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Pallet solution for FIBCs of dried ingredients

19 November 2021

A UK-based ready meals and snack manufacturer set out to find a pallet capable of handling bulk dried ingredients for use in its new, state-of-the-art raw materials warehouse. Food Processing reports. 

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The company was specifically looking for a plastic pallet solution for handling dried pulses stored in large flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBC). Each bulk bag can hold up to 2,000kg of dried ingredients, so a strong pallet capable of handling these heavy loads reliably and through many cycles was needed. 

The plastic pallet was going to be used within a new semi-automated high density storage system that utilises a deep lane shuttle carrier to put away and retrieve pallets within a specially designed rack structure. This optimises the usable space in the warehouse, creates operational efficiencies for the storage and retrieval of ingredients and helps with stock rotation in a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) system. 
Storage problems
The storage of bulk bags on pallets can be problematic. Their shape is never exactly the same and they often lean sideways making it difficult to load and position them centrally on a pallet. Point loads on the pallet deck can then be created, which transfer through the structure of the pallet giving a non-uniformly distributed load that can cause high deflection when in racking. The automation within the storage system being used detailed some very specific tolerances on deflection that the pallets had to meet, so it was essential that the chosen pallet complied, to ensure that the storage and retrieval process would work effectively and consistently through numerous cycles. consulted extensively with the company to help determine the key performance specification – a robust, heavy duty plastic pallet of 1,200 x 1,000mm footprint that would meet the demanding minimal deflection criteria. worked closely with the technical team responsible for the automated storage system, to conduct a  trial to establish conclusively which plastic pallet would exactly match the demands of the application. requested samples of the dried pulses in their exact packaging format in order to replicate the physical loads that were being handled to give very specific data on the pallet performance within the storage system. The tests were performed on a number of different plastic pallet types and materials, including pallets made of recycled plastic, and repeated multiple times with the test data recorded for each pallet tested. 

The testing process
All the application tests were conducted in accordance with ISO 8611-1:2011 Pallets for materials handling – Flat pallets – Part 1: Test methods and all the results were recorded and analysed to ensure the pallet specified was wholly fit for purpose. 

This testing process created a bank of data that allowed comparisons to be made and ensured that the pallet specification was matched against the performance criteria required. 

Following the application trial, the APB 1210 Super Pool 5R pallet in virgin grade Polypropylene material was recommended. This heavy-duty plastic pallet is proven for long term use in multi-trip supply chain scenarios. Capable of storing static loads of 6,000kg, it can also handle dynamic loads of up to 3,000kg. Manufactured in a virgin grade Polypropylene (PP) material, the pallet also adheres to the Food Contact Materials Regulation (EC) 1935/2004. 

The flat smooth upper deck ensures no sharp edges that could lead to the bulk bags being snagged and torn. 
The structure of the pallet is designed to have no dirt traps. Both the top and underside of the pallet deck and runners are smooth and radiused with no sharp edges, minimising dirty traps in use. This pallet is easy to wash and dry in a fully automatic pallet wash machine, which was an important element in this application where the pallet needs to be washed frequently to ensure compliance with the company’s internal GMP (good manufacturing practices). 

The pallet can be printed for identification and supplied in a range of colours. There are specific areas on the outside corner blocks of the pallets where labels can be securely fixed and it is also possible to optimise the management of the pallets using an electronic track-and-trace system by fitting RFID tags internally within the pallet structure.
A second, lower specification pallet was also supplied for use in different storage applications within the warehouse – for storage of ingredients with a much lower tare weight and stored in a more conventional, two beam back-to-back rack system. 

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