Title:
METHOD OF FORMING A LOAD FOR TRANSPORTATION
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of forming a load for transportation comprising the steps of: i) placing a base member on a flat surface, wherein the base member is wider than the intended width of the load; ii) forming a base layer of the load on the base member such that a side flap of the base member extends beyond each side of the base layer, wherein the base layer defines at least two channels for receiving forks of a forklift truck or other lifting device; iii) building a partial load, less than the intended maximum height, on top of the base layer iv) folding the side flaps of the base member around the partial load; v) building the remainder of the load on top of the folded base member; and vi) securing the completed load for transportation.



Inventors:
Smithson, Martin Dominic (Worcestershire, GB)
Tan, Tien Tjiu (East Java, ID)
Application Number:
11/741646
Publication Date:
11/01/2007
Filing Date:
04/27/2007
Assignee:
3 S's Limited
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D45/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GORDON, STEPHEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hogan Lovells US LLP (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method of forming a load for transportation comprising the steps of: i) placing a base member on a flat surface, wherein the base member is wider than the intended width of the load; ii) forming a base layer of the load on the base member such that a side flap of the base member extends beyond each side of the base layer, wherein the base layer defines at least two channels for receiving forks of a forklift truck or other lifting device; iii) building a partial load, less than the intended maximum height, on top of the base layer; iv) folding the side flaps of the base member around the partial load; v) building the remainder of the load on top of the folded base member; and vi) securing the completed load for transportation.

2. A method according to claim 1, wherein step iv) comprises the further steps of: a) folding a first one of the side flaps around the partial load; b) building a further portion of the load, less then the intended maximum, on top of the first side flap; and c) folding a second one of the side flaps around the further portion of the load.

3. A method according to claim 1, wherein the step of folding the side flaps around the partial load comprises the steps of: i) folding the side flap across the width of the partial load; ii) building a further layer of the partial load; and iii) folding the side flap back across the partial load.

4. A method according to claim 2, wherein an end of at least one of the side flaps is provided with an adhesive.

5. A method according to claim 1, wherein a template is used to define the channels.

6. A method according to claim 5, wherein the template defines a further at least two channels perpendicular to the first mentioned channels.

7. A method according to claim 1, wherein the base member comprises a resilient plastics material.

8. A method according to claim 7, wherein the resilient plastics material comprises one or more plastics selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, polyamides, polystyrenes and/or polyesters.

9. A method according to claim 7, wherein the plastics material comprises CaCO3.

10. A method according to claim 1, wherein the base member is a sheet.

11. A method according to claim 10, wherein the sheet comprises a plurality of perforations.

12. A method according to claim 10, wherein the sheet comprises a plurality of openings.

13. A method according to claim 12, where the openings are die cut.

14. A method according to claim 12, as dependent on claim 6, wherein at least some of the openings are aligned with the further channels.

15. A method according to claim 1, wherein the base member is a net.

16. A method according to claim 1, wherein the base member comprises a plurality of strap members.

17. A method according to claim 16, wherein the strap members comprise a plurality of perforations.

18. A method according claim 1, wherein a load contacting surface of the base member has a tacky surface.

19. A method according to claim 18, wherein the load contacting surface comprises a glued spray.

20. A method according to claim 18, wherein the load contacting surface comprises a hot melt adhesive coating.

21. A method according to claim 18, wherein the load contacting surface comprises an extruded tackifier.

22. A method according to claim 1, wherein the completed load is secured with stretch-wrapped film.

23. A method according to claim 1, wherein the completed load is secured with strapping.

24. A load secured by the method according to claim 1.

25. A load comprising a plurality of items, wherein the load comprises a base member upon which the items are stacked and a base layer of the load is stacked on the base member and defines at least two channels for receiving forks of a fork lift truck.

26. A load according to claim 25, wherein the base member has side flaps which extend beyond each side of the load and are folded around a portion of the load.

