How a pallet can make or break your automation project

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Automating? have you thought about the pallets?

You want to automate your production and/or warehouse, because it can save you a lot of time and money. Fair enough. But have you ever thought about the pallets you’re using? Because, believe it or not, they are key for the success of your automated systems. 

Which pallets will make your automation project a success?

Get in touch with us.

automation in CHEP service centre
Today it seems that automation has found its place in every company.

The biggest companies in the world are early adopters, but today it seems that automation has found its place in every company. Especially in the Benelux, where some of the largest automated warehouses in Europe have their residency. The companies behind these warehouses and other automated process can therefore enjoy the benefits of automation:

  • Health and safety: your staff no longer need to carry out manual operations and can be trained for other tasks.
  • Time-saving: the turnaround time is shorter and the production and order picking process runs smoother, allowing you to better keep up with the growing demand from consumers.
  • Cost-effective: you remain competitive because, among other things, you save on labour costs.

Before you start automating...
But before you start automating your warehouse or production environment, there are a few considerations to bear in mind. Of course, the costs of the project are a decisive factor, but so are the kind of goods you produce, the way in which they are packaged and stored and the pace at which you want to produce or deliver. Even the pallets you use affect your automated system as well.

A pallet is worth more than you think.
"Suppliers and retailers often don't see the importance of the pallets as such, but rather consider the transport of goods as important," says Mark Pickwell, Application Engineer Global Manager at CHEP. "But what if you've invested millions in an automated warehouse? And you transport thousands of euros worth of product on one pallet and want to store it in an automated warehouse? Then it's crucial that those products go through the machines easily and, above all, undamaged. On that specific pallet."

What if you transport thousands of euros worth of product on one pallet and want to store it in an automated warehouse? Then it's crucial that those products go through the machines easily and undamaged. On that specific pallet.

Mark Pickwell Application Engineer Global Manager, CHEP Global

2 question to ask when automating

Your challenge is to make sure everything runs smoothly. That is why you need to ask the following questions when problems do occur:

  • 1) Are the pallets I use compliant with the same quality standards?

    In the event of deviating, inconsistent and uneven pallet sizes, tolerances and quality, the risk of downtime increases. This also counts when you use pallets from different suppliers. When problems arise, the pallet needs to be taken out of circulation, resulting in higher safety risks and costs due to damage or defects to your machines. Mark Pickwell: "If the pallets meet the same quality standards, they should easily pass through an automated process." Standardizing your pallets as early as possible in the automation process, can prevent stoppages and downtime.

  • 2) How do I check the pallet quality before use?

    It is possible that your machines are properly adjusted, and pallet sizes are consistent, but that problems may still arise. Then it could be a good idea to take a closer look at your control process, as XPO Logistics, one of the largest logistics service providers, experienced. Their temperature-controlled warehouse in Nieuwegein is equipped with an unmanned automated crane warehouse. That is why XPO Logistics requires product deliveries on pooled pallets, because of the higher quality standards. "Still, a lot of pallets were rejected after the first visual inspection," explains Gertie Wiersma, Customer Service Manager. "We contacted CHEP and they reviewed our inspection process."

CHEP developed specific training for our staff and created guidelines based on the settings of the machines. Because of these adjustments, the number of rejected pallets has now dropped by 50 percent.

Gertie Wiersma Customer Service Manager, XPO Logistics

Quality control: splinters vs. load-carrying capaity

employee performing quality control
Pallets with splinters were rejected, although this did not impact the load-carrying capacity.

It turned out that the employees followed guidelines that were not based on the necessary requirements for the machines. "Pallets with splinters, for example, were rejected, although this did not impact the load-carrying capacity", says Gertie Wiersma. "CHEP then developed specific training for our staff and created documents and guidelines based on the settings of the machines. Because of these adjustments, the number of rejected pallets has now dropped by 50 percent.

Building better supply chains together

Collaborations with experts in automation and pallets, just as XPO Logistics did, is what John Storey, European Application Engineer at CHEP, recommends. "We have gained the necessary experience and we employ engineers who have built up good relationships with the largest manufacturers of automated systems. They are aware of the latest innovations. The earlier they are involved in the process as consultants, the sooner we can ensure that your pallets are compatible with your machines, and vice versa, with just minor adjustments. In this way, you avoid downtime and bottlenecks that need to be fixed afterwards." 

Gertie Wiersma agrees: "I'm glad we started talking to CHEP pretty early after automating. Because without identifying why pallets were being rejected, our suppliers and pooling partners couldn’t know what was wrong either. If we had involved them from the start, the problem would have been overcome sooner."

Are you ready to automate your supply chain?

 

Contact our team for a good start.
Overview of automated warehouse of XPO Logistics
If we had involved CHEPfrom the start, the problem would have been overcome sooner.

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How a pallet can make or break your automation project | CHEP