Light pallet effortlessly performs the heavy lifting in a recent supply chain trial
From omnichannel to automation, and from real-time visibility to heightened concerns about hygiene and worker safety, emerging trends continue to strain the capabilities of today’s retail supply chains. Operators are increasingly motivated to identify and root out long accepted legacy practices that may be impeding operational improvements. One such area of opportunity pertains to pallet technology.
A recent trial assessed the potential for a highly engineered lightweight plastic pallet, the Cleanpal from Polymer Logistics, in a fresh produce application. The project involved D.E. Brand, a supplier of quality Brassica vegetables, as well as Asda, a leading grocery retailer. Produce is a demanding application for pallets and palletised products, involving hygiene, ergonomics and worker safety risks, as well as moist conditions that can result in wood pallets and corrugated cartons absorbing moisture and harbouring bacteria.
D.E. Brand’s production unit is based in Surfleet, where the company farms more than 1,300 acres on some of Lincolnshire’s best silt land. They offer a rich combination of experience, expertise and commercial knowledge, with experts in varietal development, crop management, harvesting, product care, distribution and category management.
Asda, part of the Walmart family, is one of the UK’s largest grocery retailers. They are guided by aspirations to be supplied by 100% renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain people and the environment. They recently created the Asda Sustain & Save Exchange (SSE), a collaborative approach to building a world-class sustainable supplier base. Today, Asda products travel 30 million fewer miles to and from depots today than they did in 2005, resulting in significant carbon and cost reductions. By 2014, they were diverting 98.9% of their waste.
Cleanpal: Engineered for the 21st Century Supply chain
Designed for today’s supply chain needs, the RFID capable Cleanpal offers several benefits versus timber pallets, starting with weight. At just 15kg, it provides ease of manual handling, making it a much more ergonomically friendly solution than wood. Also, the lighter pallet means that more capacity is available for product before weighing out a load. On average, 3 to 6% more merchandise can be loaded onto a vehicle with Cleanpal than with wood pallets. The result is that fewer miles are required to ship the same amount of product.
Another important differentiator is the durability of Cleanpal. It experiences a damage rate of just 1.5% per trip compared to more than 25% for wood pallets. Increased life expectancy translates into more reliable performance in the supply chain, with fewer delays, disruptions or product damage because of breakage. In addition, a 3:1 empty pallet nesting ration provides space-saving efficiencies for return and storage. Vastly improved pallet life, along with fewer delivery and return miles, combine to offer essential sustainability gains.
Additionally, because Cleanpal is RFID capable, it can be used in conjunction with tracking systems to provide supply chain visibility for the products that it carries.
Cleanpal Trial Demonstrates the Power of Plastic
Cleanpal pallets were utilised for field palletisation and shipment to Asda CDCs (central distribution centres) in Skelmersdale and Lutterworth. Products involved in the operation were broccoli and cabbage, with an average tray weight of 9kg. No half trays or boxes were used in the trial.
The trial was undertaken to demonstrate how Cleanpal could improve supply chain operations for fresh produce. Several variables were evaluated, including the productivity of forklift handling during loading and unloading, load stability in conjunction with plastic crates, as well as Cleanpal’s fit for manual handling. The project allowed material handlers to experience how the plastic pallets can be easily lifted and stacked manually as well as nested when empty to optimise space utilisation.
The Cleanpal trial proved to be highly successful. Harvest workers enjoyed the ease of pallet handling in the field, with no change required for pallet strapping requirements. There was absolutely no shifting or loss of palletised product in transit as load stability was enhanced by the use of interlocking trays. Because trays do not overhang the pallet, pallets of product are faster to manoeuvre and are less vulnerable to damage.
Forklift handling and pump trucks functioned seamlessly with Cleanpal. Operators appreciated the ease of fork entry, with the free underdeck providing a larger opening than found in wood pallets. Some of the feedback from Asda Skelmersdale personnel included comments that the plastic pallets were easily handled by MHE and pump trucks, and lighter to lift and stack. They also appreciated that Cleanpal pallets were a consistent weight as opposed to wood pallets and that the risk of splinters and nails was eliminated.
From a health and safety perspective, ASDA remarked positively that trays of fresh produce could be effortlessly slid from the pallet as per established best practice. This recommended approach is often not feasible with wood pallets, given the gaps between top deck boards, the likelihood of exposed nail heads, as well as other irregularities.
Adrian Dale: “As supply chain operators strive to deliver on excellence, there can be no stone left unturned when it comes to evaluating legacy products and processes that are standing in the way of important improvement opportunities. Problems related to the use of wood pallets are increasingly coming under the microscope as retailers look to take their operations to the next level. This trial demonstrates how Cleanpal delivers in every category to improve the fresh produce experience.
