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Scanning System Developed by Pooling Partners in Europe Leads to Pallet Perfection
Quality Scanning: European pallet manufacturer and pooler pioneers development of quality scanning system to meet requirements of high-production nailing lines.
By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 8/1/2016
European pallet manufacturer and pooler pioneers development of quality scanning system to meet requirements of high-production nailing lines.
When you produce a pallet every six seconds on a machine, it is possible to overlook things even if you have a robust quality control program in place. That is what Pooling Partners, the largest pooler and producer of pallets in Europe, has discovered. The company has pioneered a scanning system to inspect new produced pallets inline for missing or misplaced boards and blocks.
And the results after more than six months of use have been phenomenal as the company seeks to produce the perfect pallet for some very quality conscious customers.
Pooling Partners produces and repairs more than 20 million pallets per year in its factories in Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. A Dutch family-owned business, Pooling Partners operates three major pooling services in Europe – IPP Logipal pool, PAKI Logistics network, and PRS Return System.
Customer Complaints Lead to Innovation
Pooling Partners discovered that its previous process that required human inspectors could be optimized. More precision and speed in the process was needed. Customers wanted better quality consistency without having to spend their time inspecting pallets upon delivery.
Erik Faber, commercial director for Pooling Partners, commented, “Our quality scanning system looks to ensure that a pallet has all the parts, and that they are in the right place. If a board or block is missing or improperly placed, the system detects the problem and removes the pallet for repair. This system is necessary because our production lines produce about 600 pallets per hour, so you need to have an automatic system to inspect the pallet because the human eye can’t detect defects at that speed.”
Pooling Partners looked to solutions that were already widely used in the cigarette production and hygiene sectors. Faber said that although the scan system looks like a camera, it isn’t really a camera. And the screenshot from the computer resembles a thermal scan although the measurements are not made using heat detection. Primarily, they were looking for speed and accuracy; two goals that only automation could achieve.
There are some camera systems that have been explored by other big pallet companies, but Faber suggested they are not as accurate as what his company has developed and may not be as fast.
The pallet quality scan system was tested inline on a Corali M90 nailing machine. Faber added, “The machine never stops, the pallet only stands still for a split second to be analyzed.”
The system can easily and quickly be recalibrated to produce different types of pallets because everything is controlled by software.
So what has been the result? Faber explained, “All the mechanical failures have been removed. We have 100% accurate delivery to the customer except for the loading and unloading damage.”
Faber added, “It wasn’t really about reducing personnel. The main driver behind deploying this technology in our manufacturing plants is the pursuit of speed and accuracy.”
And the company has been so pleased with the results, it is planning on rolling out the technology to its other production machines. The system will work on a wide variety of machine models and types according to Faber. It can also work on both a block and stringer style design.
Continued Innovation in Pursuit of Pallet Perfection
Although Pooling Partners is happy with its scanning system, they are looking to add the ability to scan for missing or protruding nails. Also, they may want to improve upon the technology to deploy in recycling facilities. Right now, the company relies on human inspection for sortation and quality checks at repair facilities. When it comes to pallet repair and re-use, a similar system could eliminate personnel and improve accuracy. Faber explained, “If pallets are checked by machine it is easier to sort and check pallets to the same standard.”
Instead of sell the technology to others, Pooling Partners plans to use it in-house to improve quality and customer loyalty. Faber declared that the new scanning system is not something his company will look to sell because it is a differentiating factor for its brands.
Faber boasted, “Our objective is to deliver a flawless pallet.”
A Different Approach
The company dates back to 1891 and is a leading pooler and producer of pallets and boxes in Europe. It operates some of the largest private pools in Europe, and is committed to quality.
Faber stated, “We stand out because of our simplicity. We have very easy to understand invoices and ways to work with us. We always maintain high quality standards on each shipment because pallets go back to repair centers before going to the next customer.”
Faber explained that some other poolers in Europe will allow pallets to be issued to new customers without going through a repair depot. Pooling Partners operates seven production facilities throughout Europe, more than 10,000 pooling stations and more than 800 employees. The company services customers in the chemical, building supply, consumer goods and automotive sectors.
Pursuing perfection is not easy. It comes at a cost. But Pooling Partners has found that a commitment to quality pays off as automation is making every broken pallet in a supply chain that much bigger of a problem. For more information, visit www.poolingpartners.com.