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With the new process consolidation package building in SAP Transportation Management 9.6 (MKS90), the Supply Chain Execution Package Builder (SCE PB) had to learn something new - build mixed pallets using a tower style.

Historically the SCE PB is very layer driven. Starting with SAP Transportation Management 9.3, the initial scope was to build full packages / pallets (100 pieces of product A make a full pallet). Understanding the customer requirements better, I added the first option to create mixed pallets based on product pure layers (10 pieces of product A make a full layer, 20 pieces of product B make a full layer, considering height and weight limits such layers can be combined to mixed product pallets). Still the issue remained how to handle product quantities below the layer quantity. Approach for this was to create mixed layers combining products with the same height filling the available layer floor space to create layers onto which another layer could be stacked. For remaining products the PB created uneven layers with the restriction that a pallet could only contain a single of such layers.

In reality, product pure layers are stable and a solid basis for stacking. Customers and packers know the best pattern per product. Mixed product layers with the same height can still form a solid base and are probably also pretty easy to pack. As soon as it comes to mixed product layers combining heterogeneous products, a lot more has to be considered. All of this complexity is pretty restricted when the pallet only goes to single customer, what has been the supported standard process in SAP TM so far (Package Building during Freight Unit Building). The pallet is received at the customer and de-consolidated within his warehouse.

Layer based mixed pallet

But when creating mixed pallets combining multiple customers, (at least) 2 different scenarios can occur:

The first scenario is still layer based and wants to keep all items of a customer together. During transportation planning, the stop sequence can be determined very well or is maybe completely fixed. So the task when creating mixed pallets is to put the customer items very well sorted onto the pallet following the stop sequence. Delivery driver stops at the first customer, all of the required items are on top of the mixed pallet and can easily be taken off. Then he drives to the next customer, delivery and so on. I would assume medium to high product quantities, typically all in layer quantity. Only a few customers (2 - 5) per mixed pallet. Any small product quantity creates heterogeneous mixed pallets hard to de-consolidate. This scenario is only supported in standard for full layer quantities. When using the product arrangement layer, the detailed package building will consider this for the products, but not the customer order.

The second scenario tackles low order volumes: many products, each customer receives only small product quantities, and the stop sequence might not be very stable. So the main task for package building is to create mixed pallets where the delivery guy can easily find and access all products. This can not be achieved using layers. The better way in this case is to tower products.

A bit of a funny story is that even if layers have always been the focus for mixed pallet creation, the first real mixed pallets I have seen have been towered mixed pallets. This was in Portugal, where a big consumer products company showed us how they work. But recognizing those towered pallets they told us that they work layer based everywhere else and we should not put this in scope.

So what does tower style product arrangement mean? The PB optimizer places as many different products on the pallet floor and stacks the products as high as the limits allow considering some other constraints. The product stack does not have to be product pure, but can contain products of the same reference product group.

Tower based mixed pallet


How can this be activated? In the Package Building Profile there is a new setting under Detailed Package Building:

Package Building Profile - Product Arrangement

One of the challenges to cover is that this can of course lead to product (group) towers with a high height difference. This leads to very unstable mixed pallets and can be limited by product group using the material setting 'Absolute Height Threshold'.