Over the last decade, e-commerce has grown rapidly. In 2020, e-commerce sales totalled £111 billion in the UK, and accounted for 27.6% of total retail sales, up from £75 billion (19.2% of retail sales) in 2019. The global Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, and a skills shortage have been catalysts for even quicker growth in the last two years. To keep up with this demand, many retailers have increased the level of automation in their operations – in both their warehouses and for distribution – to improve the speed and efficiency of deliveries.
This trend looks set to increase as UK factory automation is expected to grow by 10.05% between 2021 and 2026.
The need for a more efficient and accurate process has pushed the design boundaries of the automation systems and the storage platforms used to handle and dispatch orders.
Plastic returnable transit packaging
One such storage solution is plastic returnable transit packaging (RTP) – packaging that can be used time and again over many years, without compromising on its performance. Goplasticpallets.com is an expert in delivering plastic RTP solutions and stocks the UK’s largest range of plastic pallets, pallet boxes and smaller containers.
In 2013, one of the UK’s leading department and grocery store chains approached Goplasticpallets.com to come up with a robust, long life plastic pallet that was compatible with the company’s automated retrieval high bay system and would adhere to its strict deflection parameters.
The company’s 1m+ sq. ft semi-automated distribution centre in Milton Keynes was integral to the brand setting new standards in customer service. Minimal deflection and maximum durability were two crucial factors in helping them do this.
If a pallet bends too much when loaded, its automated handling system will grind to a halt. Previous pallets that the retailer had tested deflected too far, sometimes by as much as 40mm.
The retailer was trialling another company’s medium-duty plastic pallet with three steel bars. However, deflection was an issue with the medium-duty pallets. It bottomed out on the chain conveyor when loaded with boxes.
Detailed tests and real trial runs
Goplasticpallets.com had a solution in mind and asked its manufacturing partner, CABKA-IPS, to run detailed tests of its APB 1210 5R Pool Pallet loaded with similar boxes, stored for 1000 hours.
Following the test, Goplasticpallets.com supplied 200 of its APB 1210 5R Pool Pallets for real trial runs. The pallets were a resounding success, proving exceptionally durable and consistent with an acceptable deflection of less than 8mm.
The retailer ordered 12,000 units in light grey, each fitted with four labels. Goplasticpallets.com delivered them in 31 trailer loads between May and June 2015.
Following an expansion of its warehouse in 2020, the retailer ordered a further 9,000 plastic pallets – this time in mid-grey and made from recycled high-density polyethylene.
Fast forward to 2021, and all of the 21,000 plastic pallets are still performing well, proving their long working life – helping the high-end department and grocery store continue to operate throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
More automation in the future
With the long-term impact of the pandemic likely to see online shopping become the norm for consumers, more and more retailers will seek to drive efficiency into their store and online supply chains. As demonstrated here, plastic pallets can help retailers achieve this.