27. A load according to claim 25, wherein the base layer of the load defines four channels.

28. A load according to claim 27, wherein the load comprises two pairs of channels which are arranged perpendicular to each other.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Priority is claimed to United Kingdom Patent Application No. 0608432.1 filed on Apr. 28, 2006, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a method of forming a load for the transportation of goods. More particularly, the present invention relates to a method of forming a load, consisting of a plurality of items, for containerised transportation without the use of a pallet.

2. Description of Related Art

The traditional method for transporting goods, both domestically and overseas, is to build up a load on a pallet. Pallets are typically constructed from wood or plastic and have a flat upper surface onto which a load can be built. The underside of the pallet is provided with a number of rails (usually at least three), which enable the forks of a fork lift truck to be inserted under the load to facilitate loading, unloading and movement of the load. These basic pallets are known as “two-way” pallets as the forks of a fork lift truck may only be inserted form the front or back. A more complex “four-way” pallet is also available which permits insertion of the forks from all four sides of the pallet for improved operational flexibility. A standard pallet measures approximately 100 cm by 120 cm by 12 cm (40 inches by 48 inches by 5 inches) and weighs approximately 15 to 21 kg empty. Most pallets can easily carry a load of 1,000 kg (about 2,000 lb).

Once the load has been built up on the pallet it is typically secured to the pallet by plastic or metal ties and/or shrink-wrapped plastic. The goods may be loaded onto a pallet at a distribution centre and then loaded into a container for transportation by road, rail, air or sea. When the load arrives at its final destination it will be broken down and the pallet then becomes surplus to requirements. At this point the pallet may then be returned to source and reused, it may be recycled through another route, it may be reused for another purpose at its destination, or it may be disposed of as rubbish.

Although the use of pallets has undoubtedly revolutionised containerised transportation, there are a number of significant disadvantages which the present invention sets out to address.

A standard unloaded pallet can weigh anything between 15-21 kg and this additional weight adds considerably to the transportation costs of a load. Furthermore, if the pallets are returned to source then there will be significant costs incurred in returning the pallets.

The environmental impact of conventional wooden pallets is also considerable. As a large quantity of wood is required to manufacture the vast number of pallets in circulation. It is estimated that approximately 12% of softwood used in the UK goes into the manufacture of pallets and other packaging, not to mention the vast amounts used in the rest of the world. There are thought to be around 2 billion pallets in circulation worldwide and as many as 90 million in the UK alone. Many businesses have problems disposing of pallets and thousands of them go to land-fill each week.

The size of standard pallets puts a restriction on the quantity of goods which can be loaded into a container. Furthermore, shipping containers come in industry standard sizes of 20 ft (6.1 m) and 40 ft (12.2 m) in length and have strict limitations on max payloads. The maximum payload which can be transported in a 40 ft (12.2 m) container is approximately the same as that which may be transported in a 20 ft (6.1 m) container. However, the increased space required for a 40 ft container means that it is significantly more expensive to transport. It is therefore desirable to make efficient use of the space available in a container and this is not always possible when using pallets.

A recent alternative to standard pallets is the use of plastic slip sheets. Plastic slip sheets are sheets of thick plastic with a 7-15 cm lip (referred to as a pull tab) on one or more sides that are handled using specialised push/pull attachments mounted on fork lifts. The load is built up on the slip sheet as it would be on a standard pallet and the specialised attachment is provided with means for gripping the pull tab to enable the slip sheet, and the load which is built upon it, to be moved around. The ground engaging surface of the slip sheet is provided with a coating which enables it to slide over the ground when the fork lift pulls it. However, the specialised attachment is expensive and costs in the region £6,000.

Slip sheets are more challenging to handle than wood pallets and some additional employee training is required when making the conversion from standard pallets to slip sheets. However, a number of benefits result from their relative low cost, lightness, and size. Slip sheets cost about 85 percent less than wood pallets, less space is needed for storage and in transport, and the lightness reduces transportation costs. Also, plastic slip sheets are recyclable in a closed-loop system, where old slip sheets can be recycled into new ones. The main drawback of slip sheets is the additional cost associated with purchasing a specialised attachment for each fork lift which will be required to handle the load.

