the forks are able to enter is closer to 45 degrees than the 90 degrees typical of a standard reach truck. The total width of an Articulating VNA at such an angle can be as little as 1.6m, meaning the racking can be placed much closer together than in a conventional operation.
There’s no difference in concept between the three manufacturers, but there are differences in the models. Differences in capacities and closed heights on the masts, how they go to market and options.
When Aisle-Master initially started they were more amenable to change, they’ve been able to meet the demands of the customer when making bespoke models that have now become mainstream models.
Because the motors are at the front of a Flexi or Aisle-Master, the Bendi is bigger at the back where the motor is – wider in most cases. Generally, there’s more space-saving to be gained from a front-wheel drive truck but they will all provide the same storage and productivity benefits to the customer.