Carton flow rack is a go-to storage solution for fast, accurate, orderly pick and put inventory operations. It’s inherently low maintenance and easy to use… except when it’s not. So, let’s review the best ways to avoid carton hang-ups in the first place and also best practices for dealing with hang-ups should one occur.
The first thing we recommend is to make sure your carton flow system is properly planned. That means it is designed to handle your specific inventory and processing needs. Here are a few things you need to know:
Carton Flow Planning 101
- What are the dimensions, weight, and shape of the inventory?
- Is the inventory shape and size consistent? Or does it vary?
- Do the cartons or totes have any unique characteristics that may make them hang up in a system, like footed bottoms or protrusions?
Knowing the size, shape and weight allows us to identify which type of track, the wheel or roller spacing and potential number of SKU lanes. Wheeled track solutions are better suited for varied inventory, while consistent carton sizes are best served by roller track systems. Mallard offers several options of both types:
Dyna-Flo and Dyna-Deck are examples of polypropylene wheeled track carton flow. These systems are very durable and provide full-bed design that allows for consistent coverage no matter what size or shape your inventory takes. Perfect for product mixes with multiple and/or varying SKUs.
Tracks are available in 12″ & 16″ widths for edge to edge coverage free from gaps that could hang up inventory.
Dyna-Flo HD is your answer for heavy cartons and totes. Dyna-Flo HD offers the same benefits of Dyna-Flo with the added benefits of uniquely designed wheels and axels that will handle heavy inventory (up to 50 lbs. in an unsupported 8’ span) without splitting, cracking or bending.
The width of the roller track should closely fit the carton width. Cartons that are too large for the rollers can lag and cartons too small for the rollers waste valuable space! Mallard offers Cart-Trak in four sizes — 6”, 9” 12” & 16” widths – to ensure full carton coverage and best use of space.
For cartons with footed bottoms or protrusions along the bottom that may make them hang up in typical carton flow system, roller track can be designed on 1”, 2”, or 3” centers to ensure consistent coverage without the feet stopping or slowing the flow down lane. However, the only way to ensure we have the best lane design… before you purchase your system… is to test the carton flow system in our in-house Engineering Testing Lab.
If you’ve properly designed and tested the system with your inventory, then hang-ups and misalignments should be minimal, but it is always best to be prepared! This is how you should properly go about addressing carton flow rack obstructions, or hang-ups:
How to Fix – Safely Dislodge Hang-Ups
- Think Safety First
- Shephard’s Hook
- Purging the System
- Retest again
Anytime you are dealing with a rack bay or flow lane, you need to think worker safety. Carton flow is designed to support packages not people, so you should never climb into the rack bay to dislodge a misaligned or stuck carton.
The easiest way to dislodge it may be to use the ol’ shepherd’s hook. If it is a relatively shallow lane and the cartons aren’t heavy, this should work just fine. If the carton is misaligned, the hook can be used to move the carton back onto the lane or just hook it onto the carton to pull toward you. If there are other cartons in the lane, they should be removed from the lane prior to trying to dislodge the stuck one.
For a carton that is simply not flowing but is still in the lane, you can try purging the lane by carefully loading cartons back onto the lane from the pick aisle to see if you can restart the stuck carton.
If you have more than the very occasional hang-up, we recommend contacting the Mallard team. Something may have changed in your packaging or inventory and we should test the system and inventory in the engineering lab to find a solution and ensure carton flow optimization. Here’s what will help you determine if it’s time to retest:
Evaluating Current System Effectiveness
- Packaging Obstructions
- Wheels Breaking
If your picking operation is suffering due to stuck cartons shutting down carton flow lanes, then that system is not optimized. Flimsy or damaged cartons can certainly get stuck in any system, but if more than a rare few present that way, then it is time to reevaluate the carton flow system.
If your wheels are breaking, then we need to reevaluate your system as well. Wheeled lanes are specified for certain inventory weights. If the cartons are over that weight the flow system is no longer designed to handle that inventory. However, if the wheels that are damaged are at the load point that may simply be due to the stress of the load impact, carton after carton. Impact Trays can be customized to fit your system and alleviate that problem.
Carton flow IS an excellent warehousing tool. If you’re thinking of adding carton flow or just considering pick system options, give us a call. Likewise, if you are working with a system that doesn’t meet your needs, give us a call. Gravity flow is what we do. We will come up with a comprehensive design, or solution for a specific problem, whatever the need.
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