Flexible Thinking ‘Inside The Box’ – Interview with Cliff Cane, Warehouse and Logistics sector manager
When you’re designing or refurbishing a big box warehouse or other industrial premises, you need to put a lot of thought into the placement of the internal walls. This will affect how efficient your space is and how easily it can adapt to future changes in business conditions
Specifically, as your business grows, you’re trying to run your warehouse at maximum efficiency and space is a problem, you may not be able to move easily into a different building. In this situation flexibility is everything. Permanent internal walls are one solution, but there are other options you may not have thought of, whose advantages far outreach those of a standard brick partition.
An increasingly popular solution is Flexiwall from Westgate Factory Dividers, part of the Westgate Group. Flexiwall is a lightweight, durable and easily adapted semi-permanent internal partition system, which doesn’t create mess during installation and has an active life of many years, with repeat users including NFT, DHL and Royal Mail.
Cliff Cane, Westgate Factory Dividers’ warehouse and logistics sector manager, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all, Cliff, what does your role at Westgate Group involve from day to day? Do you get personally involved in working with individual warehouse & logistics sector clients to help develop solutions for their business?
I am the Key Accounts Manager for the warehouse and logistics industry. I have worked for Westgate for 13 years and regularly meet clients on their premises to investigate their requirements and then provide a proposal for product segregation, temperature control and dust control. I work directly with the main 3PL companies like DHL, Great Bear, and NFT, and also with the distribution centres for major retailers and online retailers including Sainsbury’s, M&S, Waitrose and Amazon.
Who else is in the team with you?
Internally we have a great support mechanism, I have an admin, design and estimating team responsible for compiling and sending out proposals, an internal sales support team who are on hand to progress proposals and projects if I am unavailable and very importantly I have our in house contracts team, who are responsible for delivering all agreed projects to completion.
When was the Westgate Group founded? Who owns it now?
Westgate was formed in 1977 and is currently owned by four partners, who continue to develop the business from strength to strength
Where are you based? Where do you make your factory dividers?
The company is centrally based in Stafford, giving us great access to the whole of the UK. Our factory divider product range is manufactured in the UK, to ensure we can guarantee turnaround and quality.
Do you supply factory dividers to other countries besides the UK?
We cover the whole UK and also carry out projects in Europe for UK-based multinationals.
How many factory divider installations do you carry out a year?
We completed over 300 projects in the factory divider division last year and are on track for similar success this year.
What’s a typical scenario in which you would use Flexiwall?
A good example of this type of requirement is a multi-storage warehouse, which can regularly change the types of goods stored, due to won and lost contracts. We are also involved in many projects where storing goods at different temperatures is required.
Going back to Flexiwall, what material is Flexiwall made of? How is it constructed?
Flexiwall is a system of reinforced fire-rated PVC and glass cloth panels, which are suspended from the existing steel and are battened and tensioned. A unique V-overlap (exclusive to Flexiwall) joins each bespoke and pre manufactured panel to ensure an over 99% dust tight seal
How does Flexiwall work around existing steelwork and racking? Can you use Flexiwall to partition different areas of racking?
One of the key benefits to Flexiwall is that it easily installs around existing protrusions, making delivering a segregation project much easier. In answer to your second query, yes; due to the materials and installation methods used no load width is required at the base, therefore the final Flexiwall is only a few mm’s wide and is easily installed between existing racking; again making the delivery of a segregation project must less disruptive.
How thick is Flexiwall, what does it weigh? How easy is it to install? Is it very messy to put in place? Do I need to close down the rest of the warehouse when I install it?
Flexiwall is between 1mm and 5mm thick and weighs between 500 grams and 1000 grams per m2 subject to the grade used. It is praised for its ease to install and its clean installation, enabling our clients to continue with their operations with very little disturbance.
How long does it take to install? How easily can it be moved around or removed and reinstalled elsewhere?
As Flexiwall can be manufactured to any width or height and can be configured in many different ways, installation times will vary from project to project. However, if we take a standard 12m tall by 50m wide single run Flexiwall, this can be installed in as little as one week. Once in place the system is adaptable; recently we reconfigured a wall that had been in place for five years and needed to be extended due to the storage of extra goods.
How do I get a quote for a Flexiwall system? How quickly can I get one?
You can get a quote in the usual ways by calling us, emailing in or visiting our website www.westgateuk.co.uk which features ‘hover over’ product guides, short animations and loads of case studies. You can enquire directly from there, even uploading images or plans. We usually look to provide budget quotes within 24 hrs and arrange site surveys at the earliest convenience to the client.
How long can Flexiwall be kept in place?
Flexiwall systems will typically last for 20 years or more, but they can be adapted later, if warehouse configurations need to change. By its nature a semi-permanent partition is designed to be in place for as long as required but with the flexibility to be easily removed and if required re-installed.
If you lease or rent your building, do landlords generally approve Flexiwall as something for tenants to install?
Flexiwall is unique in the way it is installed and because of this there is no long lasting damage to the building, making it the ideal solution for leased or rented warehouse spaces.
What other factory divider products do you provide?
We have a range of partitioning and access solutions. Among these, Hoardfast is a freestanding low level partitioning system, used to create repackaging areas or as a temporary screen for maintenance or light construction work. Flexiscreen is a temporary version of Flexiwall and is used during heavy construction or extension works. We also supply and install a range of internal fast action, PVC strip and pedestrian doors.
For major projects, do you carry out integrated solutions, including crash barriers and fast action doors? Which other industry sectors are you active in besides warehousing and logistics?
Yes, we regularly supply integrated solutions to keep the purchasing process easy for our clients. We are fortunate to be able to work in many industries including manufacturing, food processing, packaging and vehicle assembly.
Where can people find out more about Westgate Factory Dividers’ different solutions?
As with most businesses we ensure we have an active digital presence and try to provide as much detail as possible online, including; videos, case studies, product details and links to other social platforms. Head to www.westgateuk.co.uk
How else can potential customers see how your systems work?
We do like to think of ourselves as forward thinking! Recently Westgate invested in a full Virtual Reality experience showing Flexiwall. We have since developed this into a portable version that can be viewed with a cardboard viewer, available free on request direct from us.
Are you exhibiting at any upcoming UK and European trade shows?
Yes we are. We love the opportunity to meet with businesses looking to overcome partitioning requirements. We’re already signed up for IntraLogisteX 2018 and IMHX 2019, to name just two major shows.
Finally, where do you see Westgate going from here?
The future of the business is very positive with plans to keep developing our products and processes in line with the regular client feedback we compile and review. Even though external factors such as Brexit fill the news, we are positive that businesses will change and adapt, which for a product range such as ours is positive. We also have our 40th anniversary to look forward to this year and a large part of Westgate’s success over four decades is due to our employee’s loyalty and commitment.