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SECTION 3 - A Guided Tour.

(Covers: Introduction, Example 1 - Palletise, Example 2 - Collation, Improving Solutions)

3.1 Introduction.

Here we introduce you to some of the basic features of PALLETMANAGER and provide you with link / hyperlinks to more advanced material which may be relevant as you begin to exploit the software to its full potential. Two examples are given - one of which is presented as a two page 'Summary' whilst the second is given full detailed treatment. 

Other entries provide access to database facilities (or the online manual) and will be described later. When selected the Mode Selection Screen (Screen 1) is displayed:

On trial and evaluation copies of the software all the above entries will be shown. On purchased copies a subset appropriate to your needs may be shown. The above screen allows you to select which Mode of Operation you wish to use. The text and graphics illustrate the basic functions of each. In practice the input and display screens associated with different modes of operation are very similar to each other. 

One of the above modes of operation 'Pallet Comparison' uses the Palletise mode to compare the efficiency of using different pallet sizes. This has been recently added and details on its operation can be found in Section 5.14 of this manual.



3.2 Example 1 - Palletise Mode (Summary treatment).

Examine the optimal pallet layouts available for a case of size 230 * 125 *100 on a pallet of size 1200 *1000 * 1620.

Solution: From the opening menu select New Run and then from the Mode Selection screen (previous page) select Palletise. Enter case details for the problem as below:

The Code and Description entries are your identifiers, primaries / case and case volume values the default entries (Used for costing movements if required). Select Continue and Pallet Default values are displayed. On this occasion these match the problem definition. Normally you will configure the Pallet Database (see Section 4)

Select Pack and the optimal solutions for this problem will be calculated. 


Above we allowed any case dimension to be vertical - hence 3 optimal solutions:

We highlight with the mouse Solution 1 and then select layout. The first of 46 optimal pallet layouts for this problem is shown. The + / - Pattern buttons allow us to browse.


After viewing the patterns available the one most suitable for creating the 3D pallet stack is selected and (here) 'Stack Mirror' is selected to produce the picture shown here.

Assuming this is acceptable you select Print / View and proceed to a menu where detailed reports to screen and printer are generated.

Any (or all) screen graphics can be cut to the Windows clipboard and pasted into Windows applications. The software also has an inbuilt Store database.

The above example provides a very quick and basic overview of operations. In practice it will usually be necessary to investigate the problem rather more thoroughly using some of the powerfull analysis features of the software. A summary of some PALLETMANAGER facilities to assist you further can be found in Section 3.4, which also provides links to the manual pages where further information can be found.

3.3 Example 2 - Collation Mode (Detailed examination).

The treatment of this example does not assume that you have necessarily examined or tackled Example 1. In using Collation mode you will gain most of the skills needed to use all other modes of operation.



Tutorial - Data Entry.

Collation mode is used when you have a product (termed within PALLETMANAGER as a primary unit), a number of which need to be collated together to form a distribution unit (Case, shrink wrap unit etc) which must then to be palletised.

On selecting the Collation button the Primary Data Input Screen (Screen 2) is displayed:

The top menu bar of this screen, like nearly all others, provides access to 3 functions:

Exit - Finish with the current examination and return to the main menu.

Manual - Access the on-disk copy of the manual. This will load your web browser software and open the manual at a section of that manual appropriate to the problem type and screen you are on. 

Help - This will access a Windows helpfile which is designed specifically to answer questions about the specific screen you are on.

Thus the level of software support available from all screens within the application is considerable.

The lower portion of screen invites entry of details on the primary unit (which will then be collated and the resultant unit packed optimally on a pallet).

The Code and Description are presented on reports you will produce and are also used if you save the result of your analysis to disk for later recall using the Store module.

On entry to this screen the entry cursor will be positioned ready for a Code to be entered.

On all screens, you can use the mouse to position the entry cursor in a particular entry box and then type in the entry. Having completed the entry you can use either the Tab key or the Enter key to complete the entry or use the mouse to move to another entry field. When using the Tab or Enter keys the entry cursor will automatically move to the next entry field. (On some screens the up/down arrow keys may also be used).

Tutorial - Collation problem and data entry.

We will examine the following problem:

Collate a primary unit of external dimensions 65mm * 55mm * 52mm which weighs 0.11Kg in 12's into a cardboard case and then palletise the case in the most efficient manner. We will assume that the 52mm dimension must be placed vertically in the case.

