The Benefits of Automated Mixed-Case Palletizing in Food and Beverage Distribution

by Prime Robotics
mixed-case palletizing

One critical process in food and beverage distribution that demands efficiency is palletizing—the process of placing, stacking, and transporting cases of goods on pallets for storage or shipping. Traditional palletizing methods are time-consuming and labor-intensive, leading to errors and increased costs. Automated mixed-case palletizing systems help warehouses streamline their operations and improve productivity.

What is Mixed-Case Palletizing?

Mixed-case palletizing—often referred to as mixed-SKU palletizing or building “rainbow pallets”—is the process of building pallets with a variety of different SKUs rather than uniform cases of a single product. This method allows food and beverage warehouses to fulfill diverse orders more efficiently and meet customers’ unique needs.

What are the Benefits of Building Mixed-Case Pallets?

Sequencing of Cases on Pallets:

Automated systems arrange cases and pallets in specific sequences tailored to customer orders or delivery routes. For example, software guides a robotic arm to build a pallet based on how the customer wants to receive it, with canned goods on the bottom and packaged snacks on the top. When the mixed case arrives at the store, the staff unloads the goods according to plan and minimizes shelf-stocking time.

Improved Inventory and Order Accuracy:

Advanced software powers mixed-case palletizing systems and minimizes human error. Pick and pack stations may include count-back capabilities to ensure inventory data aligns with picker counts. Prime’s Advanced Pallet Station (APS) is equipped with visual indicators to identify cells and locations to guide human pickers with spot-on accuracy. By integrating with a robotic arm, these systems deliver 99.9% picking accuracy and ensure that each pallet is assembled according to the order specifications.

Space Saving:

Automated mixed-case palletizing systems use high-density configurations and sequencing to maximize space on pallets for storage. For example, cases with irregular shapes are arranged to fit snugly against and on top of each other. This ensures pallets are built efficiently, increases storage capacity within the warehouse, and reduces the need for additional footprint.

Reduced Product Damage:

Maintaining product quality is critical in food and beverage distribution. Automated mixed-case palletizing systems minimize the risk of product damage. These systems configure cases tightly and efficiently on pallets, reducing empty spaces between cases. This lowers the chance of products shifting, colliding, and breaking during transportation. Cases may also be arranged so that fragile items are more protected.

Many mixed-case palletizing systems incorporate quality control checks to identify damaged inbound goods before they are palletized. This helps ensure that only intact products are stored and eventually shipped to customers.

Lower Transportation Costs:

Efficient mixed-case building optimizes the use of space on each pallet, so more goods can fit in each truckload for shipping and delivery. This reduces the number of trucks required to transport goods, lowers freight costs, and improves overall logistics efficiency.

Increased Speed:

Mixed-case palletizing systems often integrate with autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) to transport empty pallets to the picking area and completed rainbow pallets to the staging, wrapping, or shipping area. Pallet-moving AMRs use navigation technology, such as QR codes or simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), to chart the most efficient path to their destination. This enables food and beverage distributors to move goods through the warehouse more quickly, improve order fulfillment speed, and cope with high-demand periods.

Prime’s Solutions Transform Mixed-Case Palletizing

Prime’s integrated solutions streamline the mixed-case palletizing process. APS accelerates picking in single-SKU to multi-SKU workflows and builds up to three simultaneous orders. It delivers over 500 picks per hour with a human picker and up to 900 picks per hour with a robotic arm. This allows food and beverage warehouses to effortlessly build rainbow pallets and fulfill diverse orders.

In today’s world, consumers and retailers increasingly demand product variety and customization from their food and beverage distributors. Automated mixed-case palletizing empowers warehouses to meet these evolving demands with increased accuracy and efficiency.

Contact us to schedule your workflow assessment and learn how Prime’s mixed-case palletizing solutions can help your food and beverage warehouse deliver greater customer value.

Prime Robotics