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Six key considerations when choosing a palletizing strategy

We recently presented an On The Move webinar called "Conquering palletizing challenges in manufacturing and warehouse environments." One of the most interesting aspects of our webinars is the ability to poll the audience during the presentation and learn more about their operations and preferences. To kick off this webinar, we asked the audience what palletizing method they were currently using. Surprisingly, the majority of attendees were either using manual palletizing procedures (42 percent) or none at all (42 percent). The remainder of the polling group were equally distributed between conventional and robotic palletizing.

These results reveal something that we know all too well: that the importance of palletizing in manufacturing and warehouse operations is something that's often overlooked. Inadequate palletizing processes create a ripple effect throughout the facility's operations that ultimately jeopardize customer commitments and have a direct impact on the bottom line. So, to make sure you're selecting the correct palletizing strategy for your operation, we presented the following six key considerations:

1. Palletizing and line efficiency. The impact of palletizer downtime on operating performance has a direct impact on a facility's overall efficiency. It's important to think of the palletizing function as part of the overall production or distribution system, with inefficiencies causing backups to the whole operation. The speed of your operation plays an important role in the palletizing selection.

2. Packaging trends create new challenges. Less packaging, more fragile materials, smaller items and more totes are changing the palletizing landscape. In some cases, the pallet itself is becoming the consumer display method. All of these factors can dramatically affect stacking patterns and pallet stability.

3. Explosion in the number of SKUs. E-commerce has increased the variety of case and pack sizes, including large packs for club stores and small packs for convenience. This variance requires a palletizer capable of rapid, tool-less changeover to continually adapt. 

4. Changing load configurations. End-of-aisle display loads, "label out" preferences and reduced pack strength all impact how pallet loads are constructed. Palletizers must enable frequent pattern revisions and incorporate various options to shore up load strength, such as: shorter loads, stretch film, tier sheets, trays and cap sheets, and corner boards.

5. Increasingly stringent safety requirements. Deploying a palletizing solution in your facility requires careful consideration of applicable safety standards. Robotic and automated solutions must adhere to CAT 3 control system requirements. 

6. Labor market challenges. The dwindling pool of qualified workers, increasing minimum wages, high turnover rate in manual palletizing functions and the potential for injury are all reasons to consider an automated palletizing solution. 

With all of these factors to consider, the next topic we discussed in the webinar was the different palletizing solutions available - from high-speed row-forming and inline conventional machines to robotic and hybrid solutions. If it's time to consider a change to your palletizing strategy, please visit the webinar library on our website and view this presentation in its entirety. Then, consult with one of our palletizing experts to determine what the best solution is for your operations.

Learn how to conquer palletizing challenges in the new On The Move webinar

Facility managers place a lot of focus on improving the productivity of their distribution and manufacturing environments. The importance of effective palletizing, which is often the last process that takes place within a facility, is sometimes overlooked. But when problems arise in the palletizing process, they create a ripple effect throughout the entire facility, often backing up other areas critical to maintaining productivity. Regardless of the operation, facility managers must try to minimize this pain and determine what the best palletizing method for their operation is.

Knowing when to incorporate or upgrade an automated palletizing solution is a difficult decision for facility managers. If you're struggling to keep up with increasing order volumes, unable to adapt to evolving packaging methods or outgrowing your manual pallet-building processes, these are indications that it may be time to reevaluate palletizing automation. From conventional systems and state-of-the-art robotics to hybrid options with varying degrees of sophistication, today's palletizing options can be difficult to sort through.

In our next On The Move webinar, Frank Pellegrino, vice president of machine products, and Matt Wicks, vice president of product development, will explore several key drivers for palletizing automation and help you decide which solutions are the best match for your unique throughput and capacity challenges. This webinar will take place on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. EDT. Attendees can expect to learn the following:

  • How palletizing automation is helping manufacturers increase production
  • Why distribution facilities are integrating palletizing solutions into their fulfillment workflows
  • When it's time to transition from manual pallet building to automated solutions
  • How to decide which is the best palletizing option for your operation

For facility managers whose operations have outgrown their manual palletizing processes, the decision to move to an automated solution is a matter of keeping up with production volume. It's as simple as realizing that there just aren't enough labor resources to meet manual palletizing demands.

There are also many changes in the market causing facility managers to reevaluate their palletizing strategies. First, rates are increasing, driving the need to maximize pallet efficiencies. Second, packaging materials and pallet profiles are changing, creating issues for older palletizing equipment that is incapable of accommodating them. 

The primary packaging change is the reduction of secondary packaging materials, typically the outer shell that protects the product. In many instances, this secondary packaging is going away altogether, causing the consumer product itself to be palletized with a much thinnner layer of alternate packaging material, such as loose paper or film that offers little protection. While this may increase the volume of product on the pallet, the low coefficient of friction is more difficult to control. 

To add to the challenge, some pallets are designed to display the palletized product in the store, often allowing one side to be open or perforated. And as packaging materials become thinner to improve sustainability - such as plastic bottles - it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid product damage or loss. All this adds up to a loss of productivity and efficiency, and the need for increasingly flexible palletizing options. 

If any of these challenges sound familiar to you, register now to join Frank and Matt for this timely On The Move webinar.

Conveyor: Moving automated DCs into the future

Think of conveyor as the streets and canals of the distribution center. Automated conveyor solutions are the essential infrastruture required to keep orders flowing to the right place at the right time. From pallet transport conveyor to case, tote and polybag varieties, each component - even down to conveyor parts and accessories - plays a critical role to meet operational requirements. 