After entry of these details the screen is as below:

(Suitable Code and Description details have been added). The annual case volume entry is used in costing as is described below.

A tick has been selected for the 52mm dimension to be vertical. The 3 primary dimensions can be input in any order (though logically they might be assumed to be, in sequence, primary length, width and height).

Having completed entry of the primary information Continue is selected to proceed to Pallet and Style Selection screen (Screen 3). This is shown below:

On entry this screen will already be completed. Details of a Pallet (here 1200 * 1000 * 1620) and of a Case Style (a B flute case) are shown. These are Default entries which we will use on this occasion. We could edit any of the details shown for a specific run.

PALLETMANAGER has user configured databases for both Pallet Details and Case Details and here the default entries (Entry 1) from each of these databases have been recalled. You will be shown in Section 4 of this guide how to configure Pallet and Style detail databases to be appropriate to your company.

Although on this occasion the above entries are suitable for our needs the effect of selection both the Pallet / Load Space Database and Style Database buttons is illustrated below.

If we select from Screen 3 the Pallet Database button the following screen is displayed:

This displays Pallet 1 (of 10) from the Pallet / Load Space Database (here the default pallet). The details shown are the same as were displayed on Screen 3. We could edit these or browse through the other pallet sizes held in the (user defined) database. When viewing Pallet 1 select Use this Pallet.

Whilst in this instance we are tackling a problem in which the load space is a pallet, PALLETMANAGER can equally well tackle problems of loading product into a tray, tote box or even a shipping container. Section 16 of this manual illustrates how a tray or tote may be specified as the load space in a similar manner to the pallet described above.

In a similar manner we can look in more detail at the Style database by selecting Style Database from Screen 3. Following a 'warning' information screen, the following screen is displayed:

Once again the default entry (Style 1) is displayed together this a considerable amount of detail relating to this Style. The configuration of this database is covered in detail in Section 4 of this manual. For the present we select Use this Style and return to Screen 3 (shown earlier and repeated below):

As we are happy with the details shown we can enter the Calculation phase of PALLETMANAGER by selecting Pack. If however we wished to change details of the primary then we could select Back to return to the Primary Data Entry screen (Screen 2). Most screens in the software allow you to move quickly backwards to previous screens. An Advanced Options button is also available above. This provides access to a range of more advanced functions which are discussed in detail in Section 5 of the manual. They include such facilities as alternate collation quantities and ranges, advanced sensitivity tools etc. Note that the option to select 'Packing a cylinder' on the above screen will only be available when two or more of the product dimensions are equal.

Tutorial Results Display.

Having selected Pack from the above screen PALLETMANAGER will then:

On entry the 'best' solution is highlighted. You can browse through the results for other case sizes (using the scroll bar, arrow keys, Home, End and PgUp/Dn keys). You can also use the left mouse button to highlight any of the other entries for further examination.

If we examine the above highlighted entry: It fits 639 cases on the pallet, each case being 138mm * 118mm * 168mm. Nine layers of 71 cases are used. 96% of the pallet base area is covered but height utilisation is not that good as there is over 100mm left unused on top of the pallet - an extra 60mm on our height limit would allow an extra layer to be accommodated, and in addition we would need to relax our pallet weight limit by 14kg.

Other entries in the table also deserve consideration. For example Entries 2 and 4 are both constrained by the same height restriction and should an extra 60mm be available then both would be able to accommodate an extra layer of cases. Entry 3 is even more interesting. This provides a good pallet area utilisation (96%) and only requires an extra 4mm in height to allow an extra layer. Whilst it is currently more costly than Entry 1 (400/yr), given the extra height (4mm) then it might still prove a better solution.

We should of course examine entries lower in the list in a similar manner.

We should also consider in a little more detail the Cost Figures presented and what they mean: In this example we stated on the data entry screen that 12 primary units were to be collated together to form a case, and that we expected to ship some 100,000 cases of the product / year. For a given number of cases / pallet this implies the need to store and transport a certain number of pallets. In addition we also need to considered the likely cost of manufacturing 100,000 cases.

