Pallet flow rack systems are workhorses in a warehouse. They’re designed to handle the demands of full pallet, case-pick, even layer-pick operations efficiently, and long-term, without a great deal of maintenance and care. Just like everything else in your facility, however, pallet flow rack needs to be regularly evaluated for signs of damage. Repair or replacement, in certain circumstances, may be necessary to optimize system effectiveness and continue to provide a safe warehouse environment. Here are some tips to help ensure your pallet flow rack is up to the task and meeting your expectations.

Debris Found in Pallet Flow Lane

Pallet Flow Rack Evaluation

  1. Visual inspection
  2. Manual inspection

System evaluation comes in two parts for pallet flow rack. Visually looking into the lane using a flashlight can help you spot debris or broken wheels or rails that can slow up operations. Be sure to check for forklift and repeat use damage to products are the ends of the lane such as ramp stops and entry guides as well.

Manually checking rail to beam connections, fasteners and elements like speed controllers to ensure everything is secured and working as expected.

A quick look: While pallet flow system evaluations should be conducted regularly, we recommend a quick look from forklift drivers before loading pallets just to check for broken or splintered boards or dangling plastic wrap coming from the pallet to be loaded or anything obvious in the lane. Just a quick look can save a lot of expensive downtime.

Know the Signs

Normal wear and tear is expected, and individual elements of your flow system can usually be repaired or replaced quickly and easily. Excessive damage, however, is an area for concern. We’re here to help you discern whether some quick repairs are all you need or if the system itself is no longer providing the productivity benefit you need.

Here are the signs that indicate it’s time to replace your pallet flow system:

Magnum Wheel Pallet Flow - Mallard Manufacturing
Magnum Wheel Replaces Skate Wheel for Heavy Product Loads

1. Inventory Specification Changes

Inventory changes from new markets, product updates or SKU proliferation are common scenarios in most warehouses. Pallet flow rack is an extremely accommodating pallet storage and retrieval solution, but lanes are uniquely designed based upon designated inventory specifications. If those specifications have changed in pallet weight or dimension, your system may need to be updated to meet productivity demands and even for warehouse safety.

Ignoring ineffective system operations because of an outdated configuration may lose you more in productivity and manpower than it would cost you to properly reconfigure the pallet flow system. In addition, safety is a real concern particularly at higher elevations. No replacement cost is greater than worker injury.

2. Recurring Maintenance & Repairs

Is it reasonable to expect an occasional repair on a pallet flow system? Sure. Just like every other material handling system in your facility, pallet flow rack will see repairable damage. However, lanes that experience repeated abuse requiring recurring maintenance need a closer look and solution. If you can rule out forklift operator mishandling (see our blog & videos for proper loading & unloading of a pallet flow system) then you may be looking at a system design flaw, poor installation, or inferior pallet flow rail products.

Wrong or Missing Hardware

3. Pallet Changes

Pallet Flow Entry Guides - Mallard Manufacturing
Custom Pallet Flow Entry Guides

There are several varieties of pallet flow to meet all types of inventory… but a large devotion of design time is dedicated to accommodating the pallet. The pallet is what touches the wheels or rollers, so there must be a reasonable connection between the two to provide consistent, controlled flow. We’ve published hundreds of blogs, many of which have focused on pallet quality, pallet type and pallet size regarding system design. If your pallet flow lane was designed to accommodate a GMA-style wooden pallet and it is now receiving inventory on smaller plastic pallets, that alone can be enough to cause system slowdown or failure. Even wood to wood pallet changes, if bottom runner pattern has changed, could be enough to cause pallets to skip over the wheels/rollers.

Does that mean your pallet flow system has been rendered useless? Not necessarily. You may need an update with lane guides and speed controllers. Noting that something has changed and having it checked out is the best way to catch and, better yet, prevent costly productivity losses.

4. New Technology Implementation

Pallet Flow Rack AGV Integration - Mallard Manufacturing
4-level, deep-lane pallet flow system with forklift separators – integrated with auto-guided vehicles (AGV)

Are you considering an AGV or layer pick application to speed order processing? Pallet flow is a great tool to partner with warehouse technology solutions. Mallard pallet separators are designed to isolate the front pallet from the back pressure of the rear pallets which allows for the front pallet to be removed quickly and easily without the potential for hang ups or system overload on the picker. If you’ve been using pallet flow, you should consider updating or replacing your system to complement your new automated picking solution and maximize productivity.

5. Converting from Full Pallet Fulfillment to Case or Piece-Pick

Pick Module for Each & Case Pick - Mallard Manufacturing
Pick Module for Each & Case Pick

Your pallet flow storage has been crucial in timely full pallet order processing, but now demand requires a conversion to smaller more individualized order fulfillment. Case picking from full pallet can absolutely be done from pallet flow with the addition of an accessory or two, depending on your current system configuration. But, also, if your converting to a pick module for case and each picking, installing pallet flow lanes above and carton flow rack below can provide a highly-optimized warehousing solution. These gravity flow solutions working together keep pick and load aisles separate for safety and efficiency, provide ready reserve storage and ensure automatically replenished pick faces. Based upon your new system design and requirements, your pallet flow may be able to be converted or may need to be newly configured to meet inventory specs.

Talk with the Experts

The Mallard team of gravity flow specialists are here to help you find the right solution for your inventory storage and order processing needs. Our in-house engineering testing lab is available to test out your current system design to see if inventory or pallet changes will cause functionality issues in your pallet flow. We will provide options, where available, to allow you to keep your system with simple add-ins or accessories to keep everything flowing. Where a new system is required, we will again test your inventory with the system design to guarantee that we meet your expectations for a quality, productive pallet flow system.

Whether it’s an update or an upgrade, we’ve got the right products and accessories to handle the job. Give us a call today!

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