- Vision-X technology uses 3D imaging, high-resolution cameras, and lasers to automate pallet inspection, resulting in a highly sophisticated system.
- Vision-X has been installed at key maintenance depots.
- The customized system incorporates machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance inspection speed and accuracy.
- The system identifies individual pallet maintenance requirements, prioritizes repair tasks, and organizes work streams for employees, resulting in improved safety, productivity, and overall pallet quality.
Istaca, Illionois-based PECO Pallet, Inc. (PECO), a major provider of rental pallet services in North America, has announced the successful implementation of Vision X, a cutting-edge technology system that streamlines the pallet inspection process and enhances accuracy, efficiency, and quality of pallet repair and maintenance operations. It is the second major technology announcement from the company this year.
PECO Pallet maintains North America’s second largest pallet rental network, with 90 pallet depots overseeing an inventory of over 23 million of its distinctive red, high-quality 9-block pallets. The new automated inspection system has been installed at key PECO maintenance depots, where returned pallets are inspected, refurbished, and redistributed to customers.
Objectives of PECO’s Vision-X Initiative
According to Joe Medeiros, PECO’s Senior Director of Operations Excellence, pallets are often returned in an unknown condition, with varying levels of compliance with specifications and maintenance requirements. The objective of Vision X was four-fold:
- Create a technology solution that can significantly enhance the accuracy of defect detection during pallet inspection, surpassing the current manual process by 10 times.
- Replace a cumbersome and time-consuming manual pallet sorting workflow that often results in incorrect identification of pallet condition and repair needs.
- Minimize repetitive tasks to enable employees to allocate more time to value-added activities.
- Enhance inspection speed, efficiency, and quality to facilitate the proper inspection and repair of a greater number of pallets within a shorter timeframe, resulting in a larger pallet inventory available to clients.
“We identified greater than 500 individual defects that can occur with a pallet,: said Medeiros. From a material handling perspective, a typical PECO pallet weighs 65 pounds, with each pallet having 26 boards, 9 blocks, and 138 nails. “It was very difficult to address those in an efficient and accurate manner and we knew that increasing defect detection would be paramount to the success of the project,” he said.
“We built the technology with the ability to identify an anomaly within the thickness of a human hair,” Medeiros continued. “It is similar to what automobile manufacturers use to inspect cars for defects as they leave the factory.”
With Vision X, a full pallet inspection can be performed and the pallet conveyed to its assigned location in just 6 seconds, a significant improvement compared to the potential one-minute duration of manual inspections. Furthermore, Vision X generates pallet-specific and detailed repair instructions and automatically routes the pallet to the specialist trained for the particular type of repair.
Vision X has also enhanced workplace ergonomics for employees who previously had to lift and move pallets manually. Joe Medeiros stated that by redesigning the workflow and incorporating material handling and conveyance equipment, they have eliminated several manual handling steps, thereby decreasing the risk of injury or strain. This not only improved throughput but also created a safer working environment for the employees.
Another advantage of the system was the creation of a database documenting trends in pallet condition. “We can pull data and drill down into the condition of pallets and their maintenance needs,” Medeiros explained. “Then we can go back, share our findings, and help adjust work practices to reduce damage. Ultimately, that helps us turn pallets faster for the customer while keeping repair costs in check – which is a win-win for both.”
Vision X has significantly enhanced inspection accuracy, surpassing the precision of repair operators by over ten times, effectively reducing the need for rework to correct any missed defects or damages.
PECO continues to lean into technology solutions in addition to Vision-X. In February 2023, the company also announced that it had entered into an agreement with Optilogic, a provider of supply chain design and modeling solutions that use robust optimization, simulation, and risk rating capabilities to create the most resilient supply chain designs. PECO said it was using Optilogic to model and optimize scenarios across its network, which includes 90 operating depots, over 2,000 customers, and a rolling inventory of 23 million high-quality wooden rental pallets, each featuring PECO’s recognizable red nine-block design.
Pallets serve as the primary platform for stacking, securing, and transporting various products via trucks, intermodal rail containers, and other conveyance vehicles. PECO’s easily recognizable red pallets are utilized by major retailers, club stores, consumer goods companies, grocers, and other businesses, which transport unit loads of merchandise to thousands of companies every day across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.