It is the object of the present invention to overcome some of the limitations of the prior art, or at least to provide an alternative system for the transportation of goods.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to various embodiments of the present invention, there is provided a method of forming a load for transportation comprising the steps of:

i) placing a base member on a flat surface, wherein the base member is wider than the intended width of the load;

ii) forming a base layer of the load on the base member such that a side flap of the base member extends beyond each side of the base layer, wherein the base layer defines at least two channels for receiving forks of a forklift truck or other lifting device;

iii) building a partial load, less than the intended maximum height, on top of the base layer;

iv) folding the side flaps of the base member around the partial load;

v) building the remainder of the load on top of the folded base member; and

vi) securing the completed load for transportation.

This method may result in the formation of a load which can be handled by a conventional fork lift truck without the need for modification and without the need for a pallet. Consequently, embodiments of the present invention combine the advantages of pallets and slip sheets without the associated drawbacks.

The load will typically comprise a plurality of individual items stacked on a base member in a similar manner as with existing pallets or slip sheets. A key difference is that when the load is built up on the base member a base layer of the load is formed with channels for receiving the forks of a fork lift truck. The channels are spaced apart such that they correspond to the standard spacing of the forks on a typical fork lift truck. It is appreciated that the spacing of the forks on a fork lift truck may be adjustable and the channels can be formed at any suitable position to accommodate the particular characteristics of the fork lift truck. The channels must be wide enough to receive the forks of the fork lift truck which will be used to transport the load and should ideally be wide enough to provide some margin for error.

In an embodiment of the invention, the channels extend across the full length of the load. This enables the load to be picked up from both front and back, in the manner of a standard “two way” pallet.

The base member provides support underneath the load and follows the contour of the load, such that when the forks of the fork lift truck are inserted into the channels they are in contact with the base member. The base member is then folded around a partial load and “sandwiched” between the partial load and the remainder of the load which is built on top. This hold the base member tight and provides a degree of rigidity for the load. The load is then secured, for example in the conventional manner used with loads on pallets.

A further advantage of some embodiments of the present system is that the size of the load is not limited to the size of a pallet. The load size may be determined by a desire to maximise the loading capacity of a container. For example, the load footprint may be larger than a standard pallet or it may be smaller, depending on the space available. In some circumstances, it may be that a customer only wishes to order a fraction of a full pallet. This is very inefficient when using pallets as each partial load still requires a normal size pallet. The present system enables fractions of standard loads to be delivered with only a minimal loss of capacity. The only space which is lost is that which is defined by the channels. This represents a significant improvement to currently available systems.

In an embodiment of the invention, stage iv) of the method comprises the further steps of:

a) folding a first one of the side flaps around the partial load;

b) building a further portion of the load, less then the intended maximum, on top of the first side flap; and

c) folding a second one of the side flaps around the further portion of the load.

Without wishing to be bound by theory, it is believed that folding each of the side flaps separately increases the overall strength of the load.

In an embodiment of the invention, the step of folding the side flaps around the partial load comprises the steps of:

i) folding the side flap across the width of the partial load;

ii) building a further layer of the partial load; and

iii) folding the side flap back across the partial load.

Again, it is believed that this increases the strength of the completed load. As with all forms of packaging it is about getting a balance between protecting the goods for storage and transportation and limiting the material used. Depending on factors such as the size and weight of the load, it may be advantageous to fold each side flap across the load and back over a further layer.

In an embodiment of the invention, at least one of the side flaps si provided with an adhesive. In a further embodiment both side flaps are provided with an adhesive. Depending on the configuration of the load the adhesive may be used to adhere both side flaps together or it may be used to adhere a side flap to a portion of the load. It is most preferred that the adhesive is used to bind the side flaps together. The adhesive may be selected from a variety of known adhesives and the particular adhesive chosen for any application will be dependent on the material of the base member.

In an embodiment of the invention, a template is used to define the channels.

