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In the News: Palletizing: 4 trends that boost flexibility

Automated palletizing systems are proven solutions, and they are becoming more flexible in accommodating different SKUs and tasks. Vendors are giving operations plenty of choice, putting more emphasis on software capabilities and ease of use.

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Warehouses that focus on fulfilling consumer e-commerce orders areancilaryblogmain_(1) rightly concerned about automation that brings efficiency to the picking and packing of each-level items for e-commerce fulfillment. But, for many DCs, the process of palletizing remains among the most labor-intensive tasks.

Not only can automated palletizing increase throughput while shaving costs, it also eliminates one of the most physically demanding manual tasks in a DC, allowing operations to spread precious labor resources elsewhere.

“The ergonomics and the staffing factors are big drivers for automated palletizing,” says Steven Hogg, applications manager for robotics with Bastian Solutions, which offers palletizing solutions. “With manual pallet building, there is high turnover in those types of positions. The labor pool just isn’t as large for those types of applications any longer.”

Automated palletizers come in two basic types. Conventional palletizers take cases fed into the palletizing station from conveyor to build single SKU and mixed SKU pallets. These units can handle some package variability, but generally are not as flexible in accommodating different sized cases or other packaging as robotic palletizers, which use articulated robot arms.

No single palletizing solution approach is a best fit for every operation. It depends on multiple factors such as SKU mix and package variability, with other factors like space and conveyor infrastructure requirements also part of the decision. But for many operations, palletizing solutions can bring speed and reliable output to a process that is physically tough on workers and hard to staff for management.

In short, automated palletizing solutions today offer greater flexibility and choice. Trends that add flexibility include advances in robotics, software to manage patterns and pallet builds, software that coordinates palletizing with other systems, and multiple types of solutions to choose from. For certain, it’s about more than the mechanization itself, with evaluation factors that include software capabilities and upstream infrastructure considerations.


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