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Behind the Scenes: Building a Truly Ergonomic, Efficient Pallet Truck

In our monthly Q&A series, we take a look at Southworth Products' PalletPal Walkie, which re-imagines the pallet truck in an innovative ergonomic design to reduce worker fatigue injury.

In our monthly Q&A series, we take a look at Southworth Products' PalletPal Walkie, which re-imagines the pallet truck in an innovative ergonomic design to reduce worker fatigue injury.

Q: What motivated Southworth Products to develop this device?

A: As is the case with many Southworth innovations, the PalletPal Walkie was born out of customer demand. Over the years, the company had provided custom solutions for similar applications. Then working with an innovative ergonomic consultant, we were asked for suggestions on how to take some ofthe burden off employees involved in the order picking process at a major beverage company. The system they had in place was well thought out and streamlined, but workers were bending, reaching, and stretching to place cases on pallets. We knew that if we could eliminate these actions it would improve overall productivity as well as reduce worker fatigue and the risk of back injury. The challenge was to develop a universal retrofit design that addressed this common warehouse challenge while maintaining good economics.


Q: How is the PalletPal Walkie different from similar units on the market today?

A: Most pallet truck attachments modify fork arrangements to handle things like coils, rolls, drums, odd-sized skids, or other items that are not on pallets. The PalletPal Walkie is designed to improve the way existing pallets are handled by existing powered pallet trucks. The spring mechanism automatically adjusts the height of the load as cases are added, maintaining the top layer of goods at a convenient, accessible, and ergonomic loading height. There’s really nothing else like it.

Q: What problems needed to be addressed during the development process?

A: We didn’t really encounter any problems per se, but we did spend a lot of time working on how the PalletPal Walkie would interface with different powered pallet trucks and different types of pallets. It was important to us (and our customers) that it be a universal design carrying all pallets and interfacing with all electric pallet movers.

Q: How long did it take from conception to ultimate production?

A: Because of our long history building PalletPal Level Loaders, and the fact that we have our own manufacturing facilities here in the United States, we were able to go from concept to prototype in only a few weeks. Once we proved out the concept internally, we built field testing units and sent them to our customer for review and beta testing. After some suggestions for minor design modifications, we began our first production run. The time from concept to shipping of production units was only about two months.

Q: What effect did cost factors have in changing the final design of the product?

A: Although cost is always a major design consideration, it really did not become an issue here. As I mentioned earlier, we have so much experience building automatic spring level loaders that we know where the economies are and the final design is heavily based on our tried and proven PalletPal Automatic Level Loader.

Q: Who is your target audience and what benefits will they achieve from using this product?

A: Really anyone that picks stock to build custom pallets loads and uses powered pallet trucks. However, beverage distribution facilities have really adopted this product and are seeing the benefits of using it every day. Employees can pick orders faster, which means trucks can be loaded faster, too; workers are less fatigued and less prone to picking errors; and lost time due to back injury or other musculoskeletal disorders is minimized.


Check out the full description of the PalletPal Walkie in the NED product catalog.



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