Walmart expects suppliers to focus on improving each “link” in their supply chain. From item creation to getting product to its stores on time and in full, Walmart asks suppliers to continually monitor each step of the process. The whole reason for the Supplier Quality Excellence Program is to perfect the supply chain to keep costs down and product in stock.
One area susceptible to fines from Walmart is a supplier’s pallets. Bad palleting can be anything from wrong labels, bad barcodes, or product that is damaged in transit due to poor stacking and security. The first step in assembling secure pallets fit for transit to a Walmart location is to understand TI/HI palleting.
What Is TI/HI Palleting?
TI is the number of cases making up a tier on a pallet. HI is the number of tiers on the pallet. A pallet holding 6 cases of an item on a layer that is stacked 5 high has a TI/HI of 30.
Why Is Knowing TI/HI Important?
Knowing the appropriate TI/HI number is imperative for safe and secure pallet shipments. Loading pallets to the calculated TI/HI number ensures stability of the pallet, prevents over-hanging product on the pallet, and decreases the chances of product sliding during transit.
If product is stacked on a pallet with incorrect TI/HI information, it can cause numerous issues for the supplier. These include safety issues at the warehouse (as well as in transit) and loss of time and money upon arrival at the retailer. Damaged freight will not be accepted by the retailer. This causes the supplier to lose money from lost sales as well as fines from the retailer in some cases.
Using TI/HI in Building Pallets
Once a supplier has calculated the appropriate TI/HI, it is time to start building safe and sturdy pallets. To keep the merchandise secure in transit, and to avoid injuries in the warehouse, here are some best practices when building pallets:
Overlap Boxes in Stacking
Avoid stacking boxes one directly on top of another (like a tower). This pattern gets wobbly the higher it is stacked. To create a secure load, lay the bottom tier of boxes then set the first box of the second tier at a point where two bottom-tier boxes meet (much like a brick-laying pattern). This creates a stable pattern better for transit.
Avoid Boxes Hanging off Pallet
It is ideal to stack boxes right to the edge of the pallet. This makes strapping more secure as it eliminates unwanted (and unsafe) space between the boxes and the straps. However, boxes that hang over the edge of a pallet are just as dangerous. This can cause damage to the product in transit and cause the pallet to be unstable.
Place Heaviest Boxes on the Pallets First
When loading a pallet of boxes with varying weights, always stack heaviest up to lightest. The pallet will be sturdiest with a heavier base and lighter boxes at the top of the stack ensures less chance of damage during transit and storage.
After stacking the boxes and before shrink-wrapping, applying straps is imperative to securing the load. For best results, boxes should be stacked to the edge of the pallet so there are no gaps between the load and the strap. For the most stability, at least two straps should be applied to each side of the pallet.
Why Is Palletization Important?
For new suppliers in the process of setting up their supply chain, knowing TI/HI is important. However, understanding the core of palletization is essential for a smoother process flow.
Palletization is the supply chain process of placing product on a pallet to secure and consolidate the shipment. This creates a time-saving and more manageable way to move product during storage, transit, and distribution.
Palletization is a universal supply chain method of transit preferred by retailers. Time is saved by consolidating multiple smaller containers into one single unit load. The pallet can then be transported as one unit instead of several smaller ones. This single consolidated unit is then easier to receive and handle at the retailer’s store or distribution center via pallet jacks or forklifts.
Because palletization is a universal method of supply chain transit, a supplier can use its TI/HI information and load method for multiple retailers. A standard pallet has dimensions of 48 x 40-inches and can hold up to 4,600 pounds.
Benefits of Palletizing
Using pallets to store and transport product has numerous advantages for the supplier as well as the retailer. Some of the benefits of palletizing for supply chain efficiency include:
- Decreased product damage: Proper stacking and securing of product on a pallet decreases the chances items will be damaged in transit. This also decreases issues like lost sales and retailer fines.
- Less labor required: Palletization allows more product to be moved by fewer employees. One person moving stacks of product with a pallet jack or forklift saves time over manually moving individual boxes.
- Improved inventory accountability: SKUs on a pallet are easier to track and monitor. Coding on each pallet allows the warehouse to quickly know a pallet’s product volume and overall stock level.
- Time-saving at the dock door: Product arriving at a distribution center or store on a pallet takes less time to unload. The faster the delivery can be unloaded, the better the chance the truck can stay on schedule with each stop on the route. This time efficiency keeps the dock doors from being blocked for multiple deliveries throughout the day.
- Preferred for perishable products: By transporting perishable product on a pallet, handling is much quicker, which reduces any risk to the items spoiling due to prolonged transport in unfavorable temperatures.
