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Design Pallets By Point and Click
Facelift for PDS: The new windows version of the Pallet Design System has help screens, is Y2K compliant, is compatible with most printers, and handles metric conversion.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 12/1/1999

Computer technology sure has come a long way since the Pallet Design System (PDS) was first released in 1984. Back then, personal computers were in their infancy, and DOS was considered high tech.

PDS is the standard design software developed for pallet manufacturers. The original PDS was envisioned to be a book of tables. Since then, the program has evolved without ever being completely recreated. With the dawn of the new millennium, the designers set out to create a Y2K-compliant, Windows-based version that went beyond a simple face-lift. The new PDS introduces pallet designers to a whole new way of thinking ó designing from a systematic point of view.

"In the future, we are going to design the whole system at one time, which is a far more efficient approach," said Dr. Marshall (Mark) White, director of the Virginia Tech pallet and container research laboratory. "In the future, we are not going to be improving material handling efficiency by a penny or two per trip. We are going to be improving materials handling efficiencies by dollars per trip using the systems approach."

The new PDS (Version 3.0) is a revolutionary change, said Mark, who unveiled the program recently at the National Wooden Pallet and Container Associationís Pallet Summit. The new PDS will put pallet manufacturers in a critical position for helping their customers to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. The reason is that the pallet is between the load and the rack, conveyor, or other material handling equipment. As components of materials handling systems are integrated, PDS will increase the importance of the palletís role.

"The new PDS will be the basis of communication between the package designer, the designer of unit load handling equipment, and the pallet designer," said Mark. "This is the key to material handling improvement in the future. We are not going to make the mistake of force-fitting a package to a handling system with an overly expensive pallet."

Pallet companies that already lease PDS will be entitled to a free upgrade. Current users should be able to update without any problems, according to Mark. Data will automatically convert from the old format to the new.

The DOS-based PDS actually was three programs ó not one ó for stringer pallets, block pallets, and panel pallets. However, the new version is a program that can design all three pallet types.

The new PDS also has the following improvements: easy-to-use toolbars/Windows interface, Y2K compliant unlike the current DOS version, compatible with most printers, help screens and built-in user guide with search feature, attractive schematics, handles metric conversion, and improved structural analysis.

The changes represent a quantum improvement. The old version frequently did not interface well with many types of printers. It lacked help screens and user guides. Users had to know how to run the software and what the commands meant. The new user guide feature enables pallet manufacturers to use PDS to educate their customers. With the growth of the Europallet, the conversion from metric to U.S. standards will become even more important in the future. Expanded analysis includes projecting shrinkage and weak points in a specific design. Pallet manufacturers looking for a more complete solution can use PDS in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service pallet costing model, a new software program that assists in controlling pallet manufacturing costs.

Designers are not finished improving PDS, which was developed by the pallet lab in cooperation with the NWPCA, the U.S. Forest Service, and the APA-The Engineered Wood Association. Future upgrades will soon handle combination pallets and reassembled pallets. Eventually, PDS will be applicable to repaired pallets, too.

Any company looking to be on the forefront of improving efficiencies and cutting costs should give the new PDS a test drive.

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