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FSMA Update

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in 2011, is widely considered to be the most comprehensive reform of U.S. food safety laws since 1938. Drafted as a response to several high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illness, the law affects every aspect of the American food system, from farming to processing and shipping. Its most significant changes move the responsibility for preventing contamination away from government agencies and inspectors, and onto producers and processors.

In 2018, we will see the continued rollout and implementation of several of the law’s key provisions. In this article, we look at how these will affect food industry businesses going forward.

The Produce Safety Rule

Section 105 of FSMA outlines the Produce Safety Rule, which establishes an evidence-based approach to safe harvesting and production of fruits and vegetables. The rule covers several topics, including:

  • Worker health, hygiene and training
  • Agricultural water quality
  • Biological soil amendments
  • Domesticated and wild animals
  • Equipment, tools, buildings and sanitation
  • Sprout production

The rule applies to almost all commercially sold produce, except products that are rarely consumed raw, or that undergo significant processing to kill harmful microorganisms. Farms that produce an annual value of less than $25,000, as well as fruits and vegetables grown for personal or on-farm use, are exempt from the rule.

Speaking to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) in September 2017, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke of the department’s decision to focus on education and announced that states would be given additional time to develop and deploy regulator training programs.

While large produce farms are required to be compliant with produce safety requirements by Jan. 26, 2018, Gottlieb announced that inspections would not begin until the following year. In the meantime, the FDA will be committed to training state regulators.

The Sanitary Transportation Rule

The Sanitary Transportation Rule is another component of FSMA, one that relates directly to warehouses and logistics companies that work with the food industry. The rule outlines the responsibilities of four entities, each of which has specific compliance requirements:

  • Shippers, who arrange an item’s transportation and are required to develop procedures for keeping food safe and sanitary, and to maintain a record of their efforts to communicate with other stakeholders
  • Loaders, who move the food from the warehouse onto a vehicle for transportation and are required to confirm that the vehicle is in acceptable condition before doing so
  • Carriers, who transport food between locations and are required to develop protocol for cleaning, inspecting and other tasks necessary to maintain sanitary conditions during transport
  • Receivers, who receive the food at their destination and are required to check for and report any concerns

Most operations that follow best practices for food handling will have little trouble accommodating the Sanitary Transportation Rule and other provisions of FSMA. As a business, the best thing you can do is to continue to educate yourself about the law and its implications for the way you work.

As FSMA continues to be rolled out, it is a great time to upgrade your material handling systems. Polymer Solutions International, Inc. sells a wide range of sanitary pallets and other products suitable for food use. Explore our catalog online, start a Live Chat Session or contact us directly at 610-325-7500.

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High-Tech Pallets: Opportunities and Challenges

The modern warehouse environment has evolved considerably over the past few years, incorporating new technologies that help businesses run smarter, more efficient operations. A pallet’s role in these operations is integral. Despite this, however, pallet technology has remained relatively consistent, and innovations have been slow to gain acceptance.

For forward-thinking material handling operations, however, there has never been a better time than now to be a change leader. Early adoption of new pallet materials and technologies will position businesses for success in the future. Let’s take a look at what some of the next-generation pallets currently available for sale have to offer.

Pallet Tracking Technology

As supply chains become increasingly global and customers demand greater transparency as to how products and materials move through them, pallet tracking technology will become increasingly important. By embedding RFID chips directly into pallet materials, it is possible to track and trace individual pallets in real-time.

RFID pallet tracking technology allows you to demonstrate a verified chain of custody and provide actionable reporting for audit or investigation purposes. Pallet tracking can help businesses manage recalls and expiration dates, minimizing product loss and getting items to their end users in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

High-Strength Composite Materials

Composite pallets made from thermoset and similar materials have a number of advantages over wood and traditional plastics. Thermoset has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than other materials. It is also easier to clean and is resistant to moisture and fire.

As well, it is possible to treat composite materials with antibacterial coatings or anti-slip surfaces that actively prevent on-the-job accidents. Unlike wood, thermoset composite pallets won’t degrade over time, making them a better long-term investment for busy operations.

Challenges to Adoption

Both thermoset plastics and RFID tracking have the potential to revolutionize the way material handling and logistics business operate. However, products that combine both technologies are expensive, presenting issues when attempting to scale operations upwards. Several high-profile failures have made investors skittish, which makes it difficult for manufacturers to achieve the kind of market saturation they need to stay afloat. This is an issue of particular concern for manufacturers that adopt the pooling model of renting out pallets rather than selling directly to the consumer.

