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Ways to Improve Material Handling Efficiency

 
Critical Factors when Choosing an Order Picking System

 

Planning a Warehouse or Distribution Center

 

Choosing a Conveyor System

 

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The Five Most Common Mistakes When Planning a Distribution Center by TriFactor's Craig Bertorello and featured in Supply & Demand Chain Executive (online).  

 

Seven Factors to Consider When Choosing an Order Picking System by TriFactor's Richard Gillespie and featured in Industrial Distribution (online).

 

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Pallet Conveyor Systems - Pallet Conveyors - Pallet Handling System - Material Handling Equipment

Occasionally, the need arises in warehouses and distribution centers to provide specialized pallet handling systems, either as a component of an integrated automatic palletizing and/or stretch wrapping system, part of a robotics cell, or just for transportation and/or accumulation purposes.  Regardless of the need, there exists a great deal of detailed review and engineering to design and provide the appropriate solution for each application.  Potential issues that can result from improper planning and design might include: 

  • Pallet drift to one side of the conveyor
  • Pallet skewing
  • Pallets becoming caught, stuck or sitting idle along the path of conveyance
  • Pallets not conveying properly through curves or transfers
  • Pallets not conveying smoothly
  • Pallets not accumulating properly and/or becoming jammed
  • Pallet conveyor becoming damaged

Some points that should be given careful consideration during the design and engineering process for a pallet conveyor systems are as follows: 

  • What types of pallets are to be conveyed and what are the materials of construction?
  • What will the bottom surface contacting the point of conveyance look like?
  • Are the bottom boards or runners being conveyed parallel or perpendicular to the direction of travel?
  • What are the dimensions of the pallets?
  • Will the pallets be accessible from all sides?
  • What quality are the pallets?
  • Will the pallets need to be scanned, labeled or sorted at any point?
  • Will the pallets be stretch wrapped along the path of conveyance?  If so, will that operation be manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic?
  • What does the load on the pallet look like?
  • How stable is the load on the pallet?
  • What are the average and maximum weights of the loads to be handled?
  • Will the pallets need to be accumulated? 

Chain Driven Live Roller Conveyor

Chain driven live roller (CDLR) conveyor is typically useful for pallet handling applications in which the pallet bottom boards are parallel to the direction of travel.  This type of conveyor utilizes roller chain to deliver power from the motor to each roller.  Sprockets mounted on the rollers mesh with the chain thereby creating a positive and slip resistant transfer of rotational power.  Depending on the load characteristics, some applications might require every roller to be driven while other applications only require every other roller be driven.  This type of conveyor typically accommodates loads up to 4,000 – 5,000 pounds.

CDLR conveyor provide good wear resistance to point loading from rims, frames or runners on metl containers, drums or heavy pallets.  These conveyors are also used in harsh environments such as cold rooms or locations where there is high exposure to excessive dust, moisture, water or oil. 

These conveyors can be used in transportation or accumulation applications.  For accumulation applications, individual drives and motors can be provided for each zone or photoeyes and zone controllers can be added to create zones along a length of conveyor driven by a single motor. 

Drag Chain Pallet Conveyor

Drag chain conveyor is useful for pallet handling applications in which the pallet bottom boards are perpendicular to the direction of travel. The typical design and application for this type of conveyor utilizes two (2) or three (3) strands of chain driven by a common shaft that act as the conveying surface for the loads.  Another application for this type of conveyor, however, is to utilize multiple chains in parallel configuration for transfers and/or sortation points.  Regardless of the application intent, the chain type will vary based on load weight.  Likewise, wear strips for the chains may be of UHMW or steel construction, depending on the load weights and/or application’s needs.  This type of conveyor typically accommodates loads up to 3,000 – 4,000 pounds. 

Chain conveyor can be utilized for either transportation or accumulation applications.  Similar to CDLR conveyor, accumulation applications can either consist of individual drives and motors provided for each zone or photoeyes and zone controllers can be added to create zones along a length of conveyor driven by a single motor. 

It is worth noting that drag chain conveyor is often applied to the handling and conveyance of loads with irregular, damaged or poor quality pallets. 

Motorized Driven Roller Conveyor

Motorized driven roller conveyor (MDR) can also be utilized for some pallet handling applications.  This type of conveyor utilizes one (1) or more motorized drive rollers to power each zone while the remaining rollers in the zone are slave driven by o-ring drive bands, timing belts or roller chain depending on the load characteristics and/or application requirements.  Due to drive roller capacity limitations, this type of conveyor is generally only applicable for conveyance and handling of relatively lighter pallet loads (3,000 pounds and less). 

MDR conveyor is typically utilized for accumulation applications.  Since the zones are controlled by individual motorized drive rollers, this type of conveyor allows for maximum control ability and design flexibility. 

One of the advantages to MDR conveyor is that it requires no air or special brakes.  Rather, it works solely from electrical control.  Other advantages include that the low profile design minimizes space requirements and the fewer moving parts require less maintenance.

Read a material handling case study about pallet conveyors used at Thies Distributing.

For additional information on Product Slotting, Distribution Center Planning, Choosing a Conveyor System and related material handling issues visit the Material Handling White Papers section of TriFactor Learning Center.