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Wood Is a Sustainable Choice for Packaging and Shipping Materials

Welcome Nature’s Packaging readers, in this blog post we’re going to be talking about the importance of sustainability in our world today and how wood plays a crucial role in it. We’ll be reviewing the benefits of wood as a renewable resource, and why it’s a great choice for packaging and shipping materials.

Trees are one of the most important resources in the world, providing countless benefits to people and the environment. Not only do trees provide oxygen and help to regulate climate change, but they can also be harvested as a renewable resource.

Trees have a wide range of uses for humans, from providing food and fuel to being used in construction and packaging among other things. Furthermore, trees are capable of regenerating themselves when properly managed, making them an excellent resource that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly.

So, what is a renewable resource? Well, a renewable resource is a resource that can be replenished or regenerated over time. Examples of renewable resources that are being utilized today include solar energy, wind energy, and, of course, wood.

One of the main advantages of wood as a renewable resource is that it can be replanted and regrown. In fact, in the United States alone, more than 1.9 billion trees are replanted every year. Trees are a renewable resource because they can be harvested and then replanted, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials.

Unlike non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, wood is not a finite resource. It is a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials because it can be replenished, and when managed responsibly it can be re-used, and ultimately recycled.

Another advantage of wood as a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials is that wood is biodegradable. This means that it can break down naturally in the environment, unlike plastic or metal alternatives which can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Biodegradability is defined as the process of organic matter breaking down over time, until it is completely decomposed by microorganisms in its environment. The length of time for biodegradation of wood depends on several factors like the species of the wood, whether the material is left whole, or turned into chips by mulching.

Wood is also a cost-effective choice for packaging and shipping materials. Its cost-effectiveness, durability, and availability make it a popular choice among businesses and consumers alike.

As a natural material, wood has been used in packaging since ancient times due to its ability to protect goods during transportation. In the modern age, wood has been adapted to meet changing needs of consumers and businesses while remaining cost-effective, making it the ideal choice for supply chain and warehouse operations.

Wood is a renewable resource that can be replanted and regrown, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials. It is biodegradable, cost-effective, and widely available. By choosing wood as a packaging and shipping material, companies can help reduce the environmental impact of supply chain operations and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Why Wood Pallets are the Best Choice for Supply Chain Sustainability

Wood pallets are the modern equivalent of the Swiss army knife in supply chain operations. Pallets function as protection, transportation, and storage unit for countless numbers of items that ship all over the world, every day. Their versatility in design and ease of construction is unmatched by any other piece of material handling equipment in the daily operations of logistics and shipping.

Beyond their functional ability, wood pallets are seen as a best choice for companies when they want to achieve sustainability measures in their supply chains. Wood pallets have a number of key factors that make them the best choice in this regard.

In this Nature’s Packaging series over the next few weeks, we’ll dive deeper and take a focused look at what makes the wood pallet such a great choice when it comes to sustainability goals.

Below are the 5 key factors that will be discussed in the upcoming blog posts here in NP. Feel free to incorporate these into your messaging and help your customers understand why wood pallets are the best choice to help them achieve their supply chain sustainability goals.

  1. Renewable resource: Wood is a renewable resource, meaning it can be replanted and regrown, making it a sustainable choice for packaging and shipping materials.
  2. Recyclable and biodegradable: Wood pallets can be recycled or broken down naturally, unlike plastic or metal alternatives. This reduces the environmental impact of the pallets at the end of their useful life.
  3. Durable and reusable: Wood pallets are durable and can be used multiple times, reducing the need for constant replacement, and minimizing waste.
  4. Cost-effective: Wood pallets are often less expensive than other materials, making them a cost-effective choice for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact.
  5. Widely available: Wood pallets are widely available, making them easy to source and implement in supply chain operations.

Wood pallets offer a sustainable, cost-effective, and widely available solution for businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact and achieve their supply chain sustainability goals. Join us next week for a look at wood as a renewable resource. See you there.

The Wood Pallet Specification-A Quick Review

A wood pallet specification is a document that outlines the design, construction, and performance requirements for wooden pallets used in the transportation and storage of goods.

