Distribution of food and beverage is facing many of the same challenges as the rest of the logistics industry. Proliferating SKUs, non-standard packaging, and a wide variety of order types are all adding up to inspire the industry to adapt or fall behind.
However, one thing remains the same. The basic building blocks of the shipping unit remain similar. Distributors still deal with packages, cases, and pallet loads. Food manufacturers pack items into pallet loads. Distributors break them down into caseloads for mixed orders, then rebuild them into pallet loads for their customers.
In short, there is a lot of pallet-related work in today’s food chain. Improving the work stations where this work takes place — where employees build and break down pallets — can go a long way toward boosting overall productivity and preventing workplace injuries.
Evaluate your facility’s palletizing needs.
How many pallet loads must be broken down in the average shift? How many must be built? Advanced (and expensive) automated solutions may not be necessary for every food distribution center.
According to an article from industry publication Material Handling 24/7, companies that wrap pallets 15 times or fewer per month will benefit more from manual strapping systems. More than that, and the author recommends automated strapping for pallets.
Plan for ergonomics in all pallet-related tasks.
Working with pallets presents multiple ergonomic risks. Without the right equipment, workers who both build and break down pallets must stretch, bend, and maintain awkward postures to reach every corner of the pallet. Repeated over time, these actions can quickly lead to the development of musculoskeletal disorders.
Pallet Carousel & Skid Positioners solve this problem by bringing the work well within the worker’s comfortable range of motion. They’re self-leveling Lift Tables with a rotating tabletop. As the height of work changes, these units maintain a consistent level within the worker’s ergonomic action zone. Stainless Steel models are easy to sanitize, making them ideal for the food and beverage industry.
Integrate palletizing stations with the rest of the material handling system.
Roller conveyors, automated transfer cars, or forklift traffic lanes can all ensure that empty pallets are dispensed on time, while full pallet loads reach the dock in time to be loaded into trucks. Locating pallet build stations as close as possible to shipping zones will reduce material handling costs, regardless of method.
In addition to providing ergonomic equipment for pallet-handling tasks, food and beverage distributors can reduce the risk of injury by removing damaged pallets from use, keeping stacks of pallets to four feet or below, and distributing weight evenly across pallets when loading them.
A combination of ergonomic pallet building stations and safety training can help ensure that food products move through any distribution center efficiently, with a minimal risk of injury.
Bryce, Shaun. “Other Voices: A basic guide to strapping tools and industrial packaging machinery.” MaterialHandling247. Peerless Media, LLC, 14 Aug. 2019. Web. 15 Aug. 2019.
“Work safely with pallets.” SafetyandHealthMagazine. National Safety Council Congress & Expo, 1 Oct. 2011. Web. 15 Aug. 2019.