Transporting goods is a critical part of the supply chain in any industry. The goods are packed generally in a container and shipped by truck, ship, or train. The goods have to be packed efficiently in the container. It also should be easy to load and unload them to and from the container.
Packing goods in standard-sized pallets make efficient utilization of container space. Forklifts make it easy to move, load, and unload pallets. But forklifts require a skilled operator to operate and have significant overheads associated with them. Pallet carts are better alternatives for such use cases.
What are pallet carts?
Pallet carts are mechanical contraptions that help to easily move pallets across the shop floor. It consists of two forks that can be loaded with pallets, a tiller-like lever, and wheels. When the cart is lowered, it can easily slide under pallets. Then the cart is raised and can be moved around with loaded pallets. In most common iterations of pallet carts, its operations are made possible by hydraulic fluids and the application of Pascal’s law.
The pallet truck came about as an evolution of mechanization and the need for higher efficiency. From the latter half of the 19th-century railroad workers used many mechanized contraptions to make material movement easier. The pallet cart normally used in industries today was developed by George Raymond along with Bill House. They were awarded an official patent titled “lift truck” on November 7, 1939. All the pallet carts we use today are iterations of a design that is more than 80 years old.
American and European pallets
American and European pallets differ in their dimensions. Accordingly, the pallet carts used to transport them also need different specifications. American pallets have the dimensions 1200 mm X 1000 mm and weigh approximately 30 kilograms. While their European counterparts are a bit smaller with a dimension of 1200 mm X 800 mm and weigh roughly 25 kilograms. This is due to the differences in the dimensions of train carriages in America and Europe.
Benefits and drawbacks
There are a lot of benefits to using pallet carts compared to alternatives. There are a few drawbacks too.
- Pallet carts are affordable to purchase
- Available in various options: hand-guided, semi-electric, and electric pallet carts
- Much safer to use in busy warehouses
- Easily operate and learn: no need for expert operators for pallet carts
- Easy to maneuver and versatile in nature
- Less maintenance is required
- Cannot carry extremely heavy loads
- Difficult to load to a platform at a height: forklifts are needed in such instances and that brings safety hazards
- Not suitable for moving material to large distances: the operators need to walk the complete distance with the pallet cart (unless using a forklift)
Before you purchase pallet carts…
Pallet carts are required in every factory. There are different models of pallet carts available for purchase. Before making the purchase decision, some factors have to be considered.
- Indoor or outdoor working environment. The two different environments have different requirements and need pallet carts with different specifications.
- Maximum load to be carried. Each cart design will have a specified carrying capacity. The cart to be purchased should be capable of carrying the maximum load to be carried in the use case.
- Lifting height is the height to which the pallet cart can lift the pallets. Each warehouse or factory will have its specific requirement. Pallet carts compatible with that have to be used.
- Similarly, the height of the lowered cart also is a factor to be noted before picking the right pallet cart.
- Pallet carts are available in hand-guided, semi-electric, or electric models. Choose the right model for the applications.
- Maintenance requirements for the pallet cart also have to be considered before making the purchase decision.
Modern pallet carts
As mentioned earlier, pallet carts are 80+-year-old solutions to the moving problem. Pallet carts and forklifts are the most commonly employed solutions. But many modern and sophisticated pallet carts have come to the market. Fully automated transport solutions can be used across different industries.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs)
AGVs can carry material across shop floors following some guidance systems in place. These can be visual markers, magnetic strips, electric signals, or even wireless signals. Automated guided vehicles also have safety systems in place to detect any obstacle in the path and decide accordingly.
AGVs do not need a human operator and can work non-stop without harming anyone or anything. The eQart is an innovative AGV solution that can be tailored to the needs of the customer.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)
AMRs are the next evolutionary step from AGVs. While AGVs need guidance systems, AMR Robots can guide themselves. AMRs use a combination of cameras, LIDARs, and other sensors to become aware of their surroundings and move accordingly. The complex hardware of AMR is coupled with artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to move on its own.
Pallet carts of future
The factory facilities and warehouses of the future are going to change dramatically. At present smart machines and gadgets occupy the factory floor. With industry 4.0, these machines will start talking to each other.
This gives context for each machine to operate and improves supply chain efficiency. Some say that this can give rise to dark factories that do not require any human operators or supervision but still we are far away from robots being able to make decisions or think creatively as humans do, so these kinds of predictions are still not in our near future.
Even so, the pallet carts and other transportation solutions of factories of the future and warehouses will be very different. They will be able to detect what load they will be carrying, identify the location of pick up/delivery, chart path to the location, move to the location without any external help, and load/unload the material.
All the while the carts will be communicating with other devices and changing the course of action accordingly. Pallet carts of the future will be powered by technology, data, and connectivity in addition to mechanical ability. And if you want to stay competitive you have to follow the trends in the industry.
Luke Goodwin is an experienced content marketing manager with a demonstrated history of working in the logistics and supply chain industry. Currently, he works at FlexQube where he creates valuable content relevant to the intralogistics and material handling industries. To learn more about FlexQube and see more articles from the industry you can visit their news website.