A second issue is that several recent new product launches have been overhyped and failed to live up to their value proposition. The iGPS composite, for example, suffered higher-than-anticipated damage rates, persistent design flaws and higher lifecycle costs over the course of the unit — issues that eventually doomed it.

Making Informed Investments

As a critical component of the rapidly evolving material handling sector, pallet technology is due for a change. That so many businesses continue to use unreliable, dangerous and low-tech wooden pallets is at odds with the other innovations in automation occurring in today’s warehouses and distribution centers.

Better pallets are currently available. However, making informed investments requires looking beyond the hype. The best thing you can do is educate yourself and demand accountability in the form of hard statistics and proven studies.

To learn more about Polymer Solutions International, Inc.’s products and the benefits they can offer your business, browse our website, start a Live Chat Session or contact us directly at 610-325-7500.

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Pallets in the Modern Warehouse: The State of the Industry in 2017

Pallets are an essential part of any warehouse, manufacturing plant or fulfillment center. But as technologies advance, and these facilities evolve with the times, it’s worth wondering what role pallets will play in the supply chain of the future.

Modern Material Handling magazine recently surveyed its subscribers to produce its annual report on the state of the pallet manufacturing industry. This report, along with other industry studies such as Persistence Market Research’s “Pallets Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 – 2016 and Forecast 2017 – 2025,” gives us a good indication of where things are today, and where they are likely to go in the future.

What Are the Current Growth Projections for the Pallet Manufacturing Industry?

According to the PMR report, the pallet manufacturing industry is expected to experience strong growth through to 2025. From 2012 to 2016, the global market expanded at a CAGR of 4.7%. Continuing that trend, from 2017 to 2025, current growth projections predict a CAGR of 5.4%.

This growth will be fueled in part by increased demand for safe, secure transportation in an increasingly global supply chain, as well as industry-specific applications for customers in food and beverage, agriculture, chemicals and other sectors. Non-wood pallets — including plastic products — are likely to constitute the fastest growing segment of the market as they see more widespread adoption globally.

What Do Customers Look for in a Pallet?

The Modern Material Handling survey provides more specific insights about customer demand when it comes to pallets. Among those surveyed, 93% used wood products, 45% plastic, 18% wood composite and 10% metal pallets.

Price ranked as the number one concern when making a purchase decision, with 59% reporting that it was something they consider. Other high-ranking factors included strength (56%), durability (50%) and reusability (44%).

Pallet Buying Habits

The MMH survey also asked about respondents’ preferences when buying wooden pallets. Despite a majority of participants (53%) experiencing quality or availability issues in the past, 62% reported a preference for used or core pallets over new.

When it comes to pallet types, 50% of MMH readers use stringer pallets exclusively, while 17% use block, and 33% use both types. This represents a continuation of a trend seen in the past three years, with block-type pallets declining from a 25% share of the market in 2015 to their current low. As far as sizes, 65% of respondents use 48” by 40” pallets, while 30% use 48” by 48”. Smaller pallet sizes continued to experience steady growth, as they have since 2015.

Looking to the Future

The MMH study confirms the findings of the PMR report about the strong growth potential for plastic pallets. Seventeen percent of respondents used more plastic pallets in 2017 than in previous years, while 15% expect to use more in the coming year. Other notable trends include increased customer demand for stringer-type pallets and for alternative material products such as treated or pest-free pallets.

If you’re interested in learning more about the MMH study and what it means for pallet market analysis, you can read additional findings from the report.

Polymer Solutions International, Inc. manufactures a range of different products that are easy to clean and built for long-term productivity. Keep browsing our website to explore your options or start a Live Chat session with us online or call us directly at 610-325-7500 for assistance.

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Are Amazon’s Robotic Warehouses the Future of Material Handling?

As the world’s largest online retailer, when Amazon invests in new material handling technology, the industry stands up and takes notice. The company made waves for its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems, a warehouse robotics firm. Two years later, the Kiva team — now branded Amazon Robotics — introduced its first automated system. Today, Amazon uses more than 100,000 robots in its vast global warehousing operations.

Amazon’s use of robotic warehouse systems begs the question of whether or not this is a trend other retailers will adopt. While there’s no question that warehouses in the future will be more sophisticated and technologically integrated, the use of robotics still poses some challenges.

What Will Be the Role of Human Workers?

One of the most common anxieties around the use of robotic warehouse systems is the fear that they will replace human workers entirely. It’s easy to imagine a future in which robots have phased people out of manual labor jobs, but so far, there’s no evidence to support this. In fact, since 2014, Amazon has hired more than 80,000 warehouse workers in the U.S. alone. What’s more, employees whose jobs have been replaced by robots have been given the opportunity to train for higher-level positions, or moved to other roles.

