Quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively filling orders are the primary goals of any distribution facility. One of the biggest challenges to ensuring success is constantly replenishing pick lanes. Thankfully, there is a gravity flow solution for that. Pallet flow and carton flow both offer a variety of benefits for orderly and efficient inventory picking including smooth inventory replenishment. Here’s how that works.
Pallet flow and carton flow are designed with separate loading and picking aisles to keep those busy activities as congestion-free as possible. The gravity flow design flows inventory from the load-side (charge aisle) to the pick aisle (discharge aisle). With each pick, the rear inventory flows forward to fill the pick face presenting a constantly refreshed pick lane.
Can’t get any better than that, right? Wrong… it can, just take a look at a recent application for a major foodservice distributor. It’s a great example of how to roll-out a fully-optimized pick-reserve concept.
The Pick-Reserve Concept
Goal: Separate pick and replenishment aisles to optimize full-case picking.
Cases are picked to a pallet jack.
- Pick from Pallet – faster-moving SKUs
- Pick – 2-deep pallet flow (floor & 2nd level).
- Reserve – 2-deep push-back rack above for replenishment
- Case-pick from carton flow for slower-moving SKUs
- Vertical empty pallet return
The Ergonomics of a Good Pallet Flow Rack Design
This storage system was tailored to benefit the unique inventory and processing needs of this customer, but there are great examples here that can be implemented across a variety of distribution facilities. For example, note that difference in pallet flow systems from the floor-level pallet flow to the level 2 pallet flow rails. Why the change you may ask?
The floor-level pallet flow is our Magnum wheel pallet flow for the heavier inventory. Magnum wheel is the reliable choice here as it is the most durable wheel available made to perform without splitting or cracking even under the toughest warehouse conditions. The rails are mounted directly to the floor as opposed to using mounts to get the heavy inventory as low as possible and minimize worker reach. This positioning also saves 6” in vertical height to help with the positioning of level 2 and makes it easier to sweep the area vs underneath raised rails to maintain a clean, safe warehouse environment.
The second level pallet flow rack consists of our more economical skate wheel pallet flow for the much lighter-weight pallets. The rails are equipped with the bolt-on ramp stops as well. The second level is designed to provide safe, ergonomic positioning for the case picker.
Heavy-duty bolt-on ramp stops are added to the end of each rail to hold the pallet in position at the pick face until it is empty and ready to be removed. The bolt-on design means that should a ramp stop be damaged, it can be easily replaced as opposed to replacing the entire rail.
Above the pallet flow lanes is a 2-deep push-back cart system to store ready-reserve pallets for the pick lanes. It’s a highly efficient way to keep SKUs organized and at the ready. The push-back system is protected with safety netting to ensure that workers on the pick aisle are safe from debris that could potentially fall from the above lanes.
In the pick aisle, we added vertical pallet returns lanes. These super-efficient lanes are placed strategically around the building columns to make use of otherwise dead space. The empty pallet return lanes allow for easy take-a-way of empties to again enhance a safe, clutter-free pick area.
The carton flow section of the case pick system is positioned at the end of each aisle for case picking slower-moving SKUs. More SKUs can be packed into the carton flow full-wheel bed design with enough rear storage for anticipated order selection.
As you can see it is a clever combination of storage systems and safety products that bring this operation to life. It means taking a new look at the space, inventory, and operational needs and coming up with a highly optimized solution. If you need help with a new vision for your case pick operation, give the Mallard gravity flow rack experts a call. Our team is the ready reserve you can count on!