Changing consumer demands and faster delivery expectations means that today’s modern warehouses are reliant on automation to keep things moving at a steady pace. Any disruption in the process can result in missed deliveries, effecting a business’ reputation and bottom line.
One of the UK’s largest retailers responsible for operating more than 50 stores approached Goplasticpallets.com in the spring of 2015 looking for a robust, long life plastic pallet that would adhere to the company’s strict deflection parameters when loaded. Deflection was a crucial factor for the retailer, as if a pallet bends too much when loaded, its automated handling system will grind to a halt. Previous pallets that the retailer had tested deflected too far, sometimes by as much as 40mm. We recommended trialling the APB 1210 Pool Perforated 3R pallet which deflected by <8mm and passed all the necessary tests. The retailer ordered an initial 12,000 plastic pallets in 2015, and last year a further 9,500 following a major site expansion.
The plastic pallets are being used for storing goods in stackable plastic totes. When the items are needed for an order, the control system ‘calls’ the pallet with the relevant box and the cranes zoom through the narrow aisle to recover the pallet, which it transfers onto a conveyor. Here the pallet moves smoothly through the conveyor and the required tote is robotically lifted off and sent by conveyor to the order picking area. For incoming stock, the tote travels first to the palletising area where it is placed on the pallet – one pallet can hold a total of 30 totes – which is then stored away until it’s needed. This is automated e-commerce at its best; it’s phenomenal to witness the system in motion.
Another customer, a major British publisher approached us seeking a durable plastic pallet that would be compatible with its automated cassette. When it comes to the publishing industry everything is hugely time-critical, including logistics. The entire process is automated – the publications are printed, collated, packed into bundles and palletised ready for delivery. Any disruption to the print run has major consequences – both lost revenue and unhappy customers, so it’s essential that the system keeps moving. Wooden pallets were not an option, as they are not consistent in size and any loose slats or nails can jam a system. The plastic pallet we recommended was the IPS 1210 Medium M5R which were supplied in two colours and branded with the company name for easy identification.
The plastic pallets are stacked ten high and the cassette system lifts the top nine leaving the bottom one to feed out onto the conveyor to the loading position. Here the robots load the pallet with the bundles of publications, then the pallet exits the warehouse to be loaded onto the truck for immediate delivery. These plastic pallets have been keeping the publishing industry moving for the last nine years, proving a long-life asset for warehouse automation.
Jim Hardisty reports