This is a really great question – especially for customers interested in pick modules or case-pick applications using pallet flow. Pallet flow/case-pick systems are ideal for operations requiring high SKU density combined with high throughput case selection. Full pallets are loaded from one side of the aisle and flow to the opposite side where cases are picked to conveyor or pallet truck.
But what DO you do with the empty pallet after all cases are picked?
The challenge lies at the pick aisle – order selectors are busy picking orders, making fork lift access and pallet removal chaotic and dangerous. Pallet are heavy. Even empty wood pallets weigh between 30 and 70 lbs.; too heavy to lift and carry to the end of the aisle. You’ll want to get your empty pallets back to the load side of the system for easy forklift access and removal.
Here are some simple options using empty pallet return lanes that are both ergonomic and efficient. We simply add an inverted pallet flow lane, designed with some minor tweaks, to flow the empty pallets to the load side. Picking operations remain on one side while full pallet replenishment and empty pallet removal are in the opposite aisle.
The pallet return lanes are centered between every 4 to 5 pallet flow lanes. Workers can manually carry the empty pallets this short distance to the return lanes to flow to the opposite aisle. Return lanes are designed in various configurations based on your inventory or throughput requirements.
- Single empty pallet return – Simple inverse pallet flow lane used to flow a single empty pallet. Pallets are manually removed and placed on a lift truck or extracted with a forklift.
- Stacked empty pallet return – A pallet separator is used to stack and hold back several empty pallets. Once 5-6 pallets are accumulated, they are released to flow back to the load side using a manual hand release. Pallets are manually removed and placed on a lift truck or extracted with a forklift.
- Vertical pallet return – this space saving option uses a narrow flow lane to collect/flow a single pallet on its side. Pallets are manually extracted to the fork lift or pallet jack for restocking.
Take a look at our short demonstration of the pallet flow return lane. In this video, a return lane is paired with our Ergo-Cell pallet lift table.
- Cases are picked from the pallet which is elevated to a comfortable picking height on the lift table.
- The empty pallet is manually placed on the pallet return.
- The pallet stack is released with the manual pallet release lever
- 5-6 empty pallets are returned to the opposite aisle at one time
More Views of Various Return Lanes
Call our pallet flow experts for more information. Let us know about your application and we’ll help create a custom solution that both saves space and increases warehouse productivity.
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