Each line of results in the above table gives us a case size and a number of cases / pallet. PALLETMANAGER uses this information to calculate a distribution costs (based on a cost / pallet - held in the pallet database entry - and the number of pallet loads required), and a case materials cost (based on the case style and a cost sq. m of board as held in the Style database). If your screen resolution allows then these separate costs will be presented to the right of the tabular display as shown below:

The initial default ordering of the display ranks the solutions according to the total cost. This can result in the least cost solution not actually fitting the most units / pallet. The latest version now provided an additional set of buttons on the tabular results screen (Screen 5), so that the display can be 'toggled' between the traditional cost based listing and one sorted according the the quantity of product / pallet. When using the latter the result at the top of the listing may fit more primaries / pallet but may cost a little more overall due to differences in the costs of the case - different case designs holding the same quantity of product may require very different amounts of packaging material.

We can also quickly examine the influence of a height limit change in either of two ways. One, which will be described in detail in Section 5, would be to use the Advanced Options available on this screen. However just as quickly on this occasion we can select the Back button (which returns to the Pallet / Style Details screen (Screen 3). On that screen (shown below) adjust the height limit from 1620 to 1624 (to allow the extra 4mm) and then select Pack.

The results using the slightly bigger height limit are calculated and displayed as below:

These confirm that Case 204 * 118 * 116 (original Entry 3) is indeed able to fit an extra layer onto the pallet and now accommodates 672 cases / pallet - the best of all the 11 solutions. However, it is still ranked in 3rd place (though with costs close to Entry 1) - the extra costs of packaging material to construct this case design (based on material area) still outweigh the savings in transportation costs.

This example illustrates the importance of both Case Material and Pallet Transportation costs on the selection of the least cost option. These are defined by the user in the Pallet and Style databases (discussed in Section 4) and mean that the case design which maximises cases / pallet is not necessarily the most economical design. 

It is of course possible to configure the database entries so as to ignore costs and thus rank solutions purely on the basis of pallet fill - though the implications of this action needs to be appreciated. Also it is essential that dialogue takes place with case designers to ensure the price differential between case designs is as suggested. In Palletise mode - where the pallet size is already defined - Pallet utilisation and transportation costs are naturally equivalent and thus ranking then is on a cases / pallet basis.

The example also illustrates the need to examine the tabular results carefully. Here, by allowing just 4mm extra height an 8% loading improvement has been obtained for at least one solution. Not only should the top 4 entries (as shown here) be examined, but also other entries further down the ranking which, with some small change to constraints, could result in a dramatic improvement in solution quality.

A number of more advanced techniques to obtain improved solutions are summarised in Section 3.4 and discussed in detail in Section 5.

It is also important to emphasize that every entry in the above tables of results represents the optimal packing for that given case on the stated pallet. The geometric characteristics of the case determine whether a good or poor packing can be achieved. In the above table the entry ranked last in the table only fills 78% of the pallet area - yet this is indeed the best that can be achieved!

Tutorial - Layout and Collation Display.

From the above tables of results it seems likely that either the cost efficient Entry 1 or the volume efficient Entry 3 are likely to be the most suitable solutions.

For each entry there will be between 1 and 100 different geometric arrangements of the given case on the pallet, each of which provide exactly the same optimal packing quantity. Some of these arrangements will be good from a stacking point of view whilst others may be highly unstable.

If we highlight Entry 1 and then select Layout the Layout Selection screen (Screen 6) is displayed as below.

This presents a 2D view of  just one of the 38 arrangements of this case size on the pallet which provides this optimal packing solution. You can use to + Pattern and - Pattern buttons at the top right of the screen to examine a few of the available arrangements. Some are clearly better than others from a loading and stability viewpoint. Controls are available on screen to move and/or centralise cases in the arrangement before 'building the pallet stack' - this is discussed below and in Section 5

On this occasion we will select the back to table option, highlight Entry 3 in the table, and then examine the Layouts for this volume efficient entry. Just two optimal arrangements are available for this problem - these are shown below.

Whilst both are a little complex the left hand one should certainly provide a stable stack.


[If we were concerned that the layout was indeed too complex PALLETMANAGER is, of course, able to provide you with simpler solutions fitting one case / less layer via the Advanced option on Screen 5]

From the menu adjacent to diagram the following actions can be used to build up a 3D pallet stack. (This menu like some others can be moved around the screen using the mouse).


The topmost buttons allow you to browse through the various layouts available for the highlighted table entry.

Sometimes the boxes in the layout need centralising on length or width or spacing out along that dimension. These buttons perform such actions.
Having identified a suitable layout the Build Stack buttons allow you to build up a 3D stack using, as alternate layers an identical, mirror, flipped or rotated image.

