Pallets are usually taken for granted, used and cast aside. However, these silent workhorses are indispensable in moving goods. They are an easy and efficient method to ship commercial goods across the globe. It’s not surprising that the global pallet market was at a volume of 6.8 billion units in 2018.
Importance of Pallets
Pallets are significant links in supply chains – as they connect growers, retailers, manufacturers, distributors, and transportation and logistics service providers. Although they are usually used only while products are in transit, their impact can be huge, as they travel hundreds of billions of miles.
Pallet types and quality have a major impact on expenses, loading and unloading processes, waste reduction, product safety and quality, and sustainability of materials. For example, Johnson & Johnson had to recall various medical products in 2009-2010 because they had likely been affected by a fungicide used to treat the wooden pallets carrying them.
The most important factors in pallet performance are the least damage to the product and the safety of the people handling them. They differ according to designs, materials, and dimensions.
You should know the optimal pallet material, size, and design for your requirements. Communicate all this and what the pallets will be used for to your pallet provider and shipper.
Wood pallets are popular because they are strong, durable, less expensive, and best-suited for heavy loads. They can be made from sustainably harvested wood and can be repaired and reused.
When they are irreparably damaged, they can be recycled. The wood can be shredded into mulch, and the nails can be removed and recycled. Thus, their carbon footprint is much less compared to other materials.
However, they should be fumigated and applied with fire retardants for certain products and to be shipped overseas. The nails on them can also be a safety hazard.
Plastic pallets are lighter and more durable than wood pallets though they are costlier. They are also fire-resistant, water-repellent, exportable, recyclable, and highly customizable.
They are also pest-resistant, and biologically and chemically sanitary. Since there are no splinters or nails on them, they are safer to handle.
However, plastic pallets may slip when stored in refrigerated environments and on overhead racks. Thus, product and worker safety cannot always be guaranteed. Although they are reparable and recyclable, the costs and difficulty involved are high.
Aluminum pallets are light, durable, and fireproof. They are non-corrosive and can be easily cleaned and sanitized. However, they are often stolen because of aluminum’s scrap value.
Size & Design
Using pallets of a uniform size and design increases handling efficiency–your warehouses and equipment can be standardized according to them. Multiple sizes and designs mean manual unloading, which is more expensive and less safe.
Moreover, using pallets of different sizes and designs on automated production lines can cause equipment jams. This leads to product damage, employee injuries or downtime, which means further expenses.
Pallet systems can be open-loop, closed-loop, mixed or hybrid. In a closed-loop system, the pallets owned by a company are sent from its distribution centers to its stores and returned to their journey’s origins. In an open-loop system, the manufacturer and retailers are not of the same firm, and third parties manage pallet movements.
In the mixed form, both the manufacturer and retailers may send and receive pallets through both closed-loop and open-loop systems. Hybrid systems may be of many varieties, such as cooperatives of retailers in the same locality.
Choose the system that keeps your products safe and improves the efficiency and economy of your supply chains. Pallets that can be tracked using RFID aid supply chain visibility and product safety.
Weigh the pros and cons of all available pallet options. Choose wisely to ensure the safe and prompt delivery of your products and satisfaction of your customers.