These specifications are critical for ensuring that pallets meet the necessary safety and performance standards, as well as facilitating efficient logistics and supply chain operations.

What are the key elements of a wood pallet specification?

  • The size and weight of the pallet, including both overall dimensions and the size of individual components such as deck boards and stringers.
  • The type of wood used in the construction of the pallet, including both the species and grade of wood.
  • The type of fasteners used to assemble the pallet, including both the size and material of the fasteners.
  • The load-bearing capacity of the pallet, including both the maximum weight and volume that the pallet can safely support.
  • The type of forklift and handling equipment that the pallet is designed for, as well as any special handling or storage requirements.

The type of protection required for the pallet, for example if it needs to be heat treated for export outside the country.

In addition to outlining these technical requirements, a wood pallet specification should also provide guidance on quality control, testing and inspection procedures, and any relevant safety and regulatory standards.

Why is a pallet specification useful for both the customer and supplier?

  1. It provides a clear and consistent set of standards for the design and construction of wooden pallets, which can improve safety and performance.
  2. It allows manufacturers and suppliers to understand and meet the specific needs of their customers. This can lead to more efficient logistics and supply chain operations.
  3. It also facilitates better communication between different parties involved in the supply chain including warehouse operators, transportation providers, and end-users.

The responsibility for creating a wood pallet specification typically falls on the manufacturer or supplier of the pallets. This can be done individually or collectively with industry associations, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders.

A wood pallet specification should be updated regularly, as industry standards and regulations change over time, as well as keeping up with the new technology and advancements in the field. It is also important to consider updating it in response to any changes in customer or industry needs.

Wood pallet specifications are critical for ensuring the safety and performance of wooden pallets used in transportation and storage. They should include key elements such as size and weight, type of wood, fasteners, load-bearing capacity, handling equipment, and protection requirements. The manufacturer or supplier should create these specifications and update them regularly to ensure they meet the latest standards and customer needs.

Sustainable Forest Management and Wood Pallets

The wooden pallet and container industry has embraced sustainability as both a core practice within the operating processes of the industry, and as a key value add to our customers in helping them achieve their own sustainability goals in their supply chain.

As more and more companies in this industry utilize data to provide insight and tell a story about their commitment to sustainable practices; the knowledge, data, and practices have a trickle-down effect from the largest companies in the industry to the small mom and pop pallet yards that are the backbone of the industry.

As a whole, we realize that the benefits of sustainability go beyond merely integrating into our customer’s goals, data, and marketing. There is real potential to be a leading light in the reduction of emissions and the science of carbon sequestration.

These topics can have real financial consequences for our bottom lines that will have a profound effect on our industry. And rest assured, if it becomes clear that our business processes are fully in line with the economic benefits of carbon capture and carbon credits, then our industry will be transformed by investments from some very large companies.

The industry is now witnessing the effects of attention from investment groups that realized how critical the pallet industry is to the supply chain and have begun consolidating assets to gain an edge.

But let’s take a step away from industry affairs for a moment and focus on another aspect of sustainability and how it can affect our industry. Most of the time, we are focused on the “downstream” effect of our sustainable practices and the value added by them. In this particular Nature’s Packaging post, we want to look “upstream” at sustainable practices in a critical area of the forest and forest products realm that adds value to our industry.

Sustainable forest management has been covered by Nature’s Packaging in previous posts, so we won’t delve into it as it benefits a forest itself. In this NP post, we want to summarize how sustainable forest management benefits the wood pallet industry in particular.

As we move forward globally with initiatives designed to save and manage forest from a more ecological and holistic perspective, the ability to source raw materials will change. With that change will come a change in our core products, the wood pallet and container, as well. As an industry, we must be ready for changes in policy and regulation that will inevitably be a part of that process.

The benefits of sustainable forest management must be weighed against the ability for our industry to do business in a meaningful way and remain profitable.