The template can be formed from any suitably resilient members of the appropriate shape to define the channels for the forks of the fork lift truck. In an embodiment of the invention, the template is formed of wood, plastic or metal and is capable of withstanding the weight of the load built on top of it. In an embodiment of the invention, the template members are longer than the channels which they are intended to define, such that a portion of them extends beyond the channel to effect easy removal of the template members once the load is built. In an embodiment of the invention, the base member is laid on top of the template members so that the base member follows the contour of the load.

In an embodiment of the invention, the template defines a further at least two channels perpendicular to the first mentioned channels. This will enable the load to be accessed from all sides in the manner of a conventional “four-way” pallet.

In an embodiment of the invention, the base member comprises a resilient plastics material. Such a construction is preferred as it will provide a light-weight, low cost alternative to a pallet which can be easily stored. It also offers the additional benefit that old base members can be recycled into new ones. In an embodiment of the invention, the resilient plastics material comprises one or more plastics selected from the group consisting of polyolefins, polyamides, polystyrenes and/or polyesters. The plastics material may further comprise CaCO3.

In an embodiment of the invention, the base member is in the form of a sheet. In an embodiment of the invention, in order to reduce the amount of material required to form the sheet, the sheet comprises a plurality of perforations. This helps to reduce the weight of the sheet, but care must be taken to ensure that the sheet has sufficient strength to support the load.

In an embodiment of the invention, the sheet is provided with a plurality of openings. As with the perforations, this reduces the material required to form the sheets and, consequently, the weight of the sheets. In the case where a template is used to form two sets of perpendicular channel openings are provided in the sheet which correspond with the position of the channels. The openings may conveniently be die cut during manufacture of the sheet.

In an embodiment of the invention, the base member may be a net. As a further alternative the base member may comprise a plurality of strap members. Advantageously, the strap members may comprise perforations or die cut portions in order to minimise weight and reduce the material required.

In an embodiment of the invention, a load contacting surface of the base member has a tacky surface comprising a glued spray, a hot melt adhesive coating or an extruded tackifier. This helps to ensure that the load is secure. It is preferred that the tacky surface provides only a semi-permanent bond between the base member and the load. The bond should be strong enough to remain in place during storage and transportation but should be easily broken when it is desired to break down the load. Ideally, it should be possible to “peel” the base member away from the load.

The load may conveniently be secured with stretch-wrapped film. This is commonly used to secure loads on pallets and has been shown to be effective in this purpose. Alternatively, the load may be secured with any suitable strapping, which may be plastic or metallic depending on the nature of the load.

According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a load comprising a plurality of items, wherein the load comprises a base member upon which the items are stacked and a base layer of the load is stacked on the base member and defines at least two channels for receiving forks of a fork lift truck.

In an embodiment of this second aspect, the base member has side flaps which extend beyond each side of the load and are folded around a portion of the load. The side flaps may conveniently be folded around a portion of the load and “sandwiched” between layer of the load. Each side flap may be located in the same layer or in a different layer. The side flaps may conveniently be long enough to enable them to be folded across the width of the load and then back across the load between a different layer of the load.

In an embodiment of this second aspect of the invention, the base layer of the load defines four channels. In an embodiment of the invention the load comprises two pairs of channels which are arranged perpendicular to each other. This enables the load to function as a “four-way” load in the same manner as a four way pallet.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a better understanding of the present invention, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 shows a schematic representation of a stage in the formation of a load;

FIG. 2 shows a schematic representation of a further stage in the formation of a load;

FIG. 3 shows a schematic representation of a further stage in the formation of load;

FIG. 4 shows a schematic representation of a completed load;

FIG. 5 shows a schematic perspective representation of the partial load of FIG. 3;

FIG. 6 shows a schematic representation of an alternative configuration of a completed load;

FIG. 7 shows a schematic representation of a further alternative configuration of a completed load; and

FIG. 8 shows a schematic representation of an alternative configuration of a completed load.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring firstly to FIG. 1, this shows a schematic representation of an early stage in the formation of a load 2.