- Optimized storage space: Because of the universal size of standard pallets, the ability to align and stack pallets creates better use of space in warehouses and trucks.
Different Types of Palletizing
When a supplier first decides to make palletizing part of their supply chain practice, the next step is to choose a method. There are three methods of palletizing:
1. Manual Palletizing
As the name suggests, manual palletizing is the use of manual force (usually by hand) to load product on a pallet. An employee in a warehouse physically moving boxes from an assembly line conveyor and then arranging them on a pallet is manual palletizing.
The biggest advantage to manual palletizing is simply the cost. Because it doesn’t require any expensive machinery, it is the least expensive form of palletizing. Disadvantages include time and risk. The manual method obviously takes more time than more automated forms of palletizing. Plus, the use of manual labor increases the risk of injury to employees.
2. Semi-Automated Palletizing
Semi-automated palletizing is a combination of manual and automated palletizing. The process usually begins manually (an employee working the products by hand) and proceeds to use automatic palletizer machines.
An example of semi-automated palletizing would be when pallet wrapping is being done automatically, the pallet load is built manually by hand. Semi-automated palletizing has several advantages:
- Versatile enough to work with various transport forms (pallets, totes, cases, and skids).
- Faster than manual palletizing, allowing for greater productivity.
- Lowers the risks associated with manual palletizing worker injuries.
- Benefits of automation while keeping the versatility of manual palletizing.
- Increases efficiency by keeping the pallet’s top platform at an ergonomic height for workers.
Because semi-automated palletizing still involves human labor, the main disadvantage is the chance of human error or injury.
3. Automated Palletizing
Automated (or robotic) palletizing requires the full use of palletizing machinery to place product on a pallet. This type of palletizing is most common in automated warehouses. The most common categories with warehousing designed for automated palletizing include pharmaceuticals, electronics, food processing, and agriculture.
For smaller suppliers, the main disadvantage of automated palletizing is simply the expense. The purchase and maintenance may not be sustainable for smaller suppliers. Outside of utilizing one of the other two palletizing methods, smaller suppliers may also look at partnering with a third-party warehouse/distributor with automated palletizing as a service option.
Errors to Avoid in Palletizing
While knowing and communicating the correct pallet TI/HI is essential, there is more to creating a safe a secure pallet. Before loading that merchandise onto a truck, here are some common errors to avoid:
Missing or Misplaced Labels
Walmart suppliers understand this issue all too well. Part of Walmart’s Supplier Quality Excellence Program (SQEP) is a priority on pallets being labeled and barcoded correctly. When pallets have incorrect or no labels and barcodes, they cause delays in the stores and distribution centers. They ultimately result in lost sales and fines to the supplier.
To avoid these issues further down the supply chain, suppliers should check the labeling/barcoding process in their warehouses and ensure they are compliant with Walmart guidelines.
Using the Wrong Sized Pallet
As stated before, the most common pallet size used today has dimensions of 48 x 40 inches. However, there are more sizes of pallets to accommodate different types of product and shipments. Using the universal-sized pallet when it is not right for your specific shipping needs can be dangerous, particularly if it results in boxes hanging over the pallet’s edge or if it is too small to allow for secure strapping.
Suppliers should research the most efficient pallets to ship their product if the universal pallet size causes any issues during loading or transit.
Improper Load-Securing Measures
Pallets that are not secure can cause injury to employees and damage to products in transit. Many issues in not properly securing product on a pallet can be attributed to a lack of shrinkwrap and poor strapping.
Shrinkwrap should be tight around the pallet load and used generously. You can not “over shrinkwrap” a pallet, so whether by machine or manually, ensure the load is tight so product does not move in transit.
Strapping loads to the pallet creates great security but done improperly, creates risks. If straps are secure to the bottom of the pallet, but there is space between the lower end of the strap and the bottom tier of boxes, there is still a risk of product sliding during transit. Eliminate any space between the product and the straps.
Incorrectly Packing Individual Boxes
The warehouse can do everything correctly: assemble loads to the TI/HI, strap and shrinkwrap securely, and ensure the correct sized pallet is being used. However, if the individual product boxes are not packed appropriately for transit, merchandise can still be damaged before reaching its destination. This is an issue that must be fixed early in the development process. Suppliers need to ensure appropriate shipping measures are in place so the individual product stays secure in the box before being loaded in the warehouse.
Assembling proper pallets for transit keeps costs down, ensures safety, and reduces Walmart fines. Understanding TI/HI is an essential step in building better pallets of merchandise and improving SQEP.
The team at 8th & Walton helps Walmart suppliers improve their supply chains from that first purchase order to researching replenishment issues. To ask about improving any step in your supply chain, request a free 15-minute consultation.
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