ince it is important for cold storage to balance the utilisation of space with the mobility of goods, APC Storage Solutions SA is leading the way towards greater economy of cold store refrigeration with its ultramodern in-rack pallet mole. The system was developed by leading European automation engineers at Mecalux, the official technology partner to APC Storage Solutions SA, to drastically reduce forklift travel times and improve storage densities.
“The pallet mole, referred to as satellite mole racking, offers cold storage facilities numerous benefits that improve overall productivity,” says Fred Albrecht, Managing Director, APC Storage Solutions SA. “Other than enhanced warehouse safety afforded by automation, the main advantage is the maximum utilisation of space, which allows facility owners to extract more value out of paid for square meterage.”
Pallet moles are installed permanently on each racking level and have guiderails that span the length of each rack. When a pallet is to be stored, a forklift or stacker crane lifts each pallet to height, and hands it over to the pallet mole – which then transports the pallet horizontally to its final storage location. Each mole remains within its designated rack, and the system eliminates the necessity for aisle space on each row’s side.
Benefits include a reduction in power consumption as a result of chilling more pallets in smaller spaces. “In a climate of escalating electricity costs, it is important to optimise the way we refrigerate on large scale, and the pallet mole is a step in the right direction,” says Albrecht.
Unlike traditional drive-in racking – whereby man-driven pallet trucks load and unload not by row-side access aisles, but by driving inside the actual racks – pallet moles create a single pick face at the end of the racking installation. With this system, satellite moles transfer pallets, fed by forklifts, to their final storage locations faster and more efficiently than man-driven forklifts.
Because forklifts no longer need to enter confined racking lanes, the risk of collisions is almost completely eliminated. This helps to radically extend the lifespan of racking installations, and improves general safety in warehouses. Other benefits include greater accuracy with digital item management, and remote control operation for high-paced picking and deposition.
“It is possible to further enhance cold storage efficiencies with a fully-automated compact crane, which allows for racking installations of up to 40m – much higher than a forklift with average heights of around 12 metres can reach,” says Albrecht.
This system uses conveyors and stacker crane-like installations to transport pallets from forklifts onto the pallet moles for deposition at such heights. High levels of automation are also ideal for cold storage facilities where extremely high throughput, high product turnover and improved utilisation of three-dimensional space are necessary.
“The pallet mole is incredibly versatile, as it’s suitable for both LIFO [last-in/first-out] and FIFO [first-in/first-out] as moles can be installed on either end of a racking system, creating a pick face on both ends,” concludes Albrecht.
APC Storage Solutions SA is the South African market leader with the Spanish Mecalux as technology partner. A supplier of world-class products and integrated logistical storage solutions and services, APC Storage Solutions SA is focused on the core values Quality, Experience, Safety, and Technology – QUEST. APC Storage Solutions SA has FEM (European Federation of Material Handling Equipment), SEMA UK (Storage Equipment Manufacturing Association) and RMI (Rack Manufacturers Institute of America) accreditation, along with accreditation from 14 other federations and associations.