And just as city streets must accommodate motorcycles, cars, trucks, pedestrians and bicycles, every industry must accommodate more variety thanks to SKU proliferation. Big box retailers are expected to sell every brand of every product, from toothpaste to refrigerators. Every food and beverage distributor must offer year-round variety, seasonal specialites and health-conscious options. But besides product, packaging makes a difference, too. With the advent of dimensional weight pricing, most conveyor and transmission solutions must handle packaging types like polybags and bubble mailers that represent a significant departure from the rigid corrugate cases for which they were originally designed. 

This places a premium on flexible conveyor solutions capable of fueling a facility's high-speed sorting procedure reliably and efficienctly. This means picking the right technology - conveyor belts and parts - matched to the requirements of the application

And just like avoiding road closures and construction detours keeps traffic flowing, minimizing unplanned downtime and ensuring system availability is critical. This means a preventive maintenance program to head off issues before they happen and quick-response, 24X7 support in the event of an outage. Working with an OEM lifecycle management group and a computerized maintenance management system provides data-driven decisions and the necessary level of detail - even covering how to aggregate conveyor parts. 

To learn more about advanced conveyor applications, read the Intelligrated blog, Understanding accumulation technology choices leads to better solutions for operations or contact a representative

Webinar wrap-up: Flexible order fulfillment is key to meeting omnichannel requirements

In a competitive omnichannel fulfillment era where retailers are constantly trying to meet rising customer service levels, flexibility in order fulfillment processes and distribution operations is mandatory for survival. It means having the ability to continuously adapt to a dynamic mix of order profiles and proliferating SKU counts, while always maintaining a keen awareness of their impacts on fulfillment processes and inventory consumption. It means effectively balancing retail, wholesale and direct-to-consumer requirements. And it means being nimble enough to adapt and respond in real time to spikes in demand. 

If you think this all sounds difficult to achieve, you're right. But to successfully navigate these omnichannel requirements, retailers need real strategies to enable this degree of flexibility. This was the focus of a recent On The Move webinar I moderated, titled "Addressing the needs for flexibility in current distribution operations." It's a holistic approach that encompasses facility design, picking and putting processes, and the importance of effective labor management. Following is a summary of the webinar's high-level points:

Profiling, slotting and facility design. It's important to design your distribution facility to not only meet today's demands, but also have the flexibility to adapt to future requirements. Warehouse profiling, which seeks to maximize space utilization by determining which types of slotting options are best-suited for particular products, is vital to fully utilizing available facility space and reducing replenishment costs. Well-profiled items make the most efficient use of shelf and rack space. 

Picking technologies. The selection of picking technologies and methods, or some combination thereof, is an important operational decision that helps enable flexibility in the warehouse. While some technologies may provide increased flexibility, there may be trade-offs in productivity and costs. Retailers must weigh the pros and cons of these methodologies and select options that meet their operational objectives and order and inventory profiles.

Putting strategies. Putting refers to the processes that support order consolidation through the gathering of multiple, independent storage or picking areas into a single, shippable container. Minimizing worker travel and touches, and "golden zone" allocations to increase accuracy and throughput are all part of an effective putting strategy necessary for adapting to e-commerce and store replenishment requirements.

Labor management software. LMS helps retailers match resources to the day's expected demands while maximizing the efficiency of all tasks throughout the warehouse. Demand planning, execution monitoring, resource allocation and continuous performance improvements can be achieved with LMS - establishing both process predictability and the flexibility to move resources to adapt to variations in a given plan. 

In short, DCs need not only to become more flexible in their slotting, picking and putting operations, but also in allocating labor resources to meet the demands of the day. For a more detailed explanation of each of these strategies, please visit our On The Move webinar archives and view my presentation in its entirety. 

We're "On The Move" with an informative new video series

In late 2015, Intelligrated launched its On The Move webinar series, an educational platform designed to provide material handling industry insights about emerging trends, new technologies and best practices impacting distribution and fulfillment operations. We are thrilled with the level of engagement our webinars have achieved and sincerely hope they have helped you navigate today's challenging omnichannel landscape. Based on the success of this program, we are excited to announce its expansion into a comprehensive video series.

The On The Move video series builds off the subject matter presented in the webinars by featuring targeted discussions with Intelligrated's industry experts and experienced practitioners. As a complement to the webinars, this new video series will expand on our commitment to industry education by exploring the key topics you can use to develop winning fulfillment strategies. Whether you're interested in seeing the next generation of distribution operations, curious about emerging fulfillment system technologies or seeking to maximize your current investments in material handling equipment, the On The Move video series has something for you.

To kick off this new series, we've developed the first five video installments and posted them to our YouTube channel. There you'll find informative discussions on these topics:

  • Utilizing labor management software to accelerate ROI
  • The importance of establishing DC-like operations in retail store outlets to meet rising customer service levels
  • How Voice picking solutions can accelerate training and facilitate live coaching

As new videos are developed, we will continue to release them here on our blog, complete with a bio of the presenter and a brief synopsis of the content. We also encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can be notified when new videos are posted. Currently, we are in the process of producing videos on the following topics:

  • Warehouse execution systems (WES)
  • Lifecycle management
  • Omnichannel distribution
  • Conveyor and sortation systems
  • Consulting and design services
  • Shuttles

Together, the On The Move webinars and video series provide a wealth of information that our customers, partners and industry constituents can use to succeed in an increasingly competitive omnichannel world. We hope you make the most of these resources and look forward to your contribution on these important topics. As always, be sure to register for our upcoming webinars and feel free to check out our growing archives. We're officially On The Move with our new video series, so stay tuned for a new installment coming soon! 


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The information you provide is solely used by Intelligrated. Intelligrated will not distribute email addresses to third party organizations. For more information, please read our Privacy Information.