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Markets in Transition: Pallet Quality and Automation – White Wood Works Great for 14 Degrees
Grocery guru, Rick LeBlanc, highlights Australian wine bottler that efficiently uses white wood pallets in a highly automated facility.
By Rick LeBlanc
Date Posted: 4/1/2010
14 degrees’ new refrigerated facility in Port Melbourne, Australia shows how a 3rd party logistics provider can respond to emerging trends and invest in automation to provide value added services for existing and new customers. And in spite of concerns expressed more generally in industry about white wood pallets and automation, white wood pallets work just fine in their automated Pallet Runner System from Dematic.
As the family-wine logistics business grew over the years along with the Australian wine industry in general, the company’s business became very complex, according to Darren Rathbone, director of 14 degrees. This led to the business looking to build a new facility to consolidate all operations to better serve the Australian wine market, both domestic and international. Dematic, one of the world’s leading suppliers of automated logistics systems, was called in to provide its expertise. Looking at present and projected future business patterns, Dematic recommended its Pallet Runner system, which utilizes high density pallet storage as well as self-propelled ‘intelligent’ carts to move pallets within the facility.
Darren emphasized the importance of maintaining wine in a temperature controlled environment while minimizing handling in order to ensure maximum quality. “With the Pallet Runner system, we can space-efficiently store pallets more than 30 deep in a single lane,” Darren said. “That lets us park a whole vintage of a wine in just one or two lanes within the storage system and forget about it until it is due for release.” The facility holds over 13,000 pallets in the temperature controlled facility – and 14 degrees is the recommended temperature for holding wine.
When pallets are to be put away, the forklift operator first loads the motorized Pallet Runner into the relevant put-away lane, and then loads the pallet into the lane. Upon receipt of the put-away instruction, the motorized cart drives under the pallet. A hydraulic lifting platform then raises the pallet and transports it to the required put-away location within the lane.
By the time the forklift operator has placed the next pallet to be put away in the storage system, the motorized cart is ready to begin its next cycle.
14 degrees also offers wine bottling and packing services at its Port Melbourne location, a move that simplifies operations for its clients and more importantly minimizes handling of the sensitive product.
In terms of pallet usage, 14 degrees finds that the white wood pallets typically supplied by wine producers to support their heavy and valuable loads work just fine in the Pallet Runner system. And, Darren says, if any problem pallets are received, there is a pallet inverter on hand to remove the offending pallet before the load is put into storage. 14 degrees typically doesn’t see a lot of CHEP and Loscam pallets, which dominate in Australian consumer products distribution. Pallets are received on a one-way basis from wine producers, and in turn are shipped on a one-way basis from 14 degrees to its customers. The company sometimes buys HT pallets for international shipments.
14 degrees is a good example of a business that is taking advantage of opportunities to increase its value added services revenue through investment in automated equipment and facilities, and by the way, while successfully utilizing good quality white pallets in an automated system.