The first stage in the formation of the load 2 involves placing two elongate template members 4a,4b on a flat surface. The template members 4a,4b have a square cross section and are formed rigid, resilient material. The template members 4a,4b may conveniently be formed from wood, plastic or metal and they are longer than the intended width of the load 2. This ensures that the load 2 can be built on top of the template members 4a,4b and they can then be easily removed.

The template members 4a,4b are arranged parallel to each other and are spaced apart by a distance which corresponds to the spacing of the forks on the fork lift truck which will be used to move the load 2 and they are larger in size than the forks. It is appreciated that fork lift forks are generally adjustable, but each load 2 will have an optimum fork spacing, depending on various factors such as the size and weight of the load 2. The template members 4a,4b define channels which will receive the forks of a fork lift truck in order to facilitate movement of the load 2. When the load 2 is completed and the template members 4a,4b are removed two channels will remain. These channels may be accessed from the front or the rear of the load, thus mimicking the standard “two way” pallet.

As an alternative, a more complex arrangement of template members may be provided to offer improved operational flexibility. The template is arranged such that four channels are defined in the load, thus permitting access to the forks of a fork lift truck from all four sides of the load, in the manner of a “four way” pallet. In one embodiment the template is a multi-piece construction which comprises two pairs of channel defining members. The channel defining members of each pair are parallel to each other and the two pairs are perpendicular to one another. One pair of channel defining members is provided with gaps to enable the other pair of channel defining members to slide through. The gaps are defined by bridge portions. Alternatively the four channels may be created using four standard template members, in which a first layer of a load is built up around a first pair of template members and a second pair of template members are placed on top perpendicular to the first pair.

Referring again to the embodiment of FIG. 1, the next stage involves a base member 6 being laid on top of the template members 4a,4b. The base member 6 is rectangular in shape and it is orientated such that its long sides are perpendicular to the template members 4a,4b. The length of its short sides corresponds generally to the depth of the load 2 and is shorter than the length of the template members 4a,4b. The long sides are significantly longer than the intended width of the load 2 and the reason for this will become clear in relation to FIGS. 3-5.

The base member 6 is made of a resilient material as it is partly responsible for the overall strength of the load. Typically, the base member may be formed from a resilient plastics material, for example, selected from one or more of the following: polyolefins, polyamides, polystyrenes and/or polyesters. The plastics materials may suitably be constructed in a multi-ply manner as is well known in the art. These materials are particularly preferred as they are strong, lightweight and easily recyclable. The plastics material may contain one or more additives depending on the nature of the goods in the load, for example, the load contacting surface of the base member may be provided with a tacky surface permitting the base member to adhere to the load during use.

The base member 6 may be in the form of a sheet of material. In order to reduce the overall weight of the base member 6 the sheet may be provided with a plurality of perforations. The perforations may be formed during manufacture of the base member 6 and should be arranged such that the integrity and strength of the base member 6 is maintained. It is appreciated that the strength of the base member 6 may be reduced by the creation of perforations and it is important that a balance is struck between reducing weight and maintaining strength.

As an alternative to perforations the sheet may be provided with a plurality of openings which may be die cut during manufacture of the sheet. The openings may be arranged in a regular array or they may be randomly spaced across the sheet. In the embodiment described above in which the template member is arranged to define four channels, the openings on the sheet must be arranged to accommodate the forks of a fork lift truck.

A further two embodiments of the base member 6 are envisaged within the scope of the invention. Firstly, the base member 6 may be in the form of a net. Secondly, the base member 6 may be in the form of a plurality of strap members. The strap members may be attached to each other to prevent separation, or they may be completely separate entities. Although the method of forming the load is described with relation to a base member 6 in the form of a sheet it is equally applicable to these alternative forms of base member 6.