Some of this is simply a reflection of Amazon’s strength in the industry. However, there’s also an argument that automation helps the company resist the lure of outsourcing. By keeping costs down and moving humans into more supervisory positions, finding skilled workers becomes a more important priority than finding cheap labor. This, in turn, makes local economies stronger and more sustainable.

Overcoming the Grasping Challenge

Amazon’s warehouse robotics and smart conveyor technology is some of the most advanced today, but it is unable to complete order picking without human help. The problem is grasping — as of 2017, machines are very good at raising and transporting heavy loads, but they are unable to grab and lift items off of a shelf. In tests, humans have consistently proven faster and more effective at order picking, particularly in warehouses that process high volumes of differently sized items.

In addition to its internal R&D, Amazon Robotics is actively encouraging outside firms to solve this persistent challenge. For the past three years, the company has sponsored an annual competition at RoboCup, an international engineering competition held most recently in Nagoya, Japan. The event, called the Amazon Robotics Challenge, featured more than $250,000 in prize money in 2017, which was awarded to participants whose robots proved most effective at simulated order picking in conditions that resemble an Amazon warehouse.

So far, none of the impressive technology showcased at the Amazon Robotics Challenge has made it to the company’s facilities. To complete order picking in all but the simplest conditions, it will be necessary to develop more advanced sensors and touch controls. However, if Amazon’s interest in solving these challenges is at all indicative of what the modern warehouse looks like, it’s only a matter of time before sophisticated robotics systems become a part of warehouse automation industry-wide.

Polymer Solutions International, Inc. manufactures a range of different products that are easy to clean and built for long-term productivity. Keep browsing our website to explore your options or start a Live Chat session with us online or call us directly at 610-325-7500 for assistance.

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What the Internet of Things Means for the Material Handling Industry

The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) refers to the complex web of connected ‘smart’ devices such as thermostats, refrigerators and other home appliances. Use of these products is expected to continue to grow over the next few years — by 2020, the Internet of Things will comprise over 30 billion devices.

The Internet of things gives us access to a vast trove of data about how people work and live. This will have many implications for the material handling industry, which is currently in the process of developing smarter technology as part of the global drive for more efficient and transparent supply chains. In this article, we look at some of the many ways the Internet of Things can improve logistics and inventory management.

How Will the Internet of Things Impact Inventory Management?

Smart refrigerators — appliances that track your grocery use and can order needed items in advance — are one of the most commonly cited examples of the Internet of Things. Warehouses and fulfillment centers around the world use similar technology.

As the Internet of Things expands, these systems will become more predictive, allowing facilities to anticipate demand in advance and automatically reorder ahead of time. As trackable devices such as RFID-embedded pallets come into broader use, the Internet of Things will allow for improved monitoring, helping prevent shipping bottlenecks across the supply chain.

Case Study: Smart Forklifts and Fleet Management

Fleet management is another potential application of the Internet of Things in the material handling and logistics industries. Many commercial fleets today rely on GPS and smart sensor technology to monitor vehicle usage, condition and location. Expect this to continue to spread as managers demand more data-driven solutions for improving productivity, reducing fuel and maintenance costs, and preventing on-the-job accidents.

A new generation of intelligent forklifts shows this promise clearly. Smart forklifts are still in the minority, though an increasing number of facilities are realizing their potential benefits and making the investments necessary to upgrade their fleets. Some things a smart forklift can do include:

  • Monitoring and diagnosing vehicle condition to indicate when service is required, allowing fleet managers to schedule work at convenient time
  • Integrating with warehouse management software to develop more effective process flows and pick orders with improved speed and efficiency
  • Reducing the risk of an on-the-job accident by limiting speed and detecting imminent collisions with greater accuracy

In the future, intelligent forklifts may incorporate self-driving technology and other innovations. When combined with automated material handling systems, the IoT may very well represent a sea change in the way products are handled and supply chains are managed. Ultimately, this will have a number of benefits to consumers as well as businesses, including lower priced products and faster order fulfillment.

As warehouses and supply chains evolve, companies that make smart investments in new technology will be better positioned to meet future demands. The IoT isn’t just a far-off fantasy —  it’s something that is becoming more sophisticated and more common every day. For logistics and material handling companies, there’s no better time than now to explore how smart technology can improve your operations.

Polymer Solutions International, Inc. manufactures a range of different products that are easy to clean and built for long-term productivity. Keep browsing our website to explore your options or start a Live Chat session with us online or call us directly at 610-325-7500 for assistance.

