SECTION 15 -
(Covers: Introduction, Basic Considerations, Do Better Operation, Do Better - a Worked Example, Do Better for Collations , Do Better for Square Objects, Do Better in Pallet Compare Mode, Additional Information, Graphical Do Better.
In all modes of operation PALLETMANAGER will always provide you with optimal pallet layouts for the given case / primary / sub-primary unit. However in doing so the software is naturally limited by the dimensional values you provide for the product / case itself, for the pallet load area and loading height, and the collation quantities and packaging specification to be used.
When examining the palletisation solutions in any of PALLETISE, COLLATION or TERTIARY modes you may well wonder how close you were to obtaining an improved number of units / pallet. The Do Better function is one of a number of unique and powerful facilities in PALLETMANAGER to help you answer that question. It is accessed from the main results screen (Screen 5) in all modes of operation:
In summary the function takes the currently highlighted solution (which you 'like' but which perhaps does not have a very good pallet area utilisation), and explores similar case sizes (typically within a few mm.) to see how a minor change in case / primary length / width might provide an improved number of cases / pallet. In doing so it provides you with a number of very similar case sizes which fit more cases / pallet. It does this by varying case length and width, but may in addition report designs where (say) a small increase in case length together with a small decrease in case width provides an improved solution. It does not change the case height for reasons discussed immediately below.
We must emphasize that the results presented are unique for each problem tackled. As will soon become evident to you they are in no way based on some inbuilt set of 'nice' values but are calculated to meet each specific problem tackled.
Before explaining in detail what it does we firstly should consider some of the features already covered in the manual which address the same issue.
15.2 Some Basic Considerations.
Whilst it might be tempting to 'jump in' and use the function on every occasion there are a couple of things that might usefully be considered first.
(a) In all modes of operation the Screen 5 report which ranks the solutions obtained includes a column header '+Layer Ht.' - that is the extra loading height which would be required to accommodate an extra layer of product on the pallet. In the example below (taken from Section 5 of this manual), the best solution fits 639 cases / pallet, but if just 4mm extra was available Result 3 would fit an extra layer giving a total of 672 cases / pallet.
Thus, before jumping into Do Better, you should examine the results on Screen 5 to see if simply changing the load height a fraction (if possible) might have the desired result. An equivalent change might also be to reduce the height of the primary or case just a fraction - Reference 3 below needs to 'loose' just 4mm over 13 layers! to allow an extra layer to be fitted. Thus if a case 115mm high (rather than 116mm) was suitable then the extra layer would easily fit.
Whilst there are clearly other issues linked to this (e.g. How many layers are you happy to stack on a pallet for stability or other reasons; the costs of packaging material for a particular reference number etc), getting the basics of height utilisation right are a vital first step.
(b) In addition you might be better in some circumstances using the Fixed Volume module which may be included in your license. This module is described in detail in Section 7 of the manual and is appropriate when the pack / case size (length, width and height) might be varied a little but the VOLUME of the resultant unit must be the same. This might be a requirement when packing a fixed volume of a liquid or powder etc. Thus, if you have a requirement to retain case / primary VOLUME you should utilise Fixed Volume to achieve a better solution. [This is accessed - where licenced - from the Advanced Function button immediately before selecting Pack].
Assuming that the you have considered and discarded the above two suggestions we can now look at how Do Better operates.
15.3 Do Better Operation.
A frequent question posed during training and demonstration sessions is 'What is a good case size to make good use of the pallet?'. There is no easy answer to this, as designs which might make fully use of the pallet area (e.g. a 200mm*200mm case on a 1200*1000 pallet) might be unsuitable as this size can only form a column stack, which may well be unstable in use.
PALLETMANAGER Collation may design dozens of suitable case sizes for a collation of a given primary but each must necessarily be based on the primary dimensions you input - it is no use 'inventing' a case and then hoping things will fit into it!
The Do Better function takes details of the highlighted entry on the Results Summary Screen (Screen 5) and analyses how minor changes in the length and width of the case might be made to fit more units / pallet. (In Collation mode the impact on primary size is naturally also reported).
To utilise the module:
Highlight an entry in the results table which you 'like', but which has a lower pallet area utilisation than you would wish.
