CHEP, the giant pallet pool company known for its blue wooden pallets, is opening a new facility for product research. The Material Handing Simulator is located five miles from the company's existing Innovation Center in Florida and will expand the company's product and testing capabilities.
The new facility includes a loop of conveyor that simulates the lifecycle of a palletized shipment and the types of shocks and handling it typically receives. Pallets loaded with various types of products (including those for a particular customer) will travel along the conveyor, stopping at testing equipment mounted on a chassis. Each station replicates the typical forces that pallets experience at each touch—for example, during putaway on pallet racks, unloading from a truck, traveling on a forklift, and so forth. The equipment can be calibrated to reflect specific product types and conditions commonly found in different industries, such as grocery or consumer packaged goods. Each pallet has an RFID tag so the effects can be correlated with an individual pallet and the specific handling it received. One of the benefits of this system, said Marketing Director Derek Hannum, is that testing that used to take months can be replicated and compressed into days.
Another feature of the new facility is an automated digital inspection system that precisely measures the pallets in all dimensions, records the data for analysis, and determines whether repair is needed.