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How Pallets Play a Crucial Role in the Supply Chain

pallets

Pallets are an iconic part of any warehouse or supply chain, but they’re more crucial than most people know — and we’re not talking about using them as material for upcycles or shabby, chic furniture. Why are pallets such a critical part of the supply chain, and how can they contribute to things like worker safety and loading times?

More Complicated Than They Appear

Pallets are simple in their construction — layered pieces of plywood or plastic designed to be loaded with anything and everything that needs to be shipped in bulk. Wooden pallets are the most commonly used — and the easiest to recycle — but more and more companies have started to use plastic pallets because they’re more durable and safer.

The only downside of plastic pallets is that they’re more expensive, but their durability means supply chains are spending less money on pallets.

The Critical Role That Pallets Play

Why are these little pieces of wood or plastic so critical to the supply chain?

  • They reduce loading and unloading time. Rather than moving individual boxes or packages, pallets allow products to be moved in bulk. A pallet full of bathtubs or other heavy items is much easier than moving individual tubs or other heavy or bulky products. Simply load, shrink wrap and you’re on your way.
  • They improve working conditions and worker safety. A properly loaded pallet is safer than loosely stacked products that can fall or tumble and create the potential or injury. While it’s true that a poorly loaded pallet can also present a hazard, training your crew to load pallets efficiently and safely can decrease the chance of on-the-job injuries.
  • They reduce warehouse costs and improve logistics. Efficient loading and unloading times help improve scheduling and reduce payroll costs because there’s no need for overtime.
  • They allow you to deliver higher quality products. There’s a greater chance that the packaging or the products themselves could be damaged when you’re moving individual pieces. Pallets prevent this by protecting your products and allowing you to move them in bulk.

How to Choose the Best Pallets for Your Applications

It seems like pallets are the perfect tool to protect and ship your products, but how do you decide the best one for your product? There are five things you should consider before investing in pallets:

  • How much have you budgeted for pallets, and which type will provide the best value? You need pallets that are cost effective but will last long enough to pay for themselves regarding value. Anything less will end up costing you more money.
  • Will the pallets work with your existing equipment? Most pallet jacks and forklifts use the same sort of design, but occasionally you’ll encounter pallets or equipment that don’t mesh. Make sure yours do before making that investment.
  • Can your pallets handle the load that they will be expected to carry? Lightweight wooden pallets might not be robust enough to carry your product once fully loaded.
  • How long will your pallets last when hauling shipment after shipment? If you’re expecting high shipment numbers or heavy loads, you’ll need to invest in more durable pallets to get the best value for your money.
  • Will your pallets hold their shape when fully loaded? The heavier your product is, the higher stiffness rating you’ll need to transport your products safely.

Pallets might seem like a simple item, but they’re essential when it comes to creating an efficient, cost-effective supply chain. If you find yourself in need of new pallets, do some research and find the ones that will work the best for your product and shipping needs. You aren’t limited to just one option anymore — find the pallets that work best for you, and you’ll see the difference in the success of your supply chain.

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Megan Ray Nichols
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer interested in engineering, technology, and other science disciplines. She is a regular contributor to Manufacturing Transformation and American Machinist. Megan is also the editor of Schooled By Science. Subscribe to her blog to stay up to date on scientific news and follow her on Twitter.
Megan Ray Nichols
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