Automation demands high quality pallets
“An automated warehouse has major advantages but is also very sensitive to disruptions. And few things are more disruptive than a broken pallet. We really want to avoid those. The best way to avoid this would be to buy new pallets for each delivery, but this is simply not practical or cost-effective, which is why pooled pallets provide the best alternative.''
Remco Rijsenbrij, Operations Director Johma
Pool pallets are the best alternative
Warehouses at both producers and retailers side are becoming more and more automated. On the one hand driven by the demand of an ever-growing 24/7 economy - where customers and consumers expect instant and seamless delivery of orders placed around the clock. On the other hand demand is fuelled by the need of enterprises to optimise processes as staff shortages, workplace safety, increase productivity and cost reductions drive the agenda.
Prevention of disruption
One of the biggest challenges when automating a warehouse is the prevention of disruption and down-time. We perform in a 21st century commercial environment where robots, computers and smart software control operations, but a poor quality pallet can still disrupt the flow of these meticulously organised processes. Peter de Vos, System Sales Engineer of CSi, a Dutch manufacturer of automated warehouse systems makes the point: “In order to prevent issues we deliver pallet check stations for both full and empty pallets. Pallet quality itself is also important, and therefore we recommend customers to use pool pallets which we get back from customers fully maintained so that their tolerance is much better than a pallet that is not checked and carefully repaired. ”Even if a production company hasn’t automated its own warehouse, it’s important to be aware that a retailer might have done so and damaged or low quality pallets could cause disruptions and delays – another reason to keep pallet quality in mind.”
IPP offers the One Way Trip service to provide best pallet quality for a seamless flow at an automated warehouse. With this service, a pallet returns after every trip to a IPP depot for a thorough inspection and repair, if needed, to maintain the pallet’s quality specification. At the depot, inbound pallets are visually inspected to ensure that they meet our high quality standards. If pallets are in need of repair this is completed by qualified staff on site to meet the high-quality IPP specifications. Next, the repaired pallet is repainted in the characteristic IPP brick brown colour, before going back into the supply chain. Wood that can’t be repaired or re-used gets recycled and turned into biomass, supporting IPP’s focus on sustainability.
Johma, a renowned Dutch salad producer, has automated its warehouse operations with Rolan Robotics, handling over 150.000 pallet movements per year with IPP. Director Operations, Remco Rijsenbrij: “An automated warehouse has major advantages, but is very sensitive to disruptions, often caused by poor quality pallets. If we could automate the checking process of incoming pallets we can prevent stops caused by a broken pallet as it’s impossible to check each pallet manually. The best way to avoid disruptions would be to buy new pallets for each delivery, but this is simply not practical or cost-effective, which is why pooling pallets provide the best alternative.”
For the near future there will be an ever-increasing trend towards automation and robotics in warehouses which could include the use of mobile robots next to static conveyor belts. IoT (Internet of Things) in warehousing is also an emerging trend connecting, monitoring and synchronising all moving elements of a warehouse – for example equipment and inventory, but also pallets. The latter subject is something we will highlight in the next expertise series!
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