To that end, let’s review some of the ways sustainable forest management benefits the wood pallet industry:

  1. Ensures a steady supply of wood:  Sustainable forest management practices aim to maintain or increase the health and productivity of forest ecosystems over the long term. This helps to ensure that there is a continuous supply of wood available for the wood pallet industry.
  2. Reduces costs:  Sustainably managed forests are typically more efficient and cost-effective to log than forests that are not managed sustainably. For example, selective logging practices, which involve removing only certain trees from a forest rather than clear-cutting the entire area, can help to reduce costs and minimize waste.
  3. Enhances the reputation of the industry:  Sustainably managed forests are generally seen as more environmentally friendly, and the wood pallet industry can benefit from this positive reputation. Using sustainably sourced wood can help to attract customers who are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions.
  4. Protects against future risks:  Climate change and other environmental pressures pose significant risks to the wood pallet industry. Sustainably managed forests are more resilient to these risks, as they are better able to adapt to changing conditions and continue to provide a reliable source of wood.

These are succinct points that offer a broad perspective to you as a reader. Essentially, they address supply, costs, marketing, and the environment as it relates to the pallet industry. It is your challenge to contemplate the implications of each of these points and decide where (and when) your company, and the industry, need to focus.

Sustainable forest management offers a range of benefits for the wood pallet industry, how will you add those benefits and create value for your business and the industry?

The Circular Economy-New Idea, Re-Modeled

The definition of a circular economy is straightforward but transitioning to the new model remains challenging. Consumers and business leaders have grown accustomed to a wasteful, linear product lifecycle. Manufacturers fabricate goods, ship them to retail outlets, and people buy the items they believe provide the most significant value. But what happens afterward? Most people discard old or broken products without a second thought. Yet, a circular economy breaks the cycle of wastefulness, providing an alternative to the current system and a way to fight climate change.

The Circular Economy – The New Idea

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a circular economy “keeps materials, products, and services in circulation for as long as possible.” The typical product lifecycle entails fabricating new items from raw materials, sometimes natural resources, but there is little emphasis on sustainability. If there’s a choice between saving money on production or operating with sustainability, most choose the easy route.

A circular economy takes a different perspective. There is a concerted effort to eliminate waste at a fundamental, systemic level. Products manufactured in the current linear economic structure will not be returned to the manufacturer and recycled.

In a circular economic model, they would. The manufacturer can repair, reproduce, or recycle products using re-fabricated parts, creating a return-loop that promotes and operates with less waste – and lower manufacturing costs. The most vital concept is to be as efficient as possible while maintaining sustainability, including (if possible) using renewable energy.

Circular Economy-Recovered and Recycled

A circular economy isn’t a theoretical framework because real-world examples exist. The difference is that the global economy has yet to shift to a new model. Still, businesses continue to demonstrate how to accomplish the feat and push back on climate change.

Supply Chain

Many international companies in consumer facing industries, like automotive or electronics, are implementing closed loop-reverse logistics programs to capture savings in their manufacturing processes. These businesses enabled a “reverse logistics” system in coordination with partners and suppliers. These organizations gather and reassemble disused components and re-sell them via their reverse logistics supply chain. The result is greater efficiency since reassembled parts cost significantly less than new components. Those savings get passed to consumers, and all parties’ benefit. These industries have renovated hundreds of thousands of parts and components that meet similar specifications as new components.

Wood Pallets

Companies in the wood pallet industry have adopted similar systems, where new products are recycled and re-manufactured from existing pallets. Circular economics in this sector have spawned businesses that recover wood in the form of used pallets and other wood waste and re-purpose it as viable products all the way through the end and beyond of its own product lifecycle. The recycled pallets have the same functionality despite being reused in the supply chain more than once. If waste byproducts occur, those byproducts get used in other ways, such as using leftover wood for compost, or even wood pellets. This way, every ounce of recycled wood has a purpose and reduces the number of trees required to meet demand.

Why is It Important?

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle seem aimed at a personal level of responsibility to start and that is great. However, a circular economy model offers a different path forward. It allows businesses and consumers to participate in a healthy economic system that protects the environment and fights climate change. The assumption that circular economics introduces unnecessary costs is inaccurate because real-world examples prove it’s possible. The next step is the widespread deployment of circular economic principles, and that’s where the global economy stands today. There’s a clear choice between conducting business as usual or moving on to a sustainable system.

7 Great DIY Ideas for Pallet Wood Projects

Wood pallets are the perfect eco-friendly medium for some great D-I-Y wood projects. After being retired from use as pallets, recycled pallet wood can have a rustic, natural finish ideal for many different applications. It can be used as-is or dressed up with paint or stain.

