As you'll probably realise, the grocery industry is worth a lot of money in the UK. It was valued at £163 billion in 2012, with spending in this sector accounting for 54.3p of every £1 spent on retail goods. The majority of this money, over £106 billion was spent in supermarkets, ranging from food focussed units with a sales floor of over 3,000 square feet, to a hyper-stores with a sales floors in excess of 60,000 square feet. Obviously such large areas of retail space need constant replenishment with new goods, especially when many companies have a policy of keeping their shelves full, and one of the key components in rapidly moving stock in this environment is the roll cage.
So what exactly is a roll cage? These pieces of equipment consist of a secure base that's mounted onto four wheels for stability and mobility, with a cage built up from the base in which goods can be transported. These range from special models that can be taken apart and stored as flat components when not needed, through to heavy duty cages that come complete with locking doors for the storage of valuable items. Most roll cages are around 2 metres high on a metre square base allowing workers to transport around half a metric ton of goods to where they're needed within the warehouse or shop floor.
The first place where roll cages are used in supermarket operations is to help rapidly unload the large trucks that are constantly delivering a new supply of goods to the shop floor's supporting warehouse. Often smaller items that are not in high demand, such as boxes of varying exotic spices, will be loaded onto a roll cage at the distribution centre, so that when the consignment arrives at its destination, it can be quickly transported to the appropriate place within the warehouse and unloaded onto the shelving.
Most supermarkets are run as a finely tuned operation. Nearly all their internal processes are subject to various targets that ensure that the business is being managed effectively, one of which is the amount of time it takes for goods to travel from the warehouse onto the shop floor. Roll cages are proven to be one of the fastest ways of getting saleable items onto the shelves, as they can be loaded up with a large number of cases without too much concern over the stacking of boxes on the trolley. This allows workers to rapidly move much needed stock to the appropriate place on the shop floor.
Believe it or not, roll cages can actually play a part in helping cut down a supermarket's carbon emissions. In 2012, one of the UK's best known supermarkets, Tesco, set up a special scheme known as Plan F, which aimed to cut down the amount of carbon emitted per case of goods by 50%, from 0.14 kg to 0.07 kg. A large part of this scheme was ensuring that all roll cages were used to their maximum capacity, thus cutting down the ecological cost of transporting the goods held within the unit.
Intelligent Cage Design
As we move further into a processor powered computer age, the control of stock and the movement of goods is being undertaken by specially designed software systems. We are now seeing roll cages that have a special RFID chip embedded in one of their wheels, onto which data can be written and re-written. This allows the warehouse staff to create an active record of the entire contents of the roll cage, allowing them to quickly identify the location of any specific item. Businesses can even purchase such wheels on their own, which can then be fitted to a standard roll cage, thus saving them money on replacing the entire unit.
The Future Of The Roll Cage
You may have seen entirely automated warehouse systems that are run by robots that fetch boxes and load them onto transports. This is an elegant, 21st century solution to managing and controlling stock, but unfortunately such technology simply wouldn't work in the fast paced, demanding atmosphere of a supermarket in a large metropolis. Whilst we still need people to actually transport goods onto a shop floor, the roll cage will always be an important component in this process.