To gain a clearer view of the degree of interlock between layers the equivalent two dimensions view of 'layer 2 on top of layer 1' can be viewed using the Display 2D buttons.

In 'extreme' circumstances it is possible to combine any two totally different layouts to form a stack - something of a last resort usually.



You can also specify that the base of the pallet stack is column stacked, with upper layers forming an interlocked pattern.

These allow you to either return to the tabular results table or, use the displayed solution and view / print the reports then available.

The result of selecting Flip whilst displaying Layout 1 is shown.

Assuming that this is indeed a suitable stacking pattern selecting Print / View will lead to the Notes & Reports screen (Screen 7) from where Printer / Screen reports are selected. This is shown below.
























Reports are already very detailed but you can add addition text using any or all of the entries provided above. In addition you can select an alternate language to be used for output to screen / printer. Five reports are available here and screen and printer output are identical (though on-screen view shows top and bottom halves of the printed page on 2 screens). View on screen and then print as needed. Reports, or parts of reports can be Cut to the Windows clipboard using left and right mouse buttons. Language options in this release are English, French, German and Spanish.

Users having the Webbase module will also find an additional row of (white) buttons available. The Webbase module is fully described in Section 14 of this manual.

The first of the available reports (Ti/High) for Example 2 is shown below:


3.4 Improving Solutions.

The table below provides some suggestions and links for techniques to improve your solutions:

Height and Weight Limits?: On the Tabular Results Screen (Screen 5), examine all entries to see what change to height and/or weight constraints allows an extra layer. If this change is possible go Back to adjust constraint and re-solve. Alternatively use the Advanced layer functions described in Section 5.
Poor pallet area utilisation?: Could a very small amount of overhang be used? (2mm might be enough). To investigate go Back and add (say) 25mm to the (zero) overhang values on Screen 3 and re-solve. Both the overhang and non-overhang solutions will be shown - see Section 5.
Pallet top layer?: Could the top pallet layer consist of the same cases as the rest of the stack but in another orientation? If so select the Top-Layer option from Screen 4 as described in Section 11.
Dimension Changes (1)?: Just how close might you be to fitting extra product / layer. PALLETMANAGER gives you the optimal solution for the size you input but small changes to this (0.1mm perhaps) may improve things. The powerful Do Better module will help you! Described in Section 15.
Dimension changes (2)?: Is there any scope for minor dimensional changes to primary or case dimensions whilst still retaining volume. If so the powerful Fixed Volume module can assist you in improving solutions in a manner impossible using trial and error or stepwise examinations. (See Section 7).
Unstable stacks?: Are the optimal pallet patterns produced unable to be stacked in a suitably stable manner? Usually the ability to move and centralise layouts will provide the solution (See Section 5), but in extreme instances you may need to select totally different layouts (of the same case size) to achieve a stable stack (see Section 11).
Too complex?: Perhaps the optimal layouts are too complex and you need something simpler. You can reduce the number / layer to a lower value from the Results Summary screen using the Advanced options (See Section 5). This might also be appropriate with a very heavy product where the stack height is limited by weight. Reducing the number/layer by (say) one could allow an extra layer can be fitted.
Cube Packing?: If packing cases on a pallet could a solution be used with (say) all 3 case orientations used to create the stack. In such situations the Cube mode of operation is appropriate (see Section 8).
Cylindrical product?: If so have you examined the section relating to all aspects of cylindrical packing (see Section 10).
Saving Solutions?: Do you need to save solutions for future use either locally or on an Intranet. If so the Store module provides the solution.
In Collation / Tertiary Modes - as well as the above:
Case Material: Are the amounts allowed for case material sufficient or excessive? The 'stackability' of different case designs can be examined using the Case Strength module described in Section 6.
Case Costs: Are the cost entries for case materials appropriate. As illustrated in Example 2 tackled earlier in this section solutions with the highest pallet utilisation are not necessarily the most cost effective.
Case rationalisation: Do you need to consider whether any existing case designs are similar in size to those generated? If so the case rationalisation facility can be used (see Section 13).
Nesting: Do the products nest. If so see Section 6.

The Next Stage.

Having examined one or both of the above examples the next stage for new users is to set up default pallet, tray/tote and packing styles. This procedure is covered in Section 4.

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