Mobiles in South African Fruit Stores


Southern Storage Solutions – Dexion, has installed numerous mobile rack installations in conjunction with Barpro Storage which has increased the storage capacity of each facility without the expensive task of increasing the room size to cater for conventional pallet racking or drive in racking with all the associated extra refrigeration and electrical costs.

Traditionally pallets of packed fruit were stored by securing steel corner posts to each pallet and then storing another level of pallets on top. While doubling store capacity, this form of block storage effectively prevented stock rotation, increased stock damage and in some situations prevented adequate cooling.

As fruit packaging became further differentiated, accessing stock quickly for an order became practically impossible.

Pallet racking was introduced into existing fruit stores to solve these problems. “Drive-In” racking made better theoretical use of the chilled space and reduced product damage. However the accessibility problem was not solved leading to “drive-in” lanes being only partially utilised for immediate access to individual product lines.

The answer

The alternative was to use fixed selective racking, giving immediate access to every pallet but greatly reducing storage capacity.

Mobile racking was first used in 1997 in a fruit store outside Grabouw in the Western Cape. Designed to take a combination of 2 200mm and 2 400mm pallets with a maximum weight of 1 000kgs, the pallets were stored with the
1 000mm side facing and the 1 200mm side in the depth of the racks.

The advantages of using mobiles in fruit stores have become apparent over the years. More expensive than “fixed selective” or “drive in”, mobiles can increase the practical capacity of a store by up to 75 or 80% while still giving immediate access to every pallet. If the total cost of a proposed fruit store is divided by the practical pallet capacity, the mobile option can be surprisingly competitive.

Another challenge arose when packed fruit stores remained in use for extended periods. Improved ventilation in the mobiles allows packed fruit to be chilled and store temperatures are reduced to around 0 degrees C. Frost heave, caused by moisture freezing under the floor, is not good for mobiles and recent installations have underfloor insulation and heater mats to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Recently, mobiles have been installed in smaller stores, 3 and 2 pallets in the height with capacities of fewer than 450 pallets. Moving aisles have been widened to allow for the use of counterbalanced trucks and pallet bays extended allowing the placement of 3 pallets on the longer 1 200mm side. Maximum pallet weights have increased to in excess of
1 300kgs and storing five pallets in the height is now quite possible.

Barpro Storage is able to manufacture smaller systems locally in their Cape Town manufacturing facility which cuts costs and reduces lead times. The racking superstructure supplied by Southern Storage – Dexion is manufactured locally in Gauteng.

Southern Storage Solutions – Dexion

Ron Bonthuys, Tel: (021) 552-0220