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Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America Exhibitor 2018

Polymer Solutions International at Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America Exhibitor 2018

Visit us at Booth #563

We are a world leader in material handling products and solutions, like our ProStack line of plastic pallets and bottled water racks. For years, we’ve been servicing multiple industries and customers in over 100 countries. Through our innovative designs and products, we continue to help customers manage their assets throughout the supply chain.

craft brewers conference logo 2018

Discover a line of products that can protect your materials, provide reusable packaging solutions and ultimately save you money. Our line of hygienic plastic pallets includes a range of models, each offering the strongest, cleanest solution for your needs.

Schedule an Appointment

When you choose PSI as your hygienic plastic pallet manufacturer, you’ll find:

  • 6-inch heavy-duty pallets
  • Standard-duty pallets
  • Open and solid top options
  • 3-stringer selections
  • Nestable distribution options

We also offer industry-leading bottled water racks. As your comprehensive bottled water rack manufacturer, we supply modular racking systems, interlocking layer systems, upright platforms, bottle hammocks and more.

Schedule an appointment with us before the show and receive a free gift!

Schedule an Appointment

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A Guide to GMA Pallet Grades and Specifications

Grocery stores, distribution centers and manufacturing plants all use pallets to handle food and beverages. To ensure moving products between locations is fast and easy, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has established a set of standardized guidelines for all food industry pallets.

These guidelines contain detailed dimensions and specifications, as well as quality classification parameters. Here’s a quick overview of each.

What Are the GMA’s Pallet Specifications?

Pallets manufactured to GMA specifications are typically referred to as GMA pallets. The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) recognizes GMA pallets as one of six standard pallet types. These pallets feature:

  • An overall footprint of 40” by 48”
  • A minimum load-bearing capacity of 2,500 pounds
  • Four-way forklift entry with two notches on the side
  • Top and bottom deck boards that are 5/8″ thick
  • A 5 1/2″ x 40″ board on each end of the pallet top, and five 3 1/2″ x 40″ boards in the center
  • A 5 1/2″ x 40″ board on each end of the pallet bottom, and three 3 1/2″ x 40″ boards between the notches

GMA pallets account for an estimated 30% of the pallet marketplace. In a fast-moving industry with complex global supply chains, the ability to get products where they need to go as quickly and cost-effectively as possible is critical. Choosing GMA pallets helps all stakeholders meet their performance benchmarks by reducing the time and expense associated with shipment and storage.

What Are GMA Pallet Grades?

The GMA classifies recycled pallets into two grades: A and B. However, some manufacturers use the nomenclature #1 and #2, and others further subdivide individual pallet grades. Here’s a brief look at what these numbers and letters entail:

  • Grade A pallets: Grade A encompasses the highest quality recycled pallets. These are products that are in excellent condition, with no stringer repairs and only minor discoloration. Grade A pallets are suitable for display purposes in groceries stores or markets. Many recyclers use subdivisions within the category to distinguish between pallets with a cleaner appearance, typically composed of hardwood (Premium A, Grade 1A or Food Grade) and those that are more worn, and often made from pine (A Grade, Grade 1B or 1C, or Melon Grade).
  • Grade B pallets: Grade B pallets show evidence of more extensive use than Grade A pallets. They may be worn and discolored, or have previous stringer repairs. Warehousing and shipping applications use Grade B pallets as an alternative to more expensive products. Often, recyclers will further classify Grade B pallets according to the number of repair patches per forklift cavity. Pallets with one repair per cavity may be classified as Premium B or #2 High Grade, whereas pallets with two or more will be labeled Standard B or #2 Regular grade.

Additionally, many manufacturers and recyclers offer specialty grade food pallets which may not meet GMA specifications. The best way to shop with confidence is to determine your requirements in advance and work with a knowledgeable supplier who can help you make an informed choice.

Polymer Solutions International, Inc. manufactures a range of different products that are easy to clean and built for long-term productivity. Keep browsing our website to explore your options or start a Live Chat session with us online or call us directly at 610-325-7500 for assistance.

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Modex 2018

Polymer Solutions International at Modex 2018

Visit us at Booth #C2256

We are a world leader in material handling products and solutions, like our ProStack line of plastic pallets and bottled water racks. For years, we’ve been servicing multiple industries and customers in over 100 countries. Through our innovative designs and products, we continue to help customers manage their assets throughout the supply chain.

