In the labyrinth of modern logistics, pallet failures emerge as silent disruptors, wreaking havoc on automation and reverse logistics alike. Picture this: an ASRS system grinds to a halt as a pallet collapses, spilling cargo from a height and triggering a costly shutdown. Even in other automated work cells, a single failed pallet can necessitate a shutdown, prompting questions about salvage and reconstruction. Such scenarios unveil a pressing concern – the vulnerability of business operations to the overlooked menace of pallet failures. Meticulous pallet inspection isn’t just a precaution; it’s a strategic imperative.

Pallet failures can have a critical impact on multiple facets of your business. Automated cells such as ASRS and palletizing solutions need quality pallets because a failure could result in significant downtime. If a pallet within an ASRS were to fail with products in tow, cargo could fall from a height within the ASRS, potentially damaging your system and other products. But the kicker is that to clean it, you must shut the entire system, grinding your operation to a halt. And… because most of your products reside within automated storage, you can’t even pivot to manual fulfillment.

When do you need Pallet Inspection?

You may have an automated palletizer. While your system is working, the pallet fails. Like before, we now have to shut down all the systems surrounding the failure and remove the bad pallets and any damaged products. This failure could be a minor inconvenience, but it could be a complete system shutdown. How do you even put the pieces back together? Sure, you could grab a new pallet and place all the fallen products on top, but was the pallet finished before it fell? Did all of the items survive? How do I get new ones? Do I restart the pallet and try to return the fallen items to the ASRS? Operationally, a failure could vary tremendously, so even standard procedures could create additional problems, given how each circumstance may differ.

Even if you have no automation, customers are just as picky. If something happens during transit, the customer or store will look to you to provide replacements.  If there’s product damage en route, they return it to you. This process of returns and replacement is reverse logistics, a critical cog in the distribution system. It is one thing if your Amazon package gets damaged during delivery; that is generally only one or two items. However, today, most shipping is done in bulk to reduce the pricing; the more we can take in one trip, the fewer trips we have to take. Couple this with the fact that many deliveries aren’t direct-to-customer transactions. If you’re shipping from a distribution center to one of your stores, you could be on the hook for the damaged products AND the transportation costs. So, if we’re looking at a full truckload filled with pallets, during transit, a pallet fails, and its contents fall off and are damaged. Upon reaching the destination, the driver discovers the issue and reports the error. Still, they hold back the damaged cargo instead. Now, there must be a minimum of two more trips to rectify the situation, a return trip for the damaged cargo and a second delivery with a replacement.

Now, some businesses are more resilient than others. For instance, if we lose one pallet delivering items to a grocery store, the worst-case scenario is there may be some empty shelves where the store cannot restock the empty product, but by no means is it crippling. This buffer does not exist for every practice. Some facilities operate on a Just-In-Time schedule. The purpose of scheduling like this is to reduce the amount of standing inventory. Production and scheduling coordinate so that each component arrives just as needed. The strategy can be very effective, but it certainly has drawbacks. Like previously, if they were to receive a shipment with damaged cargo, the contents the moment they arrived. Not having them immediately available can put all the production on hold while waiting for just one part.

Universal Logic solves pallet quality problems. The Neocortex pallet inspection module is minimally invasive and can immediately provide complete pallet quality assurance. Powered by our state-of-the-art AI, it can integrate with any hardware for a near-instant start-up. The inspection suite is a major addition to Neocortex’s capabilities. It allows it to capture and analyze the slightest defects, returning a complete analysis in less than 2 seconds. Utilizing high-definition 3D sensors, Neocortex captures images of each pallet and analyzes them to assess their continued use. It handles block and stringer pallets and can diagnose faster and more accurately than any human operator or any pallet inspection solution in the marketplace.

Thankfully, of the many logistical challenges that face operations every day, failed pallets are a relatively easy problem to solve. With some clever positioning and slight changes, we can inspect pallets down to the slightest defect. So, before you induct pallets into an ASRS or palletizer, remember to inspect; otherwise, failures could be catastrophic.

Don’t let your million-dollar investments suffer because of a 20-dollar pallet.