Select the Do Better button.
We should emphasize at this point that the function will not make any changes to the data you have entered into PALLETMANAGER. It will advise on various ways in which more cases could be fitted - both to the screen and if required to printer - but it will be up to you to decide how best to effect any such changes that might be practically feasible.
In a PALLETISE problem you may need to question whether any such minor changes in case size might be possible.
In a COLLATION problem it may be that changes to the packaging style (thinner dividers, smaller gaps etc) may achieve suitable changes to the size of the case. Sometimes the size changes needed for an improved solution may be 1mm or less, and in some instances you may even be able to increase one of length or width by a small amount (reducing the other), and still fit more units / pallet.
In order to assist you is deciding which entries are most likely to provide you with an improved solution (in instances where you may have many possible case sizes displayed - e.g. in Collation Mode) we have recently added some extra information on the Screen 5 report (from where Do Better is selected), which indicates how likely you are to find an improved solution - more product / pallet layer - with minimal change to the size of the case.
This indicator, which when it applies is shown at the right hand side of the display in the form of stars (e.g. ***), have the following meanings:
If a result is coded with 3 stars: *** then it is possible to fit more onto a pallet layer with, at most, a reduction of 2.5% on length and/or width of the case. It may be that one of case length or case width may in fact be bigger than that originally specified.
If a result is coded with 2 stars: ** then it is possible to fit more onto a pallet layer with, at most, a reduction of 5% on length and/or width, ensuring that the base area of the case is not reduced by more than 7.5%. A 2 star coding is also used if a 10% or higher improvement in pallet fill can be achieved using a reduction of up to 7.5% on just ONE side of the case.
If a result is coded with 1 star: * then it is possible to fit more onto a pallet layer with, at most, a reduction of up to 7.5% on ONE side of the case.
If a result does not have any star coding (blank) then this indicates that in order to make an improvement a fairly significant change in case dimensions would be required.
Thus a *** coding indicates that if you are able to consider changes to the case size, through perhaps changes to the case thickness, packing allowances or a change in the product being collated (where applicable), then you are likely to be able to achieve this with just minor changes. The fewer stars the greater the dimensional changes that are likely to be needed.
The star system can only provide a general indication as to the likely impact of dimensional changes but should assist you in selecting entries to run through Do Better.
15.4 Do Better Analysis - A Worked Example.
As an example, we will consider a problem where you have a Case Size of 352mm * 99mm * 200mm high which you wish to palletise on a 1200*1000 pallet. For the moment we will assume that you are using PALLETISE mode to come up with the solution.
Entering this data into PALLETISE results in an optimal solution fitting 32 cases on each pallet layer, and with 8 layers this provides for 256 cases / pallet. The standard results screen (Screen 5) for this problem is shown below.
From the results given (and also from looking at the layout diagrams), it is clear that the case is not a very good fit on the pallet. The column '% Fill Area' - which reports how much of the pallet area is filled with product is just 92%, thus 8% of the pallet area is wasted (not filled).
What is also clear from the above table is that making a small change to the loading height limit (1620mm) or to the height of the product itself (200mm), would not allow any extra layers to be fitted on the pallet [the above table tells us that we would need an extra 180mm to allow an extra layer].
As described a little earlier in Section 15, before considering the potential impact of changes to case length / width (using Do Better), one should always consider whether product / pallet loading height issues are of importance.
On this occasion we are faced with an existing case size which makes good use of the pallet loading height but has length and width dimensions which, when loaded in the best possible way (optimally), waste 8% of the pallet area.
Can YOU Do Better?
Obviously if the case length and width cannot possibly be changed at all then the answer must be no, but on the assumption that a very minor change might be made (perhaps as little as 0.1mm!!), we can use the Do Better module to show us the impact of small dimensional changes.
To use the module, we firstly highlight the case entry we wish to examine (here we just have just the one), and then select the Do Better option as below:
This results in PALLETMANAGER carrying out some unique and very powerful calculations and the display of a results screen.