Pallet wood can be used indoors or out and for everything from the simplest box to entire sets of furniture. Their versatility in design means you can use them as whole pallets in their original form or taken apart. If taking pallets apart, always be aware of nails that may be hidden or protruding slightly. Always use gloves, safety glasses, and the right tools to disassemble a pallet. Here’s a great resource on dismantling a pallet using different tools and techniques.

Most wood pallets are safe for home use, wood pallets are no longer chemically sprayed in the United States but other countries still use these techniques to prepare their pallets for export to other countries. Be sure to do a thorough inspection and make sure to check for stamps or markings that indicate if the wood was treated chemically. Here is an example of an MB stamp, which you do not want to use:

Now that we’ve gotten those points out of the way, let’s look at 7 great DIY ideas for pallet wood projects.

Art with Reclaimed Pallet Wood

While most people imagine using pallet wood to build, it’s also a great base for wall art of all kinds. Painting, wood burning, and carving can all turn your pallet canvas into a striking piece of home décor.

Pallet Wood Furniture

Pallet wood furniture projects range from simple to elaborate. If you’re new to working with wood, try something simple like a shoe rack. All you need are basic tools.

Ready for more advanced recycling? Make a pallet wood bed frame. They’re fairly easy to construct and give your room a natural, modern look.

If you’re an experienced woodworker, make something novel. Pallet wood makes terrific swing chairs and outdoor furniture sets.

Wall Covering

No, we’re not talking about 1970’s wood paneling. Use pallet wood to build a plank accent wall. The result is a warm, cozy feel that’s also modern and versatile.

Looking for a slightly smaller scale? Try a pallet wood backsplash in your kitchen. Use a water resistant finish to keep it looking great for years.

Ceiling Covering

Is your porch ceiling uninspired? Cover it with pallet wood for a finished, rustic look. This sturdy, long-lasting wood creates a statement in a place that’s often overlooked.

Any entryway with a ceiling can be styled with pallet wood. You can make this a fairly simple project with straight perimeter and field boards or jazz it up with some creative angles.

Storage Boxes

Pallet wood storage comes in infinite shapes, styles, and complexity. From a simple bookcase to an elaborate storage coffee table, pallet wood can make a place for just about anything.

We also like simple chests with an amazing amount of storage and clever kitchen trolleys.

Garden Boxes

Pallet wood is very accustomed to being exposed to the elements. Garden boxes, planters, raised beds, and herb gardens are all easy projects. You can focus on sustainability and create a beautiful outdoor space.

Tables

Tables are among the most common pallet wood projects. There is an incredible range of design options, from very simple side tables to full dining sets. A pallet table is a good way to practice your woodworking skills. Options with clean lines using basic tools are plentiful.

We like an easy coffee table on wheels or a rustic dining table.

Pallet wood is remarkably versatile. If you love a good upcycle, try your hand at one of these DIY wood projects.

 

Achieving Supply Chain Sustainability with Wood Pallets

Supply chain sustainability becomes more important with the passing of new climate change legislation. Companies from every sector are identifying challenges and presenting solutions to make their supply chains more environmentally friendly.

For every industry, taking action to mitigate climate change is fast becoming a primary concern. As one of the fundamental cogs in the economic wheel of trade and commerce, supply chain management can lead the way with long-term sustainable solutions.

A More Sustainable Supply Chain

For consumer businesses, the supply chain accounts for 80-90% of environmental impacts. This includes greenhouse gas emissions and air, land, water, and other ecological impacts.

Addressing those impacts to comply with climate action regulations and consumer demand is one of the great challenges facing business today. It won’t be easy, but creating a more sustainable supply chain is possible.

Nearly every major industry already has access to a crucial part of a sustainable supply chain: the wood pallet.

One of the supply chain’s most essential components, the wood pallet is also its most sustainable. Of the 1.8 billion pallets in use in the United States, 90% are made of wood.

The life cycle of wood pallets represents a gold standard in terms of sustainability. As the holder of an Environmental Product Declaration UL Certification, wood pallets exemplify the philosophy of reduce, reuse, recycle.

