An Australian engineering company has designed and built an automated pallet handling system that not only produces major time and labour savings but also improves workplace safety.
Reeves Engineering of Sydney developed the innovative air spring-actuated system for a manufacturer of diverse metal products.
The company needed the products to be collected from production and packaging stations and transported to warehouse and dispatch areas in one seamless operation.
Reeves Engineering’s trolley system – with trolleys electrically driven along a 50m floor slot linking production, packing and warehouse areas – collects loaded pallets of up to 1700kg, delivers them to warehouse areas next door, and dispatches more pallets for new loads.
The newly loaded pallets are retrieved from pallet stations aligned along the trolley system’s path within the factory and returned through a wall opening to the warehouse area, where they are transferred to lateral conveyors for temporary storage.
The transfer to these lateral conveyors is swiftly and simply actuated by scissor lifts within the trolleys which are actuated by pairs of Firestone Airstroke air spring actuators supplied by their national distributor, Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd.
As the incoming full pallets are dispatched left and right on the lateral conveyors for temporary storage, an automated pallet dispenser reloads empty pallets onto the trolleys to be sent down the line for loading. The automated twin stack dispenser – actuated by another Airstroke-actuated scissor-lift – accommodates 25 pallets on each side, separating export and local delivery pallets where required.
“The time savings of the system are huge,” says Reeves Engineering’s Steve Van Zeyl. “The streamlined automated handling system enabled the warehouse to operate on a single-shift basis and alleviated the need for forklifts to transfer pallets.”
Mr Van Zeyl said that while the system is deliberately simple in principle – “We call it our slot car system” – the greatest challenges and benefits were in the detail and integration of the individual parts.
“We looked at both hydraulic and pneumatic actuation, for example, and found that while initial costs were similar, the pneumatics from Air Springs required much less ancillary equipment around them and had very compact starting heights. This meant that not only did they cost less to engineer, but also we could fit them into tighter spaces which gave us further efficiencies.”
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