Once the base member 6 is in place a base layer 2a of the load 2 is formed. The load 2 may comprise a plurality of individual items, which may be the same or different shapes. The present system enables the formation of a variety of loads 2 of differing sizes as there is no requirement on building the load 2 to fit a pallet. The size of the load 2 will be determined by other factors, such as the weight of the goods and the space available in the container or other transportation means. The only restriction on the size of the load 2 from the point of view of the present invention is that a side flap 8 of the base member 6 must extend beyond each side of the load 2. The base layer 2a of the load is built around and to the same height as the template members 4a,4b.

The next stage is to build a further portion 2b of the load 2 on top of the base layer 2a, as shown in FIG. 2. The further portion 2b is built in the conventional manner for building a load for example on a standard pallet. The further portion 2b, also known as a partial load, is built to a height less than the intended maximum of the load 2. The maximum height of the partial load 2b is also determined by the length of the side flaps 8 which extend beyond the base member 6 on either side of the load 2. This will be described in more detail in relation to FIG. 3, but the height of the partial load must not exceed the length of the side flaps 8.

Turning now to FIG. 3, this shows the next stage in the formation of the load 2. A number of variations are possible at this stage and some of these are illustrated in FIGS. 6-8. A first one of the side flaps 8a is folded around the partial load 2b. As described above, the load contacting surface of the base member 6 may be provided with a tacky surface. This enables the side flap 8a to adhere to the partial load 2b and aids formation of the load 2, as well as also giving strength to the load 2. The tacky coating is relatively weak and does not bond to the load 2 in a permanent manner. It should be possible to pull apart load 2 and base member 6 during unloading. Next, the second side flap 8b is folded around the partial load 2b. The side flaps 8a,8b overlap and in the region of the overlap they are provided with a stronger adhesive to secure them together. Again, this adds strength to the load 2 which is very important in the absence of a pallet.

A perspective view of the load 2 of FIG. 3 is shown in FIG. 5. It can be seen that the load 2 has been formed as a “four way” load, which is configured to receive the forks of a fork lift truck from all four sides. Once the base layer 2a has been formed (as shown in FIG. 1) a further pair of template members 4c, 4d are placed on top of the base layer 2a such that they are perpendicular to the first mentioned pair of template members 4a, 4b. The partial load 2b is then built up around the template members 4c, 4d to its intended height. The remainder of the procedure is the same as described in relation to FIGS. 1-4. The side flaps 8a, 8b of the base member 6 are provided with openings 9, which are arranged to align with the further template members 8c, 8d. Consequently, when the side flaps 8a, 8b are folded around the partial load 2b the openings 9 and the template members 4c, 4d are in the same position.

As mentioned, a variety of different configurations are possible at this stage. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, both side flaps 8a,8b are folded around the partial load 2b at the same height. However, it is envisaged that a first side flap 8a could first be folded around the partial load 2b then a further portion 2d of the load 2 could be built on top of the first side flap 8a, around which the second side flap 8b could be folded. This configuration is illustrated in FIG. 6.

As a further alternative, the side flaps 8a,8b may be provided such that when they are folded around the partial load 2b they extend across its full width. In this case it is envisaged that a further portion 2e of the load 2 could be built on top of each of the side flaps 8a,8b and then the side flaps 8a,8b folded back around this further portion 2e. Two possible versions of this configuration are illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8.

It will be appreciated that a wide variety of possible folding configurations are possible within the scope of the present invention. The illustrated embodiments are provided by way of example only and the only limitations on the present invention are provided in the claims.

Once the side flaps 8a,8b have been folded around the partial load 2b the remaining portion 2c of the load is built on top of the folded side flaps 8a,8b in the traditional manner, as shown in FIG. 4. The completed load is then secured by any suitable means, such as shrink-wrapping or tying, to prepare the load 2 for transportation. As a final step, the template members 4a,4b are removed from the load 2. A portion of the template members 4a,4b is left protruding from the load to facilitate removal.

Although several embodiments of the invention are described in detail above, one having ordinary skill in the art will recognize that various modifications and equivalent substitutions are also within the scope of the invention, as defined in the following claims and their equivalents.