For all the talk about e-commerce and the increased demand for piece picking, you’d think the pallet is so 1999. But in Modern’s last three surveys of pallet users, more than 90% of respondents indicated they were using the same or more pallets than the prior year. Yes, we’re shipping more parcels than ever before, but when it comes to getting product from Point A to Point B in truckload and less-than-truckload quantities, the pallet is still indispensable.
More pallets translates into more opportunities for automated palletizing and its cousin, automated depalletizing. In part, that’s being driven by the need for efficiency. In a mass production environment, where thousands of uniform cases are coming off the line and going onto pallets for reserve storage, a palletizer is the most cost-effective way to go.
Addressing complexity with software
Automation loves predictability and simplicity. For that reason, automatically building a single SKU pallet is primarily about speed. Sure, the pattern might change with a new product or new size carton, but that new pattern can be easily stored in the system’s memory. Building mixed SKU pallets, on the other hand, is unpredictable and complex, since no two orders are likely to be the same.
The WES system must also have visibility beyond the four walls of the distribution center to coordinate with upstream flows, adds Linda Grady, national account manager for the systems group at Bastian Solutions. For example, Grady says good software can sequence when to withdraw the pallet, find an ideal staging area, and coordinate between the WES and WMS to determine which pallets to depalletize in which order. “With visibility of what’s being staged in front of the depalletizing area, you can have a pull methodology so everything that goes onto the conveyor has a destination, instead of putting things on and finding a destination later,” Grady says.
Read the full article from MMH here.