At the beginning stages of a material handling opportunity, whether a multimillion dollar system or an inexpensive gravity roller conveyor, an application specialist will commonly ask the question, “What can you tell me about the product we are going to be carrying on this equipment?”
For obvious reasons, this initial information makes all the difference in the world and will help the application engineer design the proper material handling equipment for the project at hand. Not all conveyor is the same and picking out your conveyor is like picking out a new shirt—only one size typically fits you well. I do need to add that in my opinion, walking around with the neck of your shirt too tight is much better (and cheaper) than selecting the incorrect conveyor!
When considering conveyor applications and the products that often require the most attention during design, many people within the material handling industry would agree that conveying pallets requires a high level of careful analysis. When gathering the information needed for a pallet handling system, one must always make sure that each and every type of pallet being carried on this system is identified up front–even those pallets that are only conveyed on every 15th Saturday of a Leap Year!
In addition to defining the pallets that are conveyed currently, it is a good idea to get the eventual system owner to look into the future and try to determine if a different style pallet is likely down the road. Sometimes uncovering all the information will increase the costs of the equipment, require “slave boards” under a pallet, or may even determine that a certain pallet is not conveyable at all. It is always better to make this determination early as opposed to later in the evolution of a project.
When designing a pallet handling system, the desired pallets to be conveyed can take an engineer in so many different directions it can cause dizziness:
- Wooden pallets
- Steel pallets
- Aluminum pallets
- Plastic pallets
- Standard GMA pallets
- Double face pallets
- 4-way pallets
- 9-footed pallets
The list seems almost endless and probably is! And just when you think you have seen them all…out comes the leap year pallet!!! It makes you wonder if the companies that manufacture pallets find it entertaining watching conveyor companies in their quest to find solutions.
Needless to say, pallets can be extremely challenging for a conveyor system, and if changes of direction, turning, and transferring are required, the challenge is increased. The quality and direction of the bottom boards are also critical for pallet conveyor, so if you see any damage, make sure your team knows this will not work!
There are no small details when considering pallet conveyance. Common mistakes in pallet conveyance are expensive and painstaking for all, so uncovering information early and often in the game is key to a successful pallet conveyor project.