Automated Pallet Shuttle Systems
Exciting new technologies make it possible for warehousing operations to achieve peak efficiency within shockingly small spaces. These compact systems rely on electric shuttles, which run on rails within each structure to reach the pallets stored within the shelving spaces. While shuttle systems installed backing up to a wall use last in, first out (LIFO) inventory method, those set up on “island” installations use first in, first out (FIFO). With either installation, today's top shuttle solutions offer enticing benefits that may be unavailable under a traditional drive-in approach.
Pallet shuttles are often safer and more efficient to operate than forklifts alone. These advanced systems also enable exceptionally high storage density and impressive throughput. As such, they're highly sought after for small spaces with large numbers of pallets and constant packing or unpacking activity. Automation is incorporated to make these systems even more cost effective. The result? Safe, secure, and extremely efficient pallet storage systems that are surprisingly easy to operate.
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Pallet Shuttle System Process
The automated pallet shuttle process looks a bit different from one location to the next, with adaptations required based on the size of the space and how the pallets are oriented. In general, however, it includes the following key steps:
Step 1: Forklift Places Pallet Shuttle into Work Channel
While pallet shuttle systems make it possible to reduce forklift usage, the forklift is still essential at the outset of the process. To begin, the forklift situates the shuttle within the work channel. Accuracy is key during this crucial first step.
Step 2: Forklift Positions Pallets in Channel Entrance
Once the shuttle and the work channel are in place, it's time to move the pallets into their starting position. This can be accomplished with a forklift truck. From there, the pallet shuttle takes over, removing the need for the forklift operator to enter the storage lanes.
Step 3: Operator Uses Tablet to Start Loading Operation
The entire shuttle system can be controlled via a mobile device, which should be connected to WiFi. The operator may use this device to control multiple carts or pallets.
Step 4: Shuttle Lifts Pallet Slightly Upward, Then Moves to Location and Deposits Pallet Using Sensors
An advanced system of sensors allows the shuttle system to follow the directions the operator has already made via mobile device. Typically, this means moving the pallet from the entry point to the deepest available location before depositing it at the intended destination. With outgoing operations, this process is reversed: the first available pallet is retrieved and then efficiently moved to the exit location — all while the operator oversees this process on a tablet. Picking and loading full truck load orders is now easier than ever.
Step 5: Shuttle Returns to the Front of the Lane for Next Operation
Once the shuttle has deposited or retrieved the desired pallet, it returns to the front of the lane. At this point, it should be ready to proceed with another operation.
Advantages of These Systems
In general, pallet shuttles are preferred for fast-paced operations involving limited SKUs and high numbers of pallets. Shuttle systems also can work wonders in situations that call for an unusually high level of packing and unpacking.
The following are among the most common industries and settings in which automated pallet storage systems are implemented:
- Warehouses and distribution centers. While shuttle systems can be useful in a variety of warehouses, they are especially valuable for industries that see seasonal spikes in demand. Equipped with flexible solutions such as pallet shuttles, it's possible to quickly retrieve products on short notice and release them in bulk.
- Bottlers. Because shuttle-oriented automated systems function optimally in a variety of temperatures, they are ideal for bottling production and storage. There, pallet shuttles reduce picking time to make the most of cold storage space. This space can be prohibitively expensive to maintain, so it's important to optimize its usage in any way possible.
- Manufacturing facilities. When small spaces limit the availability of forklift aisles, shuttle systems can take over. These allow for the accurate and efficient retrieval of sensitive, yet crucial items.
Warehouse1’s High-Density Storage System Solutions
On the hunt for a high-density storage system capable of boosting efficiency while keeping operating costs to a minimum? A pallet shuttle system could be an excellent option. Few pallet rack solutions are better suited to operations with low SKUs and high throughputs. Strategic implementation matters, however, so it's important to proceed with care.
To make the most of this investment, look to the team of experts at Warehouse1 for guidance. We will work closely with you to develop a customized system, designed to address the unique concerns and opportunities currently present within your facilities. Contact us today to learn more about our high-density storage solutions.