“While the use of wood pallets is a widely accepted and entrenched legacy practice, it makes perfect sense for retailers and their suppliers to start identifying specific supply lines that will be best served by a conversion to Cleanpal, such as the partnership between D.E. Brand and Asda. By identifying and upgrading the pallet technology used in such trading relationships, one partner at a time, the overall pallet system can systematically begin its transformation toward a leading edge 21st Century solution.”
Excellence in innovation, corporate performance and personal achievement is at the heart of supply chain improvement. FPC once again celebrates the successes of individuals and companies in the produce supply chain through its Freshawards 2018 competition. Judges have now identified the finalists in 15 categories. One of those finalists is Polymer Logistics, for its paradigm-shifting Cleanpal pallet.
“We were overwhelmed with the number of entries and they’ve raised the bar again!,” said Nigel Jenney, CEO of FPC. “Cracking success stories and so many bright individuals, it’s uplifting to read such positivity in these challenging times. Judging was particularly challenging this year and it’s such a shame there can only be one winner.”
Polymer Logistics is a finalist in the Business Service Partner Category, which includes the broad array of business partners who support UK fresh produce and flower companies through the provision of services and products such as packaging, logistics, IT, machinery, and many others. Polymer’s entry relates to Cleanpal, the hygienic pallet that weighs only half as much as a dry wood pallet while punching considerably above its weight class regarding overall supply chain benefits.
In a ten month project which involved a full-time team of ten employees and a significant investment, have resulted in the hygienic Cleanpal plastic pallets are being deployed in the Freshlinc, Poskitts, D.E. Brand and Asda supply chain with remarkable success. Harvest workers enjoyed the ease of pallet handling in the field, while operators appreciated the easy fork entry. The free underdeck provides a larger opening than found in wooden pallets. No shifting or loss of palletised product was recorded, as load stability was enhanced by the use of interlocking trays.
Material handlers were able to experience how Cleanpal can be easily lifted and stacked manually, as well as nested to optimise the space utilisation. Three times as many empty pallets can be transported on a single lorry and only a third of the storage space is required.
Laboratory trials demonstrated that the new pallet material is very hygienic, essential to the safety of today’s food supply chain. Cleanpal has been developed using easy-to-clean polypropylene. Cleanpal also eliminates issues commonly encountered with wood pallets such as splintering and exposed nails. Recyclable Cleanpal pallets can also be manufactured from food grade post-consumer plastic, a positive impact on waste.
Fresh produce is too often referred to as a commodity business, one that is steeped in commonly accepted practices and expectations. In truth, however, companies and shoppers alike continually strive to find the best – the pick of the crop. FPC’s Freshawards afford an opportunity to do just that, to recognise the accomplishments of individuals and businesses in creating a more vibrant and resilient produce supply chain. Please join us in applauding the finalists for this year’s event, and in wishing all participants the best of luck. The winners will be announced June 5 at Freshawards 2018, to be held at the Pavilion, Tower of London.
Warehouse automation projects are becoming increasingly popular. Experts attribute the rush to automation on the rise of online commerce. “Rapid growth in the worldwide market for warehouse automation and control systems is being driven primarily by the global boom in e-commerce, and its profound effects on fulfilment requirements,” reports the ARC Advisory Group.
ARC notes that as the market “is analysed and the data is compiled, it becomes evident that the growth is rapid and widespread across vendors, regions, and technologies.” Automated warehouses help operators to efficiently address e-commerce and omnichannel fulfilment challenges related to staffing, picking productivity and space utilisation.
Consider that 80% of warehouses are still manually operated, according to the Robotics Industries Association. Things are expected to change dramatically. For example, the global logistics robotic market generated revenue of around £1,45 billion in 2016, rising to £17.2 billion by 2021. Robot unit shipments will increase from 40,000 to 620,000 annually over the period.
For the most part, automated systems require precisely manufactured, durable pallets that provide reliable service in high volume applications. Quality problems can result in pallets getting jammed in equipment or spinning out of alignment on conveyors. “Unfortunately,” a leading pallet provider notes in a brochure about automation, “for many customers, equipment jams are a fact of life.”
Many automation projects are turning to plastic pallets. The dimensional consistency of plastic pallets helps enable consistent performance. As retailers increasingly strive to offer next day or even same day delivery, there will be increasingly little tolerance for downtime. Plastic pallets can help ensure reliable fulfilment execution.
So, the question should be asked – does one design automation for optimisation, or does one design it to work as best it can with the supply chain pallet specification that has likely been in place for years or decades? For their part, some automation providers design systems with demanding pallet requirements, while others offer solutions that “work” with average wood pallets. But do they work as well as they could?
