When it comes to evaluating new pallet concepts or design modifications that might benefit customers, CHEP has historically relied upon a combination of its Innovation Center at Orlando, Florida, and customer field trials.
The CHEP Pallet Test Track in Orlando, Florida, USA.
The Innovation Center offers world-class prototyping and comparison testing — but it cannot provide the statistically significant operational data necessary to minimise the business risk of rolling out a new product across the network.
CHEP needed a faster, less complex way to gather statistical performance data on new pallet ideas: for example, assessing the extent to which the cost of a change in engineering or design will benefit customers through greater durability throughout the entire life of the pallet.
The solution, the world’s first testing facility for pallets and customer unit-loads that measures the handling impacts throughout the entire distribution life cycle, opened in Orlando in late 2010.
The Pallet Test Track is capable of simulating all aspects of the real environment, from forklift truck impacts and improper manual handling to performance under loads of 3,000lbs in automated storage and racking configurations.
A state-of-the-art robotic vision system generates high-resolution three-dimensional images to assess damage, durability and life cycle, while ceiling-mounted web cameras allow 24/7 monitoring.
The facility enables CHEP to bring new platforms to market faster and at lower cost, benefiting customers and lowering overall supply chain costs. It is capable of testing the common pallet sizes CHEP uses in its 49 countries of operation.
CHEP can test large quantities of pallets quickly, subjecting them to the stresses and strains of a lifetime of trips in a very short time. Trials start with small quantities of pallets, returning quick results that show whether a particular innovation is likely to succeed or fail. If an idea looks promising, CHEP adds more pallets to the test to gather statistically significant data.
CHEP can generate the same data as it would generate from a 5,000-pallet customer field trial with 90% fewer pallets in the controlled environment of the pallet test track. Trial times have fallen to between four and eight weeks, compared with more than a year for the customer field trials, enabling faster innovation for both CHEP and its participating customers.
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