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The Benefits and Limitations of Manual and Technology-Based Palletizing

Palletization is a key element of the storage and transport process. The use of technology can be very useful, especially since logisticians want to increase the efficiency of the entire process. More and more companies are turning to technology during palletizing and abandoning traditional solutions. However, manual palletizing and load planning are still common in smaller companies that do not require automated machinery. So, which method is superior, or is there a middle ground solution?

What is palletizing?

Palletizing is a process in which goods are arranged on a pallet in a way that allows for easy movement and transportation. Products can be arranged on the pallet in different ways, depending on their shape, size, and weight. They can be placed in rows, columns, or layers. The most important aspect of proper palletizing is to ensure that the products are in a safe and stable position.

Another key factor of palletizing is the optimal arrangement of products on the pallets. For safety reasons, the load must be distributed evenly, so it is best if its center of gravity is directed towards the center of the pallet. It is also important that the products do not protrude beyond the pallet. After loading the goods, they should be secured. This is most commonly done by wrapping them with a stretch foil. Thanks to the appropriate distribution of goods, it is possible to reduce the amount of space occupied, resulting in lower costs, greater loading capabilities and safety of warehouse employees.

Manual palletizing

Manual palletizing mainly involves – as the name suggests – using the employee’s own physical strength. Tools such as forklifts, cranes, and pallet jacks are helpful in this process. Warehouse employees manually arrange the goods on the pallet according to specific requirements and guidelines.

Advantages of manual palletizing:

  1. Ability to adapt the palletizing process to the specifics of the given loads and individual needs and requirements of the client.
  2. Low costs – there is no need to invest in expensive equipment or machine maintenance.
  3. Flexibility – warehouse workers can quickly adjust the palletizing process to the changing production needs.

Disadvantages of manual palletizing:

  1. High risk of injuries related to manual handling of heavy objects. It poses a threat to the health and safety of employees.
  2. Possibility of errors and improper arrangement of goods on the pallet, which can lead to product damage during transport.
  3. Limited efficiency and longer order fulfillment time, as the process of manual palletizing is less efficient and more labor-intensive than automatic palletizing.

Palletizing robots

What are palletizers?

Palletizers are robotic devices that automatically place goods on a pallet in accordance with a programmed pattern. They are used in large production plants, warehouses and factories. Palletizers are programmed to pack products onto pallets quickly and precisely.

Types of palletizers

Given that every warehouse has distinct requirements, palletizers have been developed in various types to cater to those specific needs:

  • Layer palletizer – places products in layers on a pallet. They are usually placed on a conveyor belt or in a special container and then moved to a pallet.
  • Spiral palletizer – places goods on the pallet in a spiral way, allowing to increase the amount of goods on the pallet. It is also used for irregularly shaped products that are difficult to arrange in a traditional manner.
  • Column palletizer – stacks products on a pallet in columns. They are usually transferred from the conveyor belt to a special stool, which then transfers them to the pallet.
  • Multi-format palletizer – this type of palletizer allows palletizing different types of products without the need to change the programming of the device. It can handle products of various shapes and sizes, allowing for greater process flexibility and efficiency.
  • Robotic palletizer – uses industrial robots to stack products on a pallet. Industrial robots are equipped with special grippers allowing to move and position products in the desired way. This kind of palletizer is very precise and efficient, and allows flexible positioning of products on the pallet.

Advantages of using this technology:

  1. Improved safety of employees, as most palletizers operate in a completely automatic manner, reducing the risk of injuries associated with manual handling of goods.
  2. Less risk of errors and damage to loads, due to the even distribution of loads programmed in the palletizers, which minimizes damages.
  3. Saving time and costs, as the palletizer can work continuously, 24 hours a day, without the need for rest breaks.

Disadvantages of using this technology:

  1. High costs of purchase and maintenance of machines.
  2. The need to provide a sufficiently large warehouse space to accommodate palletizers and provide them with enough space to work.
  3. Possible damage to products if the palletizer is not set up or operated correctly.

Is there an intermediate solution? Palletizing system

The palletizing process typically begins with load planning, which can now be aided by modern systems. One of the available tools is the Goodloading application. By placing loads on a pallet in the application, you can check how it will fit in with other loads in the truck or container. At the same time, you can try different combinations in the arrangement of products on the pallet and check if it is not overloaded. This application enables you to plan the loading process to make the most efficient use of the available space.

With such features, the application can be used for manual palletizing, by sending the loading instructions generated in a PDF document to the employee. Goodloading can also be integrated with advanced WMS (Warehouse Management System) systems.

All solutions have their pros and cons. There is no better or worse choice. However, every logistician knows the possibilities of their company and can choose the form of palletization that suits them.

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