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When goods have to be handled along the internal and external logistic supply chain, from incoming raw materials through their manufacturing process and up to their delivery to the end user, pallets are practically indispensable.

Nowadays, palletless transport of certain loads can be achieved with standard fork clamps with relevant slip-on arms that embrace the load, usually with dedicated attachments such as block and brick clamps, bale clamps, drum clamps and roll clamps.

The ideal attachment for palletless handling of carton-boxed goods is large-surface clamps – their large rubber-coated arms grab cubed loads from the side. These goods can be lifted up with a load carrier (eg pallet) from roller belts, or from pallets – whichever way they come.

Applications for these clamps include handling white and brown goods. Handling cubes of eight units (two wide by two deep by two high) has now become a standard configuration in manufacturers’ and logistic service providers’ warehouses.

Some goods cannot be grabbed from the sides, eg bagged goods containing coffee, sugar or plastic chips. These can be depalleted by means of a pusher, which consists of the carrying part – usually a plate – and a hydraulically operated pushing grate that moves the load to the front.

There are different choices for carrying parts. If standard features are selected, the pallet is held in position by a little gripper clamp holding its centre block between the forks so that it cannot shift while the load is being pushed off. With this system, the load can be transferred to another pallet or placed on top of another stack

Another configuration is usually selected for bagged goods. The carrying part in this case consists of five to six multi-tines and the loads are provided on comb pallets. The pusher with multi-tine arrangement is introduced (as counter comb) into the centre spaces formed by square length member (comb) on which the load rests until it is taken up. By lifting the load it rests on the tines.

But sometimes goods are not provided directly on comb pallets. In this case, a stationary pallet turnover clamp can be used, where one side provides a plate onto which the production pallet is placed and the other side of the clamping arm is of a comb shape design. By clamping the load together and turning it through 180o, it then rests on the comb arm and can be moved with the multi-tine pusher.

One method of repalletising is the pallet turnover clamp. This attachment features a rotating arm with fork pairs on both arms. An empty one-way shipping pallet is loaded onto the first (upper) fork pair, and after being rotated 180o, the clamp opens so that the lower fork pair can insert the production pallet under the stack. After closing the clamp and rotating back 180o, the load is then placed on the shipping pallet.

In cases where goods are likely to be shipped without pallets, or where comparatively expensive pallets are to be replaced with a cheaper variety, slips sheets can be taken into consideration. Their low height in comparison to pallets allows more layers of the relevant goods to be stacked into a container or into a warehouse where height is an important consideration. This applies mainly to lightweight/high-volume goods. A push-pull is similar to the pusher system but features a hydraulically operated gripper bar at the bottom of the pushing grate.

Standard forks are the lift-truck OEM’s traditionally supplied attachment, but the trend towards depalletising, repalletising and palletless handling calls for other solutions.

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