 

modex 2018 logo

Discover a line of products that can protect your materials, provide reusable packaging solutions and ultimately save you money. Our line of hygienic plastic pallets includes a range of models, each offering the strongest, cleanest solution for your needs.

Schedule an Appointment

When you choose PSI as your hygienic plastic pallet manufacturer, you’ll find:

  • 6-inch heavy-duty pallets
  • Standard-duty pallets
  • Open and solid top options
  • 3-stringer selections
  • Nestable distribution options

We also offer industry-leading bottled water racks. As your comprehensive bottled water rack manufacturer, we supply modular racking systems, interlocking layer systems, upright platforms, bottle hammocks and more.

Schedule an appointment with us before the show and receive a free gift!

Schedule an Appointment

0 Continue Reading →

Pack Expo East 2018

Polymer Solutions International at Pack Expo 2018

Visit us at Booth #905

We are a world leader in material handling products and solutions, like our ProStack line of plastic pallets and bottled water racks. For years, we’ve been servicing multiple industries and customers in over 100 countries. Through our innovative designs and products, we continue to help customers manage their assets throughout the supply chain.

pack expo east logo

Discover a line of products that can protect your materials, provide reusable packaging solutions and ultimately save you money. Our line of hygienic plastic pallets includes a range of models, each offering the strongest, cleanest solution for your needs.

Schedule an Appointment

When you choose PSI as your hygienic plastic pallet manufacturer, you’ll find:

  • 6-inch heavy-duty pallets
  • Standard-duty pallets
  • Open and solid top options
  • 3-stringer selections
  • Nestable distribution options

We also offer industry-leading bottled water racks. As your comprehensive bottled water rack manufacturer, we supply modular racking systems, interlocking layer systems, upright platforms, bottle hammocks and more.

Schedule an appointment with us before the show and receive a free gift!

Schedule an Appointment

0 Continue Reading →

Plastic Pallet Industry Trends and Statistics

Plastic pallets offer several advantages over their wooden or metal counterparts. They are lightweight, easy to clean and affordable — for these reasons and more, the past few years have seen their adoption in an increasing number of applications. All indicators suggest that this trend will continue in the pallet industry.

Future Growth of Plastic Pallets

A recent report by Persistence Market Research, “Pallets Market: Global Industry Analysis 2012 – 2016 and Forecast 2017 – 2025,” has forecasted strong future growth for the plastic pallet industry. Here are a few of the key takeaways from this publication and what they mean for businesses in the warehousing, material handling and logistics industries:

  • North America and Europe were the earliest widespread adopters of plastic pallet technology. The Asia Pacific market is the fastest growing, and it presents the most opportunistic potential over the next eight years. Growth has been slow in Latin American and the Middle East/Africa, in part due to a lack of manufacturers in these regions.
  • The wooden pallet market has reached a saturation point. While they will continue to be the dominant type of product through to 2025, that dominance is expected to shrink as awareness about alternatives and subsequent demand for plastic pallets spreads.
  • The expansion of the food and transportation market sectors — particularly in Asia Pacific — has fueled the majority of the growth of the plastic pallet industry. Other important industries include chemical processing and manufacturing, which value plastic pallets for their light weight and durability.
  • Key players in the plastic pallet industry will grow their market share by introducing new technologies and improved designs as well as by collaborating with smaller manufacturers to gain a regional foothold in new territories.
  • As the plastic pallet market evolves, it is likely that global standards will emerge. Major buyers have shown a preference for block pallets over stringer plastics. At the same time, the development of new technologies — such as RFID chip integration — is expected to propel growth as organizations seek to increase transparency and make their supply chains more data-driven.
  • Users have identified easy cleaning, insect resistance, lack of splinters and limited import restrictions as advantages of plastic pallets over wooden models. The report cites nails as the primary source of injury when working with wood pallets, which has played a role in the shift to plastic products as companies try to reduce liability.
  • As the plastic pallet industry grows, it is expected to create significant skilled job opportunities in major manufacturing hubs around the world.

PMR based its report on primary interviews with more than 50 industry experts, as well as an in-depth analysis of current sales and demographic data. The report’s authors also drew from secondary data to provide additional context about the overall size of the market as well as its players, products and associations.

For those of us in the industry, as well as any manufacturer or other business considering switching from wooden to plastic pallets, the entire PMR report is worth a read. To learn more about Polymer Solutions International, Inc.’s plastic pallets and how they can benefit your business, check out our product pages.

Polymer Solutions International, Inc. manufactures a range of different products that are easy to clean and built for long-term productivity. Keep browsing our website to explore your options or start a Live Chat session with us online or call us directly at 610-325-7500 for assistance.

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