Over the years, wood pallet thought leaders have emphasised the importance of considering the pallet as part of an automated system, one as important as any other piece of equipment in it. It has been argued that by failing to design for the realities of the current pallet system, supply chains will endure significant additional cost in terms of requiring mechanized pallet transfer equipment (at a tactical level) or the even more sizeable investment in a compatible new pallet system (at the supply chain level).
Whether your supply chain is complex or relatively straightforward, it is certainly worth asking if the current pallet in use will limit the potential of the planned automation project. And be sure to consider the other automation projects which will inevitably follow in the years ahead. Make sure your legacy pallet doesn’t end up wagging the automation dog. It just might be time to take a serious look at supply chain pallet reform.
New high-volume service centre will handle a variety of pallet and container washing, inspection and repair needs for new and existing customers
Polymer Logistics, a leading international provider of ‘One-Touch/Retail Ready Packaging (RRP)’ Solutions, recently opened its newest washing facility in Coventry, UK. The 50,000-square foot centre features five loading bays. It provides washing, inspection and repair services for pallets and containers manufactured by Polymer Logistics as well as those produced by other suppliers.
Polymer’s new wash plant supports the continued growth of the company as an ‘end to end solution provider.’ The innovative manufacturer of long lasting reusable packaging solutions now follows every aspect of the logistics cycle to provide a comprehensive container management service to customers.
The Coventry facility came online in December 2017 after a successful trial period. The opening has created 20 new jobs in the region.
The strategic location of the facility in the Midlands provides a convenient base to serve the washing needs of UK and international customers. It will support existing and new Polymer Logistics clients in sectors including produce, meat, grocery, bakery and e-commerce.
Designed with flexibility in mind, trays, folding bins and other containers can all be washed on the same machine. It has the capability to run 24/7, an output capacity of 35 million trays annually and it is currently operating 16 hours daily plus Saturday morning as demand continues to grow.
The wash line features pre-wash, hot wash, high pressure wash, hot rinse and drying operations to ensure a high-quality service. Wash water is reused and cleaned to reduce environmental impact and cost. In addition to providing leading edge washing capabilities, the location also provides reusable packaging inspection and repair. And while the wash line was specifically designed to process plastic products from Polymer Logistics, it can easily handle other containers as well.
Other sustainability features of the plant include solar power generation to help reduce its energy requirements, as well as grey water capture from the roof to provide water for WC flush and other needs.
Steve Raybould – Business Unit Manager for washing and services at Polymer Logistics: “Our new wash plant in Coventry builds on our capability to address every aspect of reusable plastic pallet and container management. Its central location, flexibility to handle multiple types of containers, and capacity for increased throughput provide the wash services needed as Polymer Logistics continues to grow.”
Also, four crucial business benefits to consider
Polymer Logistics is proud to once again receive the Gold Level rating for sustainability from EcoVadis, the first collaborative platform providing sustainability ratings for global supply chains, outperforming the benchmark for both Fair Business Practice (FBP) and Sustainable Procurement (SUP). It is the second time in a row that Polymer, the leading provider of ‘One-Touch/Retail Ready Packaging (RRP)’ solutions has achieved Gold. The Gold benchmark includes only about the top 5% of all companies assessed by EcoVadis. Polymer Logistics previously received the Silver Level rating for 2015.
Doing business with sustainably minded suppliers like Polymer Logistics is becoming imperative for many companies, and EcoVadis is leading the way. Used by over 35,000 companies worldwide, its unique Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) assessment methodology includes 150 purchasing categories, 120 countries and 21 CSR indicators. The EcoVadis methodology assesses ethical, social and environmental risks.
There is no question that sustainability is of paramount importance to everyone. Also, EcoVadis outlines some pressing business reasons why companies should be interested in achieving a high sustainability ranking and dealing with like-minded companies.
Better brand protection in complex supply chains
As companies become more globalised, Ecovadis notes, supply chains are becoming more complex. Risks are increasing and are becoming more difficult to anticipate. With social media, any shortcomings can be exposed to a worldwide audience within minutes. Brand damage is only a Tweet away.
Increased scrutiny and more advanced NGO data sources
Thanks to the Internet, buyers and third-party providers can more easily monitor supplier business practices. This exposure to scrutiny underscores the importance of highly reputable behaviours. With sources ranging from NGOs to government agencies, online information about supplier performance issues is readily available.
Preparedness for regulatory pressure
Companies are struggling to stay current with the increasing wave of legislation in global supply chains, including new laws and regulations such as Conflict Minerals Act, UK Modern Slavery Act, and, most recently, the Devoir de Vigilance.
Sustainability as a competitive advantage
Most compellingly, sustainability is good business. According to the EcoVadis/HEC Sustainable Procurement Barometer, “97% of organisations surveyed consider sustainable procurement important or critically important to their businesses, and many companies have chosen to invest in improving their procurement practices.”
