Understanding Pallets: Key Benefits in Packaging & Logistics
Packaging plays a crucial role in supply chain management. Beyond just safeguarding products, it’s essential for efficient storage, transport, and delivery, ensuring goods reach their destinations without damage or undue costs. A fundamental element of this packaging ecosystem is the pallet.
These flat structures stably support goods, allowing them to be lifted and moved with equipment like forklifts or jacks. While they might appear simple, pallets are indispensable in modern logistics, offering a practical solution to handling large quantities of goods. This article explores the significance of pallets and highlights their importance in contemporary packaging systems.
Pallets first appeared in the twentieth century, when users started employing pallets mainly for storage and handling in logistics. As pallets became more popular, they contributed to the current logistics system’s modernisation. Before products were stacked loosely, which caused more damage and with pallet storage, the efficiency of shipping and transporting goods significantly improved. Companies during that period then:
- Started to reuse pallets.
- Started using pallet collars to double-stack delicate commodities.
- Introduced the idea of pallet pooling.
Pallets, in their most fundamental form, are flat, horizontal platforms used to support goods in a way that allows them to be lifted and moved with equipment like forklifts, pallet jacks, or front loaders. They are designed to hold a substantial amount of weight and are typically used to consolidate various smaller packages into larger, more manageable units for transportation and storage.
Basic Construction and Materials
A pallet’s construction and choice of material often depend on its intended use, weight-bearing requirements, and the specific industry it serves. The type and construction of a pallet can impact the efficiency, cost, and sustainability of supply chain operations. Here are the primary materials and construction:
Number of Entry Points
The forklift’s entry points are where it inserts the fork to move a load from one location to another.
- 4 Entry Points: This indicates that a forklift can transfer a pallet from either of its four sides, which are all accessible.
- Only two of the pallet’s opposite sides provide access for the labour. Compared to the pallet with 4 Entry Points, this means less mobility.
Other Construction Types
- Reversible Pallet: Because they are uniform and homogenous, loads can be placed on them from both the upward and downward sides.
- Pallets “closed” by a slab on one of the backs can only be loaded from one side.
- Wing Pallet: Such wing pallets with projections on two to four sides make it easier to utilise a fastening mechanism.
Benefits of Palletisation
Pallets give storage businesses a strategic and competitive advantage. Manual storage is an option without palletisation but can take up more space. Therefore, using pallets helps in improving the difficulty of handling items. The following are some advantages of using pallets:
- Better transportation and on-time arrival or dispatch of products are made possible by quicker unloading and loading. Delivery trucks are more organised and straightforward to manage.
- Palletisation helps mechanise the storage and transportation processes, reducing the need for labour. As a result, manual handling and its issues are greatly diminished.
- Products sensitive to temperature are better protected – Perishable goods held in warehouses without temperature control have a lower risk of spoiling when stored on pallets.
- There is less chance of damage as they act as protective gear, keeping the items secure. They can’t fall or be knocked over because they are appropriately stacked during storage and transportation.
- Workers are safer with less labour being engaged and a reduced risk of worker injuries. This will prevent items from falling on workers or abrasive damage from sharp edges.
- Stacking pallets can be better planned before shipment or even while being transported because practically all pallets have predefined sizes set forth by established criteria.
Different Types of Pallets
Integrative to logistics, pallets come in various materials and designs to serve distinct purposes. The choice of pallet type can influence cost, durability, and adaptability to specific storage systems. This section delves into the various pallet types, highlighting their unique characteristics and optimal use cases to aid businesses in making informed decisions.
Wooden Pallets: Wooden pallets remain the stalwart choice in many supply chains worldwide. With designs ranging from the widely recognized stringer pallet to the more robust block pallet, they provide a versatile option for numerous applications. The primary appeal of wooden pallets lies in their cost-effectiveness. They are typically cheaper to acquire than their plastic or metal counterparts.
