The Evolution of Pallet Storage Systems
Before the 1920s, goods were packed into kegs, barrels, boxes, and wooden crates or onto simple skids for transport purposes. With the invention of the forklift truck, the skid was modified to produce the more sophisticated units that would become the mainstay of modern pallet storage systems. Ideal for the transport of multiple items of fixed shape and size, pallets were destined to revolutionise the way we transport, store, and protect all manner of merchandise. Following the later introduction of the standard-sized four-way entry pallet, these iconic units have remained largely unchanged. However, the facilities used to store them have evolved considerably.
As the demand for consumer goods has grown, the capacity of warehouses, storerooms, factories, and distribution centres has had to grow in parallel. However, to keep floor space requirements to an economical minimum, storage and retrieval systems have needed to adapt. One successful option has been to increase the height of pallet storage systems and to design a forklift truck, namely a reach truck, with taller masts and increased load capacity to manage them.
Initially, the aisles between the storage racks had to be relatively wide to allow the forklift trucks to manoeuvre sufficiently and so floor space requirements were often excessive. The introduction of a more compact battery-operated (VNA) truck in the ‘50s made it possible to operate using narrower aisles and marked another major turning point in the steady improvement of pallet storage systems.
Today, it is estimated that, at any given time, as many as 1.9 10 billion wooded, plastic or metal pallets are in use worldwide. In many cases, items have been redesigned to make them more suitable for palletisation. Although such facts are, in themselves, remarkable enough, rather more impressive is the extent to which the supply chain industry is now being transformed as the result of automation.
While static shelving and racking systems still predominate and seem certain to retain their importance, partially and fully automated pallet storage systems are not only helping the industry to make better use of available space and speed up the picking and packing procedures but are also increasing productivity and profitability. Undoubtedly, the greatest single contributor to this development has been the Pallet Mole®. These compact shuttles are designed to run directly underneath the pallets in the racking thus making it possible to dispense with aisles altogether thus enabling all of the available floor space to be fully utilised. Increase of up to 80% floor utilisation.
With the ease of remote control or smart device, an operator can direct a Pallet Mole®to a vacant space and then deposit its load or retrieve a load from an accessible position and deliver it for despatch. Auto-deposit and auto-retrieve are functions that allow the unit to continue with the action, without having the operator manually instruct it for each individual task.
Using a Wi-Fi remote or smartphone to direct a Pallet Mole® certainly beats manoeuvring a lift truck but even this simple act can be rendered unnecessary when electing to fully automate a facility. With the aid of some sophisticated software, a Warehouse Execution System, not only can the storage and retrieval of items be managed from a computer screen, but stock records can be updated instantly, reports generated on demand, and operators can even be notified when preventative maintenance servicing is required Let SMS show you how you could streamline your storage management.