Columns, bricks or Tetris?
While much of our work takes place after the pallet is assembled we still take a pretty close look at pick and build processes. In this way we can often make small tweaks or recommendations that can have far larger consequences for both product damage and pallet optimisation.
The initial footprint of the pallet contents is as good a place to start as any. Here, it depends on the type of goods being packed. Even uniform pallets should be checked for gaps, and new patterns experimented with. Column patterns are suited to like products such as cartons or uniform box shapes. Other times a Tetris approach for items in bags or diverse loads will fill in space and effectively cut down on pallets needed.
Then there is the way boxes are combined on the pallet. Intuitively ‘brick stacking’ box arrangements seems to make sense. It’s what our parents taught us when we were playing with toy blocks as children. It appears to create a far stronger ‘whole’ from the individual parts. And it looks good when done right.
However this stacking approach can actually do more harm than good. First, it can result in less goods per pallet, meaning shipping costs go up (and emissions too). It can also create far more pressure on individual boxes. With weight unequally balanced through the pallet greater pressure is often placed where it doesn’t need to be.
Column stacking can be actually provide greater pallet stability overall, particularly with the use of anti-slip mats in between layers. This approach also allows each box to support the others along its stronger edges and corners, reducing the risk of individual box damage.
Good wrap negates the need for brick stacking too. Which is just another reason why it pays to take a second look at your pallet pick and packaging processes.