Additionally, if damaged, wooden pallets can often be repaired relatively easily, extending their service life. Recycling is another advantage, as these pallets can be repurposed into wood chips, mulch, or other byproducts. However, they do have their drawbacks.
Wooden pallets can be susceptible to pests and bacterial contamination. They also carry a heftier weight, which can impact shipping costs. Wooden pallets may pose challenges for international businesses due to phytosanitary regulations that aim to prevent the international transport of harmful pests and diseases.
Plastic Pallets: Plastic pallets have steadily gained favour in certain industries, forged predominantly from materials like high-density polyethene (HDPE) or polypropylene (PP). Their resistance to moisture, chemicals, and pests is particularly valuable for sectors that require sanitary environments.
Furthermore, being generally lighter than wooden pallets, they can save shipping costs. The durability of plastic pallets also translates into a longer lifespan, reducing the replacement frequency. However, the initial cost for plastic pallets can be steeper than wood’s. Their reparability also presents challenges, and they may not bear as much weight as a comparably sized wooden or metal pallet.
Metal Pallets: Crafted with strength and durability in mind, metal pallets—steel or aluminium—are the heavy lifters of the pallet world. With their immense strength, steel pallets find their place in heavy industries. Meanwhile, the lighter, corrosion-resistant aluminium versions are favoured for outdoor storage and airfreight.
Their resilience against pests, fungi, and fire can be crucial for specific industries with stringent regulations. Yet, these benefits come with trade-offs. The initial investment for metal pallets is high, and their weight, especially for steel variants, can substantially increase transportation costs. Without proper treatment or maintenance, they can also be susceptible to corrosion.
Composite Pallets: A blend of different materials, composite pallets—often consisting of fiberboard or engineered woods—provide a middle ground in the pallet spectrum.
Designed to cater to specific use cases, they can offer unique weight, durability, and resistance combinations. However, their composite nature might limit reparability and be less recyclable than pure wooden pallets. Depending on the materials used and the manufacturing process, the costs of composite pallets can also be higher than traditional wooden ones.
Pallet Storage Methods
Efficient storage is crucial in logistics and warehousing. Pallets play a key role, but their effectiveness relies heavily on how they’re stored. Different pallet storage methods, from high-density systems to adjustable racking, offer varied advantages based on operational needs and space availability.
- Block stacking: On the warehouse floor, lanes are created by stacking pallets with unit loads on top of each other. The height clearance at which different loads are held depends on the pallet’s condition, its weight, and the forklift’s capability.
- Stacking: Decks and posts are utilised to construct the stacking frames. These are transportable from one location to another. Unstackable loads are stored using these stacking frames. These frames allow for stacking to enormous heights. During busy times, businesses also use them as temporary racking.
- Single-Deep Pallet Rack: This arrangement makes it easier to access each pallet separately. As a result, personnel can immediately replace each pallet at its location. This rack can be set up in various ways, with each pallet positioned at a different height. Many people employ this technique. Such a system’s only drawback is that it needs a lot of floor space.
- Double-Deep Pallet Rack: This is a double-stacked version of the single-deep rack system. It aids in minimising the need for numerous aisles. Pallets must be removed from the racking using a specific double-reach forklift.
- Drive-In Rack: Each of these holds five to ten pallet loads. It has drive-in lanes that make it easier for a forklift to access the stack to place and remove pallet loads in piles. This makes handling loads more convenient. However, utilising a forklift becomes laborious and time-consuming as less space is offered since operating is challenging.
Pallets are fundamental to the packaging industry, ensuring safe and efficient transport and storage of goods. With varieties like wooden, plastic, metal, and composite, each offers distinct advantages. Selecting the right pallet type is essential for businesses aiming for streamlined supply chain management.
Investing in quality pallets is a matter of operational efficiency but also of product safety and cost-effectiveness. StreamPeak offers a range of high-quality pallets, ensuring durability, safety, and efficiency. Whether you’re looking for wooden, plastic, metal, or composite options, StreamPeak stands committed to delivering the best-fit solution for your business operations.