Pallet sorting has long been a headache for warehousing and production facilities where consistently high quality is demanded, notably beverage plants. Increasingly, automated facilities also have similar needs.
Whether performed manually with a lift assist device or by forklift, pallet sorting has arguably remained one of the least sophisticated warehouse operations. In many facilities, unfortunately, it still isn’t substantially different than the process used when I first walked into a warehouse in 1980! We did it with a forklift operator, a forklift operator with a helper, or manually with an employee holding each end of the pallet and shuffling to the left or right to place it on the appropriate stack. If any of this sounds familiar, or if you struggle to sort pallets at all, keep reading!
Consider that employees charged with sorting pallets are often new hires with limited training. Even for more experienced employees, pallet grading decisions can be subjective and inconsistent once you get past sorting by color. The bottom line is that the cost of sorting has never been particularly palatable to warehouse operators. But what if you could reassign that personnel, sort pallets consistently and accurately, and achieve payback in as little as six months?
Machine vision pallet sorting
More and more retailers internationally are taking advantage of automated pallet sorting systems offered by IVISYS, a Stockholm, Sweden-based provider of 2-D pallet inspection machines and AI-assisted analysis software. Now, IVISYS also has an office in Chicago in the United States. Ryan Covey, Sales Manager US, reported that the company now has several scalable installations in place at major U.S. warehouse/distribution centers, retailers, and pallet sites. He declined to name them based on non-disclosure agreements. Covey emphasizes that its pallet inspection systems are modular and can be applied to your existing production line or be assembled as a standalone sorting cell.
The IVISYS system has been extensively used in Europe to manage a variety of pallet pools to monitor quality, grade pallets, and manage control standards. Now it’s being rolled out in North America. PALLETAI can identify pallet size, color, condition, specific damage to individual components, compliance with established standards, etc. stated,
“Since the sixteen cameras combined generate almost 200 images per pallet, no area is left unseen, and the best resolution is measured in sub millimeters,” stated Stefan Bohman, CEO at IVISYS. The PALLETAI can determine the pallet’s dimensional accuracy and identify issues such as protruding nails, plastic or paper residue, cracks, missing, broken, or dislocated pallet components. It can also detect and verify pallet logos. ”
2-D pallet inspection with unique software
The capabilities of IVISYS pallet inspection solution the PALLETAI, and its unique software offers would have spun our heads back in the days of manual sorting. The speed of analysis done by the IVISYS software in combination of the camera, scanning methods and software is unique. A key to the IVISYS approach is the artificial intelligence (AI) software behind the analysis. The IVISYS pallet inspection system, PALLETAI, uses sixteen cameras to develop a 2-D image of the pallet analyzed by AI-assisted software. It can process at least 600 pallets per hour, depending on the application.
With the sixteen cameras combined generating almost 200 images per pallet, no area is left unseen, and the best resolution is measured in sub-millimeters. Everything measured is then handed over to the customer, who configures in detail how they want their sorting and which criteria are the most important, Bohman added.
The PALLETAI has an AI component built into it. So, as the system sees new things, it becomes smarter and better at inspecting pallets. AI similarly is perfect for detecting visible mold or discoloration through pattern recognition. IVISYS software can track loads from customers, save data on all defects and create reports that can be used for discussions and pricing. With the data packages, it is also possible to get a detailed view of all pallets flowing through the facility on a component level basis.
PALLETAI: inspection line layout
The PALLETAI is a flexible, scalable, and modular pallet inspection solution. The PALLETAI is adaptable to your existing production line or can be assembled as a stand-alone soring cell. It can be used for both wooden and plastic pallets as well as being applied to nearly all pallet configurations. The system can handle nestable downstream plastic pallets, common in many North American retail distribution systems, upside-down pallets, and slip sheets sandwiched between pallets.
An IVISYS pallet inspection line typically includes an inbound conveyor. Because the solution is scalable, the number of lanes, robots, and inspection units can be increased as needed.
For rental pallets, eliminate the return to the service center/depot
There are profit center and ESG considerations. Rental pallets can be sorted according to the pallet provider’s quality specifications, allowing them to be shipped directly from the retailer to a CPG rental pallet account rather than returning them to the rental pallet service center. In this way, the retailer becomes an onsite service provider and can be a revenue source from the rental provider while saving the cost and CO2 emissions associated with the pallet movement to the service center. It also helps reduce dwell time, so the pallet returns to work sooner.
From a data capture perspective, Covey notes that the system is useful, for example, to compare pallet recovery from one region or location with another. Is more damage generated from one return point than others? The granularity of data can also be useful where pallets are being sent out for repair. The retailer can receive information on the number of light repairs versus heavy repairs, for instance, and have a better understanding of what the repair invoice should look like.
From a health and safety perspective, eliminating manual pallet sorting and damaged pallets from the system also helps reduce injury associated with strain, exposed nails, and splinters, not to mention trip and fall injuries associated with wood debris. By using consistently good pallets, damage to products and equipment should also be mitigated.
The IVISYS inspection system is also used in pallet pooling service centers and pallet recycling companies. However, Covey says that retailers are the largest segment of the company’s pallet inspection business.
“IVISYS PALLETAI is a state-of-the-art turnkey pallet inspection solution that inspects pallets to secure quality, uptime, productivity, and increased ROI with high precision,” concluded Bohman.”
To find out more about IVISYS, visit www.ivisys.com. Email email@example.com or in the U.S., firstname.lastname@example.org