We should make clear at this point that whatever actions you now carry out will NOT result in any changes to the data / results already entered or calculated, the Do Better display will tell you what the impact would be if you made certain changes to the input data (e.g. the case size / primary size) on the appropriate input screen.
The Do Better Results Screen for the problem we have been examining is shown below:
We will now explain, step by step, what the results mean.
Firstly, many of the column headings in the above are the same as those used on the Screen 5 report presented earlier. The topmost entry (with a zero: 0) in the first column, is the case size that we highlighted before selecting Do Better, and the Cases / pallet figures etc all match those shown earlier. The one extra column (%Vol) will be explained below.
The information displayed below the existing case result are, for convenience, numbered 1,2 etc in sequence, and each line represents a case which has fairly similar case length and width dimensions (same height as the original), but fits more on each pallet layer.
Thus if we look at line reference 1, a case 341.67mm * 103.33mm would allow 33 (rather than 32) cases to be fitted on each pallet layer.
We do not expect you to measure (or construct) cases to this accuracy, the figures given are upper limits. Thus if you added even 0.01mm to either length or width then only 32 cases would fit! Thus an actual cases size might be 341*103 - but not 342*103 or 341*104.
Thus a case 341mm * 103mm would fit 33 units / pallet layer. If you also look at the %Vol column for this entry you will note it has a value of 101.31% - this means that if you calculated the volume of the original case (352*99*200) and compared it with the case of size 341.67*103.33*200, then this latter case would be a little larger (by over 1%). Thus the %Vol figure indicates whether the 'new' case design has more or less volume than the original.
Looking at the full table of results you will note that the entries are grouped according to the number of cases / layer they can provide. The original case size fitted 32/layer, the results shown provide groups giving 33/layer, 34/layer etc in a scrollable table.
Within each group of entries (e.g. 33/layer), the results are sorted according to case length.
How YOU can use this information.
We started off our examination with a case of size 352mm * 99mm * 200mm high fitting 32 cases / layer and thus 512 cases / pallet. How can you use the above results to Do Better. Let us look at a subset of the screen as below:
Looking at the results in the first grouping (fitting 33/layer), all the results (1 to 3) have on this occasion, shorter case length values than the original (shorter by 10mm or more), and somewhat larger width values. With all these three entries the volume of the resultant case is larger than the original (%Vol larger than 100%). Assuming we were to ignore the decimal values we could consider cases of 341*103, 326*110 or 325*111.
Looking now at the second group of entries (references 4 and 5, each fitting 34 cases / pallet layer). Once again these results are sorted according to case length. The second entry in this group (entry 5 which we have highlighted above), also fits 34 cases / pallet layer. It has a case length just 2mm less than the original, and has a case width that is 1mm more than the original. Overall its volume is slightly greater than the original case.
Thus we have identified a case size which is larger in volume than the original, and within 2mm of the size of the original, but which provides 34 cases/ layer rather than 32 cases/layer - a 6% improvement - a 6% reduction in palletisation and distribution costs - for just a 2mm change in a case size!
The actions which might follow this are, of course, up to you. PALLETMANAGER will NOT make any changes to the data input by you, but after carrying out the Do Better analysis you will be able to make informed decisions on any changes that might be feasible. The Print function available on the Do Better Results Screen allows you to take away the same information as displayed on screen for more detailed consideration.
As shown above it may well be useful to examine not only solutions in the first group immediately following the original solution (here fitting 33), but also other groupings lower down the screen. Suitable minor changes to the case size, as here, may jump from fitting 32 / layer straight to 34 / layer.
15.5 Do Better in Collation / Tertiary Modes.
As illustrated above, the Do Better analysis is based on changing the case size slightly to provide an improved packing. In Collation / Tertiary modes it works in an identical fashion to the above, but also reports to both screen and printer on the influence of the case size change on the dimensions of the primary unit. This assumes that no changes are made to the amounts of packaging material / allowance from that used for the original highlighted entry.
Extra columns are added to the right of the palletise mode Do Better Report which report the primary dimensions and, once again, the volume of the 'new' primary as compared with the volume of the 'original' primary. An example of this is shown below:
15.6 Do Better for Square products / boxes.
During the calculation of 'Better' case / product sizes it is quite possible that solutions may be output which have equal length and width dimensions. This will occur whether or not the original dimensions of the case / product were equal or not. Such solutions will be listed in the normal manner as above, but will be marked thus:  in the right hand column of the display.
