Plastic pallets come in all shapes and sizes. They’re heavy-duty or flimsy, flat-bottomed or footed, and even collapsible… and those are just the pallets in our recent pallet flow test! That’s right, 5 very different plastic pallets and load sizes that needed to find a single gravity flow solution for a precision parts manufacturing operation. Full roller pallet flow to the rescue!
Why full roller pallet flow rack?
- Accommodates varying pallet sizes and shapes
- Adaptable to all major manufacturers’ rack
- Custom mounting brackets for secure, low-profile, or heavy-duty use
- Minimal maintenance
Typically, gravity flow lanes are set to the width of the pallet. This is for several reasons. First, to best utilize the warehouse space available and accommodate as much inventory in that space as possible. Secondly, to ensure that the pallets track evenly as they flow from charge side to discharge side and ensure they arrive squared with the front of the system for easy retrieval.
When you design a single pallet flow lane to accommodate several differently-sized pallets it becomes a challenge to meet the expectations outlined above. Smaller pallets have the potential for drift in a larger width flow lane, additionally, heavier pallets have the potential to flow too quickly in a lane also designed for lightweight pallets.
Overcoming these challenges is something the Mallard Engineering Testing Lab does all the time. Thankfully they video tape their tests so we can learn from them and share their solutions.
Here is the recent test that they designed to solve the challenge of the 5 different plastic pallets.
- 9” Full roller pallet flow set on 2” centers
- Indirect mount speed controllers set a 41” & 46” intervals
- 7/16” pitch
- 16’ & 24.5’ lane length
- Pallet 1: 48” x 56” /600# load – pod footed & thin/flimsy
- Pallet 2: 48” x 62.5” /350# load – flat bottom & thin/flimsy
- Pallet 3: 30” x 64” / 150# load – pod footed & thin/flimsy
- Pallet 4: 45” x 48” / 700# load – collapsible & heavy duty
- Pallet 5: 48” x 65” / 350# load – collapsible & heavy duty
As you can see, pretty much the only thing these pallets have in common is that they are plastic… and even that differs wildly from pallet to pallet. The engineers carefully planned and tested the pallet flow lane pitch and lengths to ensure that the lightweight pallets would flow without hanging up and that the heavier pallets would flow in a controlled fashion. A key component to that success was the indirect mount speed controllers. They are installed under the lane at strategic intervals to ensure constant contact with any of the pallets as they travel down the lane. The speed controllers help secure the lightweight pallets to flow without drift and also help control the speed of the heavier weight pallets.
If any of the pallets should hang up in the pallet flow lane once the system is installed, the forklift operator only has to use a simple plugging method to restart the flow. Plugging is when the forklift operator pushes gently back on the front pallet before removing it from the lane. The push-back effect starts the down lane momentum for the rear pallets to advance.
While this solution is complete, it took quite a bit of engineering to accomplish it… but that’s what we are here for. If you’d like to talk to a gravity flow specialist and maybe have the testing lab team tackle your warehousing challenge, just contact us. We’re looking forward to our next material handling challenge.
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