Pallet flow rack is a great time saver in industrial settings whether storage & distribution or manufacturing. Often we think of it for large stocks of palletized inventory, but more often than you may think pallet flow rack is a go-to source for manufacturing and assembly, even when stock items are relatively lightweight and small.

Pallet Flow Rack - Mallard Manufacturing

It’s the simple, compelling features of flow rack that suit large and small inventory alike, such as:

Pallet Flow Advantages

  • Ready, automatically-filled pick face
  • Minimized congestion (loads from the rear)
  • Deep reserve storage
  • Orderly, easily identifiable, designated lanes
  • Minimal maintenance, low operational cost

The Mallard engineering test lab recently tested small, custom pallets with lightweight (80-175 lb.)  inventory for a global pump manufacturer looking to improve plant function and productivity. It took a change in perspective to find the best solution for this pallet flow challenge…

Pallet Flow Rack - Mallard Manufacturing

Pallet Flow Test 1

  • Magnum wheel pallet flow – 2.9” diameter
  • 3 rails set on 3”/2”/3” centers
  • Custom pallet – 33”w x 14”d
  • 80 – 175 lb. inventory
  • ½” per foot lane pitch

While the inventory flowed well down the lane, the lightweight pallets had trouble restarting once the front pallet was removed. The pallets easily restarted once prompted with a little nudge from the forklift, an action we call “plugging”, but it was decided to try a second test design to ensure smooth, consistent flow without active interference. The Mallard team replaced the Magnum polycarbonate wheels with steel skate wheels to see if they had better results with the lightweight pallets.

Pallet Flow Rack - Mallard ManufacturingPallet Flow Test 2

  • Steel skate wheel pallet flow – 1.9” diameter
  • 3 rails set on 1.5” wheel centers
  • Custom pallet – 33”w x 14”d
  • 80 – 175 lb. inventory
  • ½” per foot lane pitch

Again, the pallets flowed well. The pitch was just right to keep the pallets from gaining too much speed down the lane, however, the rear pallets again hung up in the lane once the front pallet was picked. Plugging was less effective for restarting the pallets with the skate wheels… which got us thinking.

Flipping for Better Results

The small pallets had enough surface area/wheel contact to keep them moving with momentum but remove the momentum and, well, stop the flow. However, with more pallet surface area on the wheels the pallets are more likely to restart the flow on their own when the front pallet is removed… which is exactly what happened when we flipped the pallet over and used the full-surface against the wheels.

So, while the Magnum wheel test lane works effectively, it’s recommended that the custom pallets be constructed with a solid surface bottom to ensure day-in, day-out consistent flow and ready inventory for manufacturing assembly and/or small parts fulfillment.

Do you have inventory challenges? The Mallard test lab is a value-added service for our customers to ensure that the carton flow and/or pallet flow lane configuration is optimally designed to meet productivity expectations. Call our gravity flow experts today for design ideas and a quote.