If the original case / product size you input into Palletise / Collation was indeed square then DO BETTER will, in addition to the standard analysis, determine and output additional square based solutions in addition to the regular solutions.
Once again those square solutions will be marked by a  to the right of the display line.
15.7 Do Better in Pallet Compare Mode.
So far the discussion in this section of the manual has focused on problems where a single pallet size is involved and the change in case or primary size identified by Do Better improves the fill on that given pallet. When using PALLET COMPARE Mode the user is examining the efficiency with which a given case can be palletised on TWO different pallet sizes (with the same loading height) with the results being displayed in the same table of results. In this mode of operation a change in case size might lead to more being fitted on 'Pallet 1' whilst the same number (or even less) might be fitted on 'Pallet 2' (or visa versa). Thus the objective of Do Better in this situation is to show the user how a change in case size would impact on each of the pallet sizes, with an overall objective (perhaps) of fitting more cases on average on across the 2 pallet sizes. A user might also have an alternate objective and the way in which results are displayed should assist in meeting any likely requirement.
The above display illustrates a typical set of results for Do Better in Pallet Compare Mode. From results row zero we can see that a case 260 * 198 * 256 high is being palletised on both a primary pallet (1200*1000) and a secondary pallet (1200*800). On the 1200*1000 pallet 6 layers of 22 are fitted whilst on the 1200*800 secondary pallet 6 layers of 18 are fitted. On average 20 cases are fitted per layer.
The Do Better results (entry 1 onwards) present various possible case sizes which (in this instance) fit more on both pallet sizes. Thus results lines 1 to 6 are changed sizes which fit 23/layer on the 1200*1000 pallet and 19/layer on the 1200*800 secondary pallet. As stated above it might be that an improvement might only occur on one of the pallet sizes. Entry 7 provides an improvement of 1/layer (from 23 to 24) on the primary 1200*1000 pallet but no further improvement on the 1200*800 pallet (still fitting 19/layer), and the same applies to entries 8-12 where once again a further improvement in 1200*1000 number/layer is achieved whilst the number/layer on the 1200*800 pallet remains unchanged. As always with Do Better the suitability of any given entry in terms of the change in case size needs to be considered in respect of the original case size and the products within the case to determine whether ANY of the entries might be feasible in practice.
In the above table entry 7 for example might in some circumstances be feasible - a case 10mm shorter but 2mm wider and over 97% of the original case size - fitting 2 extra per layer on the 1200*1000 primary pallet and 1 extra/layer on the 1200*800 secondary pallet.
The results are ranked according to the average number/layer being fitted across the 2 pallet sizes but the user can by observation identify entries which might potentially meet other objectives.
15.8 Additional Information.
As described in the introduction to this section of the manual, the Do Better module complements the powerful Fixed Volume mode of operation which may be available to you (depending on your license).
As shown in the above results a change of just 0.01mm (far far beyond the realities of measurement and case construction accuracies), can change the quantities fitted / pallet layer. The Do Better report includes the decimal figures at both case and (in collation/tertiary modes) at primary level so that users can see exactly where the boundaries lie from solution to solution.
Whilst there may be groups of entries for each increasing value of cases / pallet, in some instances some values may be missing. This is not an error but is a function of the packing problem being examined.
It is always worthwhile looking through the solutions, not just at those that provide one extra case / pallet layer but also at groupings providing an even better improvement. As shown in the above worked example a suitable solution may be found somewhat lower down the list of possible case sizes.
The number of results / result groupings shown on a given Do Better report will vary between a handful up to 200 or more. The larger the case size the fewer results that are likely, with smaller cases yielding more results. The routine will normally work within dimensional changes of up to 2.5% or 5%, but if too few results are found in this tight range it will automatically expand its examination to provide you with a few more results.
In a situation where the user has indicated that overhang or underhang applies then Do Better will always work with the load space after underhang / overhang amounts have been specified.
