Technology Solutions

Improving Efficiencies Through Automated Pallet-Handling Systems

Whether running a large or small shop, you continuously look to improve efficiencies in order to compete—whether on the global stage or against the company down the street. One of the best ways to accomplish real business growth is through automated pallet-handling systems, which enable improved flexibility and more cost-effective production of parts.

The biggest opportunity with an automated pallet-handling system is that it maximizes equipment utilization. In a traditional dedicated production cell, each machine is tied to a specific operation in the part cycle. With multiple load and unload processes, and varying cycle times between each operation, the machines are unable to realize full utilization. Additionally, when one machine goes down, the full cell goes down.

With an automated pallet-handling system, the need for dedicated production is eliminated. Any and all processes can be deployed across every machine with little operator intervention. This means that individual assets have no impact on one another, leading to maximum usage. One machine is not dependent on the output. Even if a machine goes down, 75 percent of full-production part flow is maintained because the automated rail can transport parts to be machined on other equipment.

Further, equipment utilization is maximized in an automated pallet-handling system by eliminating machine setup for non-cut time. Doing away with machine setup is accomplished through reducing time spent in repetitive steps, such as part loading and unloading, through faster part changeovers, improved workflow management, eliminating material shortages, managing economic order quantities, streamlining first-part checks, adjusting part mixes and eliminating human error and uncertainty. An additional bonus is that as shops increase productivity and decrease lead-time, work in process (WIP) and inventories are decreased, and hours of operation can be extended through unattended machining.

Automation can also allow for single-setup processing flexibility to decrease labor requirements that were spent on redundant setups. It can also help reduce economic order quantities and minimize on-and-off inventories. Product life cycles are always unpredictable with fluctuations in capacity demands over time. Traditional manufacturing methods can easily create overutilization or underutilization of equipment. Automated pallet-handling systems offer flexibility with single-setup processing that allows for agile part production where capacity can be adjusted in increments as the market requirements change.

For those businesses looking to reduce cycle time and scrap rates, or take manufacturing lead-times from weeks to just hours, automated pallet-handling systems can have real impact. The best results are increased responsiveness to the market due to the flexibility that these systems allow. The infographic on the following pages illustrates the economic advantages and increased efficiencies that these automated pallet-handling systems can bring to your shop.

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