Life of a pallet analysis improves pallet functionality in automated pallet handling systems, drives down costs for Princes Foods
LPR, a leading European pallet pooling provider, has been working with Princes, one of Europe’s fastest growing food and drink groups. They were collaboratively looking to improve the efficiency and reliability of automated pallet handling systems at the company’s soft drinks production facility in Bradford. Based on LPR’s innovative Life of a Pallet analysis, and in partnership with Princes’ management and operational teams, it has helped the customer make a significant improvement to pallet quality, to reduce downtime on its automated production lines and improve efficiency in warehouse and factory operations.
Founded in 1880, Princes is an international grocery supplier, with its headquarters in the UK and operations across Europe. Its large and expanding portfolio of products features many famous brands, as well as the company’s flagship Princes brand, best known for its range of canned fish.
Inconsistent pallet quality impacts production, causing downtime and loss of revenue
The company’s facility in Bradford is its largest soft drinks production site in the UK. It handles 54,000 pallets in a complex, fast moving environment for the production of own and customer branded carbonated and fruit drinks.
The efficiency of the automated handling systems on the site was, however, being impacted by inconsistent levels of pallet quality, causing downtime and potential loss of revenue.
As part of the collaborative partnership with Princes, LPR jointly formulated a plan to investigate the issues and implement cost-effective solutions to improve levels of uptime and efficiency.
Life of a Pallet analysis
LPR’s Life of a Pallet analysis formed a key part of this work, with its specialists and members of the LPR depot team who are responsible for inspection, repair and pallet dispatch, spending time on site. This gave them an excellent understanding of Princes’ automated processes, as well as an insight into the challenges facing the company’s warehouse and production staff.
Peter Offord, Logistics Manager, for Princes Ltd, is delighted with the results. “Pallet quality has dramatically improved, with the teams at LPR and our Bradford site making massive inroads with regard to pallet quality. This is true partnership at its best and a testament to all the people involved,” he said.
It quickly became clear to the team that any chips or splinters within the pallets could affect the efficiency of the automation systems, causing downtime while they were rectified. It was also discovered that machine guards were not being refitted correctly, further extending downtime.
Additionally, the team identified issues with pallet handling by forklift trucks, which caused damage to pallets and led to an increase in the time required for sorting, additional repair costs and downtime. It was agreed that modifications to pallet construction would further improve safety for loaded pallets stored in high bay racking.
Following the investigation, LPR made a number of changes, including additional quality checks, to ensure that issues with chips and splinters were identified and rectified at inspection. It also took steps to enhance the strength and rigidity of pallets. Similarly, Princes retrained their production teams and forklift operators, to ensure machine guards were replaced correctly and that problems with misloading were eliminated.
Phasing out Composite pallet blocks
An important aspect of LPR’s partnership with Princes has been the phasing out of the use of composite wood pallet blocks. Although these are commonly used in the industry, the pallet pooling provider identified as early as 2010 that solid wood blocks are significantly stronger, more durable and environmentally responsible, as they are free from formaldehydes. Composite blocks also cause issues in automated handling systems due to expansion and misalignment. LPR has been steadily replacing all composite blocks across its business, reducing their use to just 1%, based on volume deliveries.
The steps taken with Princes have resulted in a level of pallet quality of almost 99%. In addition, Princes has been able to identify cost savings from the programme, which run into tens of thousands of pounds on an annual basis.
“Working with our suppliers is of vital importance to Princes Ltd,” added Ian Moss, Logistics Planning and Analysis Manager, for Princes Limited. “The Life of a Pallet analysis, led by LPR, looked at how we might maximise productivity for our production line and warehouse operation, while reducing our downtime. It has been extremely successful and we look forward to seeing the ongoing savings that will result”.