As the urgency for sustainable procurement escalates, the importance of comprehensive independent assessment, such as that provided by EcoVadis, continues to grow. If you haven’t already, visit www.ecovadis.com.
It’s too late to call the exterminators. By the time December 2018 arrives, the Earth will be crawling with over 11 billion “things” connected to the Internet, and there is no turning back. So is the time finally at hand for some of those IoT devices to be your pallets?
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection of devices to the Internet and each other. IoT items include everything from your smartphone, Apple watch and household appliances to manufacturing and transportation equipment. In industry, such sensors enable the capture of vast amounts of data. Such “Big Data” can help companies make more-informed business decisions.
The point of IoT isn’t about the sensors, of course; it’s about the insights they can provide. In warehouses, connected pallets and items will enable smarter inventory management. For freight operations, the tracking and tracing of goods “become faster, more accurate, predictive and secure while analytics of a connected fleet can help to predict asset failure and to schedule maintenance checks automatically,” noted a report from Cisco and DHL. Even in the last mile of delivery, the connection of delivery personnel, delivery vehicles and people is seen as a way of delivering faster, more reliable and more cost-effective delivery execution.
But what about IoT for pallets? Sensor-equipped pallets are predicted to become increasingly crucial in IoT enabled supply chains, according to Berg Insight. The consultancy believes that connected pallets rank as the most promising greenfield IoT opportunity, facilitated by low-cost LPWA (low power, wide area) cellular and noncellular technologies. Initially, Berg Insight believes that IoT will find traction in industries with high-value goods or with strict regulatory oversight.
Another attractive use case will relate to the more efficient management of proprietary and commercial pallet pools, a development which will make the use of plastic pallets increasingly profitable. First of all, because plastic pallets last much longer than timber pallets, the IoT cost on a per trip basis will be much lower for plastic.
At the same time, one of the leading concerns about investing in long-lasting plastic pallets has been the fear of pallet loss and the cost of replacement. No surprise, however, IoT-enabled pallets provide better visibility and accurate accounting of who exactly has the pallets. They are at trading partner B, C and D, and they need to be picked up. IoT in combination with the appropriate software can enable cost-effective pallet management and the elimination of their loss.
The relationship between IoT and plastic pallet adoption can go together like a crisp Chablis with vintage Cheddar. Plastic pallets will be more highly demanded to help reduce the cost of IoT hardware, and at the same time, IoT technology will boost pallet user confidence toward introducing them into their supply chains without fear of pallet loss. With the insights provided through increased visibility becoming increasingly valued, IoT and plastic pallets just might prove to be the perfect pairing for your supply chain.
Lightweight and durable plastic pallet delivers on sanitation, ergonomics and
hygiene; superior load stability eliminates damage and promotes safe handling
Polymer Logistics has completed a highly successful trial of its Cleanpal plastic pallet in the challenging fresh produce supply chain. Participating in the project were D.E. Brand, the family-owned Lincolnshire-based supplier of quality Brassica vegetables, as well as leading retailer ASDA. Cleanpal pallets were utilised for field palletisation and shipment to ASDA CDCs (central distribution centres) in Skelmersdale and Lutterworth. Products involved in the operation were broccoli and cabbage, with an average tray weight of 9kg.
As the fresh produce supply chain continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly sensitive to inefficiencies stemming from the use of wood pallets. Negatives such as water absorption, inconsistent weight, frequent damage, splinters and exposed nails underscore some of the nagging ergonomic, hygiene and handling issues associated with their use.
The trial was undertaken to demonstrate the efficacy of Cleanpal for the palletisation and seamless shipment of fresh produce. Several factors were evaluated, including
ease of forklift handling during loading and unloading, load stability in conjunction with plastic crates, as well as suitability for manual handling. The project allowed material handlers to experience how the plastic pallets, weighing just 15kg each, can be easily lifted and stacked manually as well as nested when empty to optimise space utilisation.
The Cleanpal trial proved to be a success in all regards. Harvest workers enjoyed the ease of pallet handling in the field, with no change required for pallet strapping requirements. There was absolutely no shifting or loss of palletised product in transit as load stability was enhanced by the use of interlocking trays. Forklift handling and pump truck manoeuvring was easily accomplished. Operators appreciated the easy fork entry, with the free underdeck providing a larger opening than found in wood pallets. From a health and safety perspective, ASDA remarked positively that trays of product could be easily slid from the pallet as per established best practice. This recommended approach is often not feasible with wood pallets, given their inconsistent surfaces and likelihood of exposed nail heads.
Adrian Dale, Managing Director at Polymer Logistics (UK): “In today’s supply chain, speed, safety and reliable quality have become essential. Problems related to the use of wood pallets are increasingly coming under the microscope as retailers look to take their operations to the next level. This trial demonstrates how Cleanpal delivers in every category to improve the fresh produce experience”.