Day 337

One of the main reasons for getting a summer job at a brewery–other than earning some money–is to learn all the practical details that were not mentioned in class. One of those practical details that never came up is exactly how to stack 84 cases of beer on a pallet in seven layers that remain stable. It’s not just a matter of piling cases on top of each other–putting five or six cases directly on top of each other will result in an unstable “tower” that will lean out as you move your skid and come crashing down.

First layer of a pallet

The first layer “T” — the six cases are all aligned north-south. The next step is to place three cases on each side that are oriented east-west.

How to build a stable pallet turns out to be quite simple. For your first layer, you take six cases and build a “T”, with the long axis of the cases running north-south. You then put three cases on each side of the “T” oriented east-west. This completes the first layer of 12 cases.

For the second layer, you do exactly the same thing–but you reverse the direction of the T–that is, if the long end of your first-layer T was at the north end of the skid, then the long end of your second-layer T will be at the south end. This staggers the placement of the cases enough that you never get a case aligned directly with the case underneath it.

It’s a simple yet ingenious system that results in a very sturdy and stable skid of beer.

Actually, there is one place where the cases are stacked directly on top of each other. If you take a pencil and piece of paper and draw the first and second layers–seriously, do this, I’ll wait for you to finish–you will discover that the cases at the very centre of the skid exactly align with each other, making a central “tower”. However, because this “tower” is surrounded by all the other cases, there’s no chance for it to fall over.

I mentioned this to the brewmaster, and he told me that sometimes during bottling, he builds the central “tower” first, then builds the rest of the pallet around it. The only problem was that another employee of the brewery–let’s call him Jasper–refused to believe that building a pallet this way was the same as building a pallet layer by layer. If Jasper happened by before the pallet was complete, he would insist on taking the pallet apart and rebuilding it “properly”.

Semi-built pallet

The central tower, seven layers high, slowly disappearing as the rest of the pallet is built up around it.

Bottling, being comprised of several hours of doing the same thing over and over again, is not an exciting process. One day, assigned to put the cases of beer on a pallet, I decided to break the routine a bit by testing the Jasper story.

I first built a central tower of seven cases, then started to build the rest of the pallet around it. It was actually fairly interesting work, and I got the pallet about half-finished before Jasper came by. With a horrified look and a quick admonition about “doing the job properly”, he took apart my entire skid and and carefully rebuilt it layer by layer.

I wasn’t sure whether to be amused that the brewmaster’s story was true, or disappointed that I was back to building the pallet “properly”.

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One Comment on “Day 337”

  1. Sonja Says:


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