“Bottom’s Up” – Defining the Most Critical Pallet Spec for Optimal Pallet Flow
As we discussed in previous blogs, there are many variables to consider when designing your pallet flow rack system and probably the most critical element is your PALLET – the bottom of the pallet more specifically. It’s why we always recommend testing your simulated pallet load in our testing lab. In addition to pallet testing, there are further specs you should understand and review with our team in order to help them design a custom system specifically for your application, guaranteed to deliver optimal pallet flow system performance.
Key pallet specs to determine system design:
- Pallet Type
- Pallet Orientation
- Pallet Dimension – Depth x Width
- Pallet Load Weight Range – Min/Med/Max
- Bottom Description/Surface Space
- System Depth
- System Width – # of Lanes
- Facility layout/Space Considerations
Most of these items are self-explanatory, but there’s one variable, Pallet Orientation, that tends to cause some confusion among customers and industry pros alike. This could be due in part to the industry jargon used to define it, see below and you’ll understand where the confusion may lie, but have no fear, we will provide some clarity. The bottom line is that regardless of how you define it, you and our design team need to be keenly aware of the bottom configuration of your pallet, specifically the orientation of the pallet’s bottom boards (runners) relative to the direction of flow.
We refer to pallet orientation as follows:
- The “easy” way (a.k.a. – right way) – bottom boards run parallel to the direction of flow
- The “hard” way (a.k.a. – wrong way) – bottom boards run perpendicular to the direction of flow
- Bi-Ddirectional – pallet can flow in either direction with max dimension dictating direction of flow
Please refer to our Pallet Identification Chart below to identify the three orientation options mentioned above:
- Blue = hard way
- Red = easy way
- Green = bi-directional
Because pallets can be used in either direction, pallet orientation must be decided upon prior to defining the pallet flow layout. Orienting the pallets “the hard way” may allow for more pallet flow lanes and will be easier for forklift to unload and load the pallets (due to the positioning of the fork openings on the pallet). For ex. GMA-style pallets are generally oriented “the hard way” (48”d x 40”w) – resulting in the most efficient use of space if inventory requirements dictate additional lanes. Whereas, orienting the pallet “the easy way” (40”d x 48”w) allows more pallets per lane, so perhaps a lower number of SKU’s but larger quantity of each.
More on the Bottom – Also critical to efficient lane design are the number, quality and thickness of the bottom boards. Consistent good quality bottom boards will obviously result in better pallet flow performance and fewer hang-ups. The number and layout of the boards will be used to determine the proper pallet flow wheel and or roller type and lane configuration.
We often recommend either CHEP or PECO brand pallets for several reasons. Mainly, both brands are considered GMA-style pallets meaning they are uniformly manufactured according to industry standards and are designed for increased load stability. Load stability is a key component of successful pallet flow system to ensure smooth, consistent flow. Additionally, both CHEP and PECO pallets are produced from high-quality, moisture resistant lumber meant to resist mold growth and to be less likely to contaminate moisture sensitive products.
If you’re not sure of the proper type and/or pallet orientation for your project, just send us a photo of the bottom of the pallet with an arrow showing the intended direction of flow – this will help us get started on your quote and system design. If you’re still not sure, feel free to call us and we’ll help you define your pallet specs and ideal layout for your pallet flow application.