99 Problems But Pitch Ain’t One

Getting your product to the pick point is crucial to your order picking operation. At UNEX, the rule of thumb is that your pitch should equal one inch per linear foot of depth, or approximately five degrees of pitch. Therefore, if you’ve got a flow lane that is eight feet deep, your pitch should be eight inches. However, warehouses and distribution centers can introduce many variables that we simply cannot account for in the UNEX “laboratory.” Today we’ll talk about the challenges involved in achieving perfect pitch.
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And before you start to warm up your pipes- we’re still talking about carton flow, not your singing career. 

The most important factors are weight of the “carton”, depth of the lane, and the carton type/quality. If you’ve got a heavy product and a long flow lane, too much pitch means the first carton can be crushed by the cartons stored behind it. However, pitch should also be adjusted to compensate for environmental variables. A distribution center in Florida will require a different pitch than a distribution center in Manitoba. Humidity plays a major role in this respect. In more humid areas, your cardboard cartons will absorb moisture, making them far more susceptible to imprinting. In this instance, pitch should be increased to ensure that those cartons roll smoothly over the roller or wheel surface. Carton quality comes into play here as well. A sturdier carton that is less vulnerable to imprinting will require less pitch than your more flimsy cardboard cartons.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the frigid conditions of freezer or cooler space requires special considerations when it comes to pitch as well. When products are loaded into the freezer, they often become more solid as they freeze. This can change the bottom surface of the carton or container. For example, a carton of ice cream may solidify more after loading it into the freezer, causing the bottom to freeze with a wheel or roller imprint. In these situations, an increase in pitch can alleviate flow issues in your freezer or cooler.

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Even the type of carton flow being utilized can have an impact on pitch. For instances, rollers or wheels constructed with bearings will flow more smoothly and provide better restart than their bushing-based counterparts. UNEX recommends only a half an inch of pitch for carton flow options utilizing bearings, as opposed to the standard inch of pitch.

The best way to figure out what pitch is required in your facility is to simply test your carton flow solution before implementing it through the warehouse. However, many people make a very unfortunate mistake in their testing- they will take a carton, push it down the track, and say, “Hey! It works great!” They then set the rest of their bays to that pitch.

The problem here is that testing restart is far more important than testing your initial flow. For the most part, a single carton, when placed on the back of a pitched track, will flow to the front without any issue. But what about when the track is fully loaded? Without the right pitch, when the front carton is pulled, the cartons behind it may not slide up to the point of pick, essentially reverting your dynamic storage back into static. UNEX recommends fully loading the carton flow lane and allowing it to sit for a full twenty four hours. Then pull the first carton to ensure that the chosen pitch provides a good restart for the cartons behind it.

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Testing your pitch properly is crucial when implementing UNEX’s carton flow solutions. After all, who wants to set a hundred or more bays to the wrong pitch? That’s sure to eat up time, money, and productivity in your facility. If you’re looking for more hints, UNEX can provide you with everything you need to hit the perfect pitch.

Okay, now you can start singing.