Strong, long-lasting, reusable, and recyclable, wood pallets may even produce a net positive carbon footprint. They store carbon dioxide throughout their life cycle and save it from release into the atmosphere.

Today, the wood pallet represents a sustainable choice. The challenge is to realize the same level of sustainability across entire supply chains and, in effect, operate at a net zero waste capacity. Recyclable pallets manufactured from renewable resources is a key choice.

Consumers are demanding that companies make decisions based on positive environmental impact. Everyone from suppliers to end users is making sustainability a priority.

A company needs a comprehensive plan for sustainability at every level. Now is the time to examine and improve processes, but where to start? That’s where good partners can be the necessary guide with insight and metrics.

The Challenges Ahead

Sustainability challenges begin with system complexity. Companies have historically ignored supply chain areas outside their direct control. This leads to gaps in information and bottlenecks that go unnoticed until they bubble up and require action.

Sustainability is measured by the environmental and human impact of every single step of the lifecycle of a product. A company that creates eco-friendly headquarters also needs to attend to working conditions, pollution, and transportation practices abroad.

Problems vary depending on the industry. One company may identify air and water pollution from suppliers’ operations. Another may find inadequate safety measures where raw materials are procured.

Companies need comprehensive information about each step in the lifecycle of their products. That includes energy providers as well as suppliers and sub-contractors.

Once detailed information is collected, planning can begin for remediation of negative impacts. Over 80% of businesses do not have the information they need improve the sustainability of their supply chains.

Consumer businesses balance affordability with reliability and sustainability at every level of operation. Instituting sustainable practices may seem costly, but they strengthen the supply chain and save money in the long-term.

Decreasing pollution, shoring up facilities against extreme weather, and making positive contributions to healthy communities all make the supply chain more durable and more efficient. Time and materials are saved by eliminating wasteful and harmful practices.

Managing Supplier Sustainability

The most challenging aspect of creating a more sustainable supply chain is working with suppliers and their subcontractors. 75% of companies do not work with suppliers to reduce carbon emissions.

Businesses are like all customers—they have influence. A company can search for suppliers that already have sustainability goals and practices in place. They can also mandate that their suppliers bring facilities into compliance with a set of practices they determine will increase sustainability.

An even better solution is to work directly with suppliers. Using clear and verified guidelines for sustainable practices, companies can help suppliers improve operations.

The company goes from demanding customer to trusted partner. The environmental and human impact of the improved relationship strengthens to a more sustainable supply chain.

How a company works with suppliers depends on what objectives are identified. Making sure that everyone is using wood pallets is an easy first step in helping suppliers become more sustainable.

Best Practices in Sustainability

The complexity of supply chain sustainability can make it seem unmanageable. Organizations like CDP, World Wildlife Fund, The Sustainability Consortium, and others offer guidance. They help companies find issues and set goals for decreasing environmental and societal impact.

Looking to wood pallets as a framework, we can see some best practices at work.

Supply chains should use, wherever possible, renewable resources. Invest in solar, wind, and other clean energy use to build infrastructure and decrease pollution. Buy recycled wood pallets from suppliers wherever possible.

Make landfill avoidance a priority. Reduce waste, reuse materials, and recycle what is no longer useful. Wood pallets can be reused up to 15 times, and can be recycled into furniture, structures, biofuel, animal bedding, or mulch.

Studies show that 95% of wood pallets are recycled into usable materials. Even the small amount that ends up in the landfill can be used as the biodegradable top cover.

Incremental Improvements in Sustainability

The global supply chain is still far from its sustainability goals. Even the wood pallet industry can do more.

Ensuring that your wood pallets are used as many times as possible should be goal number one. Widely available recycling initiatives reduce the number of pallets that go to the landfill. Encouraging or helping suppliers switch to wood pallets improves lower-tier sustainability.

Every step gets us a little closer to a circular supply chain. Waste reduction, energy conservation, and greater emphasis on processes that benefit both society and the environment all reduce long-term costs.

Wood pallets are an important part of a sustainable supply chain. Unlike plastic pallets, they are recyclable, sustainably produced, and biodegradable.

