BlogSupply Chain AutomationWarehouse automation problems shouldn't be an issue if you have a plan in place.

Warehouse automation problems are frustrating because, if unresolved, they end up exacerbating the issues they were implemented to deal with in the first place: product damage, slow throughput, and shipping errors. Each of these problems can result in massive production delays that lead to lost revenue and an increased total cost of business (TCOB). Proactively preparing for the most common automation issues ensures that warehouse automation remains a benefit, rather than a liability.

Plastic pallets are an essential part of keeping automation working as it was intended to. High-quality plastic shipping platforms have numerous features that help eliminate the most common challenges of automated equipment. Using plastic pallets can enhance productivity and make operations more efficient. Below, we’ll talk about a few of the most common warehouse automation problems and how plastic pallets can help.

Three Common Warehouse Automation Problems

Plastic pallet used in conjunction with warehouse automation.While warehouse automation helps to reduce instances of human error, having fewer workers onsite can also create a new problem. When equipment acts up or stops working, a warehouse that depends heavily on automation will have fewer employees available to resolve the issue before it causes a massive slowdown. Problems with warehouse automation most frequently fall into one of the following four categories: 

  1. Equipment jams: When a foreign object–such as debris from a pallet or product–gets into the workings of automated equipment, the warehouse manager must pause production, locate the jam, fix the equipment, and then restart the system. A small error may result in hours, or even days, of production delays. 
  2. Inaccurate tracking: Keeping track of what each pallet load contains and where that pallet is located in the warehouse is a vital part of warehouse management. When scanning protocols fail because of a missing, blocked, or damaged radio frequency identification (RFID) tag or bar code, it can be difficult to find the inventory needed, resulting in time-consuming delays. 
  3. Calibration errors: Automated equipment must be calibrated to properly handle specific weights and dimensions. If an overweight or badly warped pallet comes through the system, this can cause the equipment to stop working until recalibrated.
  4. Seasonal demand increases: During certain times of the year–such as around the Christmas holidays–throughput may need to speed up in order to meet increased demand. If an automated system isn’t designed to be scalable, it may not be able to keep pace with the increased work. 

Issues with calibration, jams, and tracking can cause delays that cost time and money to resolve.

Automated equipment is supposed to make warehouse work easier. However, issues with calibration, jams, and tracking can cause delays that cost time and money to resolve. Supply chain managers can minimize their risk by using sturdy plastic pallets designed with automation in mind. 

How Plastic Pallets Limit Automation Issues

Plastic pallets work well with automation.Plastic pallets are an ideal fit for an automated environment for several reasons. Specifically, they offer:

  • Unibody construction: Plastic pallets have a durable, rugged construction that requires no screws or hardware. They don’t shed splinters and pieces of wood, either, so there’s less risk of jammed or damaged machinery.
  • RFID tags: RFID tags are much more compatible with plastic pallets than with wood ones and allow for simplified tracking of shipments. RFID tracking is ideal for use with automated equipment as it’s extremely fast and requires little (or no) manpower to log pallets, unlike barcode scanning. RFID tags securely embedded in plastic pallets ensure that each pallet is easy to identify and monitor without the risk of loss. 
  • Predictable dimensions: The weight of a plastic pallet is consistent, unlike that of a wood pallet. Wood pallets can gain weight due to moisture, which will wreak havoc on automated equipment calibration and increase wear and tear on machinery. Plastic pallets, on the other hand, maintain a consistent weight due to their impervious material. 
  • Support scalability: Automated equipment should be designed to scale up during periods of high demand or as a warehouse’s throughput grows with time. To support scalability, supply chain managers should turn to a pallet supply source that’s equally scalable. A pallet pooling model is an ideal option, as it allows supply chain managers to request an increased supply of pallets during high-demand periods and reduce that supply when the busy period ends. 

As a result of the advantages listed above, automated systems that rely on plastic pallets don’t face the warehouse automation problems commonly caused by wood pallets. By switching to a plastic pallet fleet, supply chain managers can protect their investment and ensure that operational efficiency remains high. 

iGPS plastic pallets have a lightweight unibody construction that is ideal for use with ASRS and other automated systems. To learn more about how our plastic rental pallets can help protect your warehouse’s sensitive equipment, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.