Food & Drink Process & Packaging Issue 7 2016 - Page 32

Retail stacks that are pleasing to the pallet By Paul Wilkinson, Business Development Manager, Pacepacker Services Stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap was once a palletising tactic confined to wholesale outlets. Yet nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see pallet loads, especially around busy seasonal periods, carefully positioned on supermarket floors. More complex patterns, combined with revisions by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to the L23 manual handling guidance (Manual Handling Operations; Regulations 1992), is proving to be catalyst for automating palletising operations. It might seem like a giant game of Jenga, but given that back injuries from manual handling are a major cause of occupational ill health, palletising is no game. Well over a third of injuries lasting three-days or more reported annually to the HSE are caused by manual handling. Switching from stacking pallets by hand to automated solutions, is far less risk averse. It can also significantly increase your production output and save on transport and labour costs. Different strokes for different stacks There are a whole host of stacking patterns. The actual design will ultimately depend on the where the pallet is destined for, e.g. shipping container patterns would be different to a wholesaler like Costco. Again, stability is vital and in most pallets you won’t see the same pattern repeated layer upon layer. Like building a brick wall, most cases are arranged to interlock. One exception tends to when stacking rigid cardboard boxes of similar size. Here, it can actually increase the rigidity of the overall pallet if each row is mirrored. For those heading to the retail stores, packaging labels are also orientated to face outwards on all four sides. Weighing up the risks If you are currently stacking pallets by hand, it’s important to give consideration to a number of factors. Manual handling hazards are wide ranging. The recent revisions suggest that when lifting at waist height, it’s around 25kg for me