There are places in your supply chain where sustainability requires concerted efforts with far-flung partners. Implementing the use of wood pallets across your company and its suppliers is an uncomplicated, powerful way to make a difference.

Today I Learned-Wood Stringer Pallets-Part 1

For those in the wood pallet industry, pallet types, pallet parts, and vocabulary are second nature. The terms and topics are a part of doing business everyday.

For those outside of the pallet industry that may be tasked with buying pallets, these terms and topics can be difficult to understand or there may be some gaps in understanding.

So today, we at Nature’s Packaging want to help you (the pallet buyer) with a short and simple guide about the most common wood stringer pallet in the supply chain and some of the terminology around it, the 48×40 wooden stringer pallet (shown above as the featured image).

The 48×40 Wooden Stringer Pallet

While there a certainly a whole range of wood pallets sizes in the the supply chain, the standard 48″x40″ wood pallet is by far the most common and utilized for transporting goods. The 48″x40″ is also sometimes called a “GMA” pallet. GMA stands for, “Grocery Manufacturers Association” and the GMA pallet is a guideline developed by that association to help streamline transportation of products within the food industry.

As seen in the image above, the standard 48″x40″ pallet is usually composed of a few different components:

  • stringers
  • deck-boards
  • fasteners (nails)

Stringers – also known as “runners”, are a continuous length-wise beam component that acts as support for deckboards and allows the deckboards to be spaced apart according to the needs of the pallet user. On a typical 48×40 pallet you will find 3 stringers spaced evenly apart with a center stringer and two at the edges.

Notice the notches in the stringers in the image above. A standard 48×40 stringer pallet is also known as partial 4-way pallet. This means that a forklift or pallet jack can enter from the front or back of the pallet to move the load, but only a forklift can lift a 48×40 pallet by coming in from the side using the notches. Most pallet jacks will not fit in the space.

Deck-boards – wooden components typically nailed perpendicular across the top and bottom of the pallet to the stringers. Deck-boards are spaced according to the needs of the pallet user and their unit load. The top and bottom deck-boards that sit on the front and back edge are commonly known as the lead boards and the others are the interior deck-boards. Typical configurations for the number of top and bottom deckboards on a 48″x40″ pallet are 7 top deck-boards and 5 bottom deck-boards. Many times you will find the lead boards are wider than the interior deck-boards, this aids in stability and can help lower the repair rate due to forklifts running into the edge frequently.

Sometimes the bottom deck-boards will be “chamfered”, this a beveled cut along part or the full width of the deck-board to help with the passage of the pallet jack forks into the pallet.

Fasteners – or “nails” are almost always threaded, rather than a common nail used in carpentry, as the threading will help with the pallet durability and strength. Usually 2-3 nails are used per deckboard to secure it to the stringer. Here is a sample below for better understanding.

Fasteners or nails

Pallet Size

When discussing a wood stringer pallet with your supplier, the pallet length and width are based on the stringer length and deck-board width respectively. So a 48″x40″ stringer pallet has 48″ length stringers at full length and 40″ deck-boards across. Pallet size for a stringer pallet ALWAYS starts with the stringer length. Remember that.

Pallet Build Types

A 48×40 wood pallet can be built several different ways. What this refers to is the components used for building the pallet. The following are different build types:

  • New
  • Combo
  • Remand
  • Recycled

New – A wood pallet built with all new components

Combo – A wood pallet built with a combination of new and recycled components. Typically the stringers would be new and the deck-boards would be recycled. Often a more cost effective alternative to completely new pallets.

Remand – A wood pallet “re-manufactured” from recycled components entirely (except for the nails used). Often, these will be a smaller size than a 48×40 pallet as the components are recycled from the larger pallet size. 36×36 pallets are a common size for remand pallet.

Recycled – A wood pallet that has components repaired so that it can be re-used. Typically, this will be some number of damaged deck-board components that are removed and a “new” recycled deck-board is nailed back into place. There can also be a companion stringer, otherwise known as a “plug” or “crutch” that is nailed alongside the interior of a stringer to act as support when the original stringer is cracked or partially broken.

Wood pallets have a 95% recycle rate which makes the industry one of the most environmentally friendly in the supply chain services. We at Nature’s Packaging hope that this quick guide will help you when making decisions to purchase pallets. Always work with your pallet services provider to help you find the solution to your pallet needs.