It is technically possible in Collation / Tertiary modes for a primary unit shown in the report to have negative size!! Whilst we could obviously have eliminated the display of such values, such a display indicates that the packaging allowances you have made make up more of the case dimensions than the size of the product itself! Almost certainly an error in specifying the case allowances.
15.9 Graphical Display of Do Better.
Whilst users continue to be 'amazed' with how DO BETTER produces improved results with minimal dimensional changes for many problems, during training we have frequently had to answer two re-occurring questions:
a) Are there other dimensional values in addition to those listed which could also yield the same improvement?
b) Why is it that for some problems there are no improvements possible without making major changes in dimensions?
The brief (unhelpful!) answers to these two questions are a) YES and b) That is the characteristic of the dimensional values.
However this release contains very powerful on-screen graphics which helps users explore and explain such questions.
IN ORDER TO DISPLAY THIS your computer monitor MUST be set up to display True Colour pictures - this is standard on most modern machines. If the button 'Chart' referenced below is not active (it is greyed out) then the screen settings need to be adjusted. Whilst this will vary according to operating system the typical action is to: Display Screen Resolution, select Advanced Settings / Monitor and set the mode to True Colour (32 bit).
Now the operation of this Chart Option:
Consider for example a palletisation problem with case external dimensions 284mm * 242mm * 200mm high on a 1200*1000 pallet. The palletisation result for this problem fits 16 units / layer and if you select DO BETTER the following screen is displayed:
A variety of solutions fitting 17 units / layer are listed (most of which are fairly close to our 284*242 starting point), together with a few fitting 18 units / layer which are in reality solutions in which the case base area is much smaller (9% and more) than our original.
If you select the 'Chart' button on this screen (if inactive see the note in the text 10 lines above) - a chart is displayed which helps explain these results:
On this colourful chart firstly note that scales are shown on the left hand and bottom - these are the external case dimensions - and on the chart is marked with a circle the Base Point we are investigating - the 284*242 original case dimensions with the mouse pointer initially at this position. A legend to the right helps you understand the meaning of each coloured region on the chart. To make clear the meaning for those viewing this manual in B&W (printed manual) values of +1/+2 etc have been added to this particular chart.
The more brightly coloured areas on the chart represent areas where improved numbers / pallet layer can be achieved and the key to the right shows the number that can be fitted in each of the regions. The area in which the 'base point' is located is normally coloured light grey (but above has been left white so that in B&W the improvement areas stand out). As indicated on the Key any areas which give a worse result (which will lie to the right of this chart) will be coloured dark grey.
You will notice that the base point is fairly close to the area where 17 (+1) can be fitted per layer and if we were to make changes to one or both 'base point' dimensions (thus defining an alternative case length and width), we can gain this +1 improvement. So, for example, if we left the 284mm dimension as it is and reduced the box width to a little over 238mm (moving left horizontally) we would be able to fit 17/layer. In fact this dimension (284mm*238.66mm) is one of the points listed in the above table. In a similar way we could choose to reduce slightly both length and width slightly to move to the nearest corner of the +1 improvement area (which lies in fact at 280mm*240mm). Once again this point is found in the list of the tabulated Do Better results.
Following end-user trial feedback the points listed in the table are now shown on the above chart as small white circles which will all occur on edges between regions.
However the users can themselves explore this chart using the mouse and by moving the mouse pointer around the chart can identify other additional dimensional values and their associated fill in number / layer. Thus one is not restricted to just the dimensional combinations listed in the table (although these will usually include most of those most likely to be of interest) and others can be recorded (on paper) for possible future examination.
The chart also makes it clear why fitting 18/layer for this problem does require a significant change in case base dimensions. If one examines the +2 region it lies a significant distance away from our base point - thus indicating that one would need to make some major changes in both case dimensions in order to fit 18/layer. Once again the user can explore this region and others using the mouse to get actual dimensions and fill quantities for any other dimensions.
If one requested a Do Better Chart for a problem where the listed Do Better tabular results all required significant changes in base box area in order to gain any improvement the chart would show a base point situated a significant distance away from any region providing an improved fill.
We very much hope this facility helps explain the work of Do Better and would welcome feedback on further enhancements to this feature.