Fill Plant Palletization

Think of the time required for loading and unloading a 40-foot trailer with cylinders: two people rolling cylinders two at a time for three hours. Now think of that trailer being loaded and unloaded by one person on a forklift moving pallets containing 12-18 cylinders secured inside a pallet for 30 minutes. The first scenario is inefficient, potentially hazardous and time-consuming. This article explains some of the advantages—and disadvantages—of the second one, palletization.

Benefits of Palletization
The majority of cylinder handling takes place in the possession of the distributor between branches, fill plants and outside suppliers. The palletized cylinders are taken directly to the filling area of the plant in clusters. Filling a pallet full of empties allows you to visualize your area with active cylinders. The system magnifies your ability to increase productivity by placing large numbers at the work site using capable methods of movement. There are no back strains, mashed fingers or toes. The cylinders are secured inside the pallet, preventing potential falling hazards.

Fill plant palletizationMan hours are reduced because fewer personnel are involved. Pallets of cylinders are eight times as productive as the usual two that can be safely handled by a human being. Reduced man hours equate to more money taken to the bottom line. With fewer workers and fewer moving cylinders, Workers’ Compensation claims are reduced.

A parking lot can be transformed into a dock utilizing pallets. Dock stock is put into use with the addition of a pallet header for quick, high-volume jobs. By manifolding the pallets through a single header, upwards of 50,000 cubic feet of high-pressure pure or mixed gases is provided.

Security cages and hardgoods waterproof boxes enhance branch service from the fill plant through the utilization of secured pallets for poisons and other controlled gases. Product is packaged and waiting for delivery as cylinders can be sorted, counted and matched to delivery tickets.

Pallets can be an additional asset in a rental fleet. Customers who rent pallets can presort their gases for easy swap outs, which is a considerable benefit to the distributor, while meeting the OSHA mandate of secured cylinders.

The Other Side
While palletizing a fill plant does offer benefits, there are some downsides that must be noted. Below are five common reasons distributors are not using pallets in their fill plants:
   1. It is not economically feasible.
   2. The business may be a very small operation and forklifts are just not in the picture yet.
   3. Due to inclement weather, box trucks are used for delivery.
   4. Because of the fill plant’s physical size, there is no room.
   5. It’s always worked this way, why change?

Looking at the complete picture, both pluses and minuses, using pallets for internal cylinder distribution and fill plant operations becomes an important decision. Increased efficiencies, safety and potential profit in the long run could be the result.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Jim Herring Meet the Author
Jim Herring is vice president of marketing & procurement at SafTCart, headquartered in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and on the Web at