Transport Packaging: On the Same Page: Integrating Pallets and Automation

Transport Packaging: On the Same Page: Integrating Pallets and Automation

Pallets complement a high-tech process.

The printing business is extremely competitive. Just ask Mayfield, Pa.-based book manufacturer P.A. Hutchison Co. Founded in 1911, P.A. Hutchison is a mid-sized book manufacturer with customers throughout the U.S.

To enhance its competitiveness, the company recently took on a 52,000-square foot expansion project, which involved investing in printing technology and automated paper handling systems. As part of the expansion, P.A. Hutchison purchased a Timson web printing press and Heidelberg press.

The manufacturer had been using 60-pound, wood pallets, but company leaders felt the time was right for a change. “We considered converting our wood pallets over to plastic for a period of three to four years, and we also considered several different manufacturers,” says Chris Hutchison, P.A. Hutchison’s president.

The company selected 250 Buckhorn 48- x 40-inch, 34-pound, reusable, medium-duty plastic pallets. The pallets are structural foammolded for durability and nestable for efficient storage. Featuring foot covers for stacking while in use, each pallet has a dynamic load capacity of 4,000 pounds.

Interestingly, the company designed its new automated palletizer system around Buckhorn’s medium- duty pallets. The plastic pallets work well in the automated system, which allows a single employee per shift to process printed material from press to bindery. Previously, the operation required two workers per shift. The company estimates the reduced labor requirements result in annual cost savings of $120,000.

At the beginning of each job, the press operator keys into the palletizing system the specific details for each job. As bundles of printed paper are created, a robotic arm picks them up and positions them on the pallet according to preprogrammed palletizing configurations. Computers link the press with the palletizing system in relation to press counts and specific form information.

As each job is completed, communication between the press and palletizer determines whether to adjust the loading configuration or change out the loaded pallet. When the pallet is loaded to the configuration limit, or the job is complete, the loaded pallet is automatically discharged to a temporary staging area where it can be picked up and taken to its storage location. While the filled pallet is being discharged, the pallet storage cassette lifts the stack of 12 empty pallets with the

Pallet configurations
Pallet configurations for each job are preprogrammed into P.A. Hutchinson’s automated palletizer.

exception of one. This pallet is then ejected by a conveyor, automatically positioned for loading, and the process begins again.

“We wanted a pallet that didn’t contain bottom stringers since our employees still use manual hand jacks to move the pallets around,” Hutchison says “Buckhorn’s design was perfect for both that type of manual handling and the automated palletizer system. In addition, our employees love the pallets since they are about half the weight of the wooden pallets, which each weighed about 60 pounds.”

Hutchison adds that worker safety was an ongoing issue with wooden pallets; workers could get injured from splinters or protruding nails.

“Having worked with wooden pallets myself over the years, I can certainly vouch for the problems those wooden pallets caused. You don’t have that safety concern with plastic pallets.”

Long term, Hutchison expects the plastic pallets to hold up better than the wooden pallets his company formerly used. “The durability of the Buckhorn pallets and ease of use are two of the most important issues to us.”

Transport Packaging News

Orbis Buys Norseman
OCONOMOWOC, Wis.—Orbis Corp., a subsidiary of Mensha Corp., is acquiring Norseman Plastics Holdings Ltd., based in Toronto. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Orbis supplies plastic, reusable containers, pallets, totes and dunnage. Norseman manufactures plastic, reusable containers, trays, bins and pallets for bakery, beverage, dairy, recycling/ waste collection, foodservice, agriculture and meat-processing applications.

Included in the acquisition are manufacturing and warehousing facilities in Toronto; Howell, Mich.; Osage City, Kan.; and Kissimmee, Fla. Norseman Plastics has approximately 600 employees in North America.

According to Jim Kotek, president of Orbis, “This acquisition strengthens Orbis’ position as a leader in plastic, usable packaging and provides us with tremendous growth opportunities in diverse markets. Norseman’s diverse product line, strong customer relationships and industry knowledge are consistent with Orbis’ vision and expertise.”

CAPS Changes Name
LIVONIA, Mich.— Container and Pallet Services (CAPS) is changing its name to Container and Pooling Solutions to reflect a renewed focus on greening customers’ supply chains while reducing overall costs.

The company says its services, including reusable container rental, tracking, cleaning and repair, provide food, beverage, automotive and general manufacturing clients with an environmentally friendly, cost-effective alternative to purchasing containers.

Robert Wiedmaier, CEO, explains: “We’re in the right place at the right time with the convergence of two key industry trends. First, the paramount need to optimize supply chain costs and second, increasing requirements to go green. A combination of these factors has allowed us to make significant strides forward while being able to continually support the companies we serve in this distressed market.”

Winery Wins Award
ARLINGTON, Va.—Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has won the 2008 Packaging Line of the Year award for its highspeed bottling line. The Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) presents the award, which honors packaging-line engineering and innovations that have been installed or renovated within the past 12 months.

The Ste. Michelle Wine Estates line uses a new technology to insert a partition after the case is filled with wine bottles, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint, cost savings, reduced changeover time and increased line throughput.

“The Packaging Line of the Year award is a great honor, but it’s just the icing on the cake,” says Rob McKinney, director of operations at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “With our partners, we were able to save time and money, but we were also able to reduce the impact our operation makes on the environment. In the long run, that’s the most significant savings.”

RPA Honors Executive
WASHINGTON—The Reusable Packaging Association (RPA, formerly the Reusable Pallet and Container Coalition) announces that Phil Davis, senior perishables supply chain manager at the

Robotic Arm
A robotic arm positions a bundle of printed paper onto a Buckhorn medium-duty plastic pallet.
Plastic Pallets
Since Buckhorn’s plastic pallets are nestable, they can be stored in tight areas, thus conserving valuable facility space.

Kroger Co., is this year’s recipient of RPA’s 2008 Leadership award.

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, has more than 320,000 associates serving customers in 2,476 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local names, including Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer and Food 4 Less.

“Phil has been a relentless advocate for reusables for the past four years,” says RPA president, Fred Heptinstall, also president of IFCO RPC Management Services North America. “He has not only focused on getting his company to convert to reusables but has also been instrumental in converting many of their suppliers to implement reusable plastic pallets, pooled block pallets and reusable containers. These conversions have led to product quality improvement, waste reduction, ergonomic improvements and economic benefits for Kroger.”

Davis provides his philosophy about the value of reusable packaging. “I believe we are still on the ground floor of understanding and realizing all of the benefits and added value that reusables can bring to the supply chain,” he says. “Environmental benefits, improved ergonomics, better protection of product and improved stability of the shipping platform are just a few of the many benefits that are possible with reusables.”

Pallets Get Certified
VIENNA, Ohio—Litco International Inc.’s Inca presswood pallets, core plugs and boards recently received Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) certification at the Silver tier from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC).

According to Litco, the presswood pallets are the first pallets to achieve the honor, which recognizes ingredients, recyclability and design.

MBDC’s C2C certification is awarded to products meeting specific criteria for human and environmental health, manufacturing characteristics and lifecycle attributes. Products are evaluated for ingredient chemistry, suitability for reuse and energy-efficient manufacturing methods.

Made from waste wood, Litco’s Inca presswood products are reusable and recyclable. The company adds that the pallets are 60% lighter than conventional, hardwood pallets and nestable to save space.

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