Storage Solutions pallet flow racking systems have seen it all – metal pallets, IBC containers, wooden and plastic pallets of course, and even cardboard. Our in-house engineering testing lab is where we test all different pallet options to simulate applications before purchase and to help design solutions to existing pallet flow challenges for our customers. A recent test for an online retailer gave us some insight into product flow for lighter-weight, plastic palletted items. We thought we’d share our results and maybe help some of you with your plastic pallet warehousing needs.
Plastic pallets are gaining in popularity and are the second most used material after wood for pallet construction. There are many good reasons that our customers choose plastic pallets, such as:
- Hygiene concerns/Can be easily cleaned
- Longer lasting than wood pallets (often 10+ years)
- No screws or nails making them safer to handle
- Lighter weight than wood pallets (typically 3 lbs. vs 30-70 lbs. each)
While plastic pallets are an excellent and even necessary choice for some industries, they can be a challenge in a flow system. The pallet bottom tends to skid over flow rollers rather than make consistent contact due to design and uneven molding/construction. Our full roller pallet flow can handle most of that challenge, and with the addition of speed controllers and a properly assigned lane pitch your product should advance safely and efficiently.
In a recent test, besides configuring for plastic vs wooden pallets, we needed to accommodate for a large variance of pallet weight. Our engineers tested 300, 600 and 1000 lb. pallets in a full width roller pallet flow rack lane to see if there were any adjustments that would need to be made for our customer depending on the weight of the full pallet.
- Full roller system
- Indirect mount speed controllers
- Load weights between 300–1000 lbs.
- Pitch adjustments from 7/16” to 1/2”
- Ambient temperature
The plastic pallets, while not making full contact with the full roller pallet flow, do index well down the pallet flow lane. The pitch had to be adjusted for the heavier pallet to slow the pallet and ensure a safe indexing and as a result, the engineers recommend that two pitch levels be set for separate pallet flow lanes. A ½” per foot lane would accommodate the lighter weight pallets up to 500 lbs. and a 7/16” per foot pitch would accommodate the heavier weight +500 lbs. A second option would be to double stack lightweight pallets and use on single pitch for all pallet flow lanes.
As is sometimes the case a slight hang-up can halt the rear pallets from advancing as the pick-face pallet is extracted. A simple tactic called, “Plugging the System” will alleviate that issue. Plugging is when the forklift operator slightly pushes back on rear pallets before removing the front pallet from the lane thus loosening the pallets and starting the gravity flow forward.
- Full roller system with proper pitch for designated weights is recommended
- Suggest full roller system with designated lanes for pallets with loads <500 lbs. at ½” per ft. pitch and 7/16” pitch for > 500 lbs.
- Recommend indirect speed controllers on 36” centers
- Alternative option: set lanes to accommodate double stacking to increase pallet weight in the system
- Use plugging method for any system hang ups
We know we will continue to see more plastic pallets as this industry segment continues to grow. If you are using plastic pallets or are considering integrating them into your product storage and fulfillment operation, give us a call and we can review your system to ensure a safe, consistent, efficient product flow.