 

*The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association has an excellent resource library that contains documents like the Uniform Standard for Wooden Pallets that provide an in-depth review of  the subject matter. Please use the links to visit the library and learn more.

 

Small Pallets Can Carry Huge Benefits

When it comes to the efficient handling of pallets, it makes sense that bigger should be better. Why move 100 cartons at a time when you can do 125? A larger pallet translates into more productive forklift handling. In the case of pallet selection, however, other factors can skew decision-makers toward smaller footprint pallets.

What is a Pallet Footprint?

To take a step back, the footprint of a pallet refers to its length and width. The pallet’s length is determined by the length of the stringer, or in the case of a block pallet, the length of the stringer board. The width of a pallet refers to the deck board length.

For a 48×40” stringer pallet, for example, the stringers are 48,” and the deck boards are 40”. In a 48×40” block pallet, the stringer boards, which lie between the deck boards and the blocks, are 48” and the deck boards are 40”.

What is a Fractional Pallet?

Small pallets can be fractional pallets such as half pallets and quarter pallets. They are fractional in the sense that they combine to become the equivalent of a full-size pallet. In North America, where the most popular pallet size is 48×40”, a half pallet is typically half of that measure.

To envision a half pallet, think of a full pallet that has been cut in half – either to 48×20” or 24×40”. Likewise, a quarter pallet is often 24×20” or 20×24”.  Because fractional pallets can be combined to fill a standard pallet footprint, they readily integrate into supply chain transport and handling systems designed for standard full-size pallets.

What are the Benefits of Small Pallets?

Less touch labor at the warehouse and at retail. Half and quarter pallets permit the benefits of unit load shipping in smaller order quantities. Unit load shipment from a distribution center to the retailer translates into less touch labor for order pickers, resulting in improved productivity. Likewise, where the small pallet is displayed on the floor or positioned in-aisle, retail stocking activities can be largely eliminated.

Less product damages. According to one study, 80% of product damage in the FMCG supply chain takes place between the distribution center and retail. Because half or quarter pallet displays remain intact until they arrive at retail, the product damage associated with case picking, stacking and shelf stocking activities is avoided.

Sales boost on the retail floor. Evidence suggests that shoppers are drawn to floor displays, and as a result, they help boost sales. Small pallets can further enhance sales enabling more SKUs to be available to shoppers. Because small pallets take up less space, it is possible to increase the number of displays at a given time. Smaller pallets are also more shopper-friendly, eliminating the need to stretch across a full-size pallet to grab an item.

Easier navigation for shoppers and material handlers. Small pallets are better suited for delivering product through narrow doorways or in and out of backroom coolers with small openings. For deliveries to convenience stores, for example, the use of small pallets has been found to help reduce driver time at each stop. Small pallets also provide retailers with the opportunity to create displays that take up less space and therefore are more pedestrian-friendly.

Where they better fit product requirements. Small pallets also provide value where they conform to a particular product being shipped, thereby avoiding pallet underhang and wasted space (the product not utilizing the complete deck of the pallet).

More facings at the warehouse or assembly line. Because small pallets are not as wide as full pallets, more pallet facings can be created in the same distance, thus reducing travel time for assemblers.

What are the Disadvantages of Small Pallets?

Smaller payload. As mentioned above, half pallets hold only half as much product as full-size pallets. As a result, twice as many pallets are required, and twice as many unit loads must be handled to deal with the same amount of product.

Small pallets can add complexity. Small footprint unit loads can also pose challenges for material handlers. Some configurations may be more unstable than full pallets, requiring attention to mobile equipment operator training. Once emptied, small pallets must be sorted for return or otherwise recycled. Small pallets, especially non-fractional sizes, may be less desirable to pallet recyclers.

Benefits of small pallets aren’t applicable. While small pallets are becoming increasingly popular for retail display, they may not be applicable for many other supply chains.

The bottom line is that in some applications, such as retail, small pallet displays are helping retailers to boost sales and reduce stocking labor. No matter what size of pallet best meets your needs now or in the future, however, the good news is that pallet manufacturers can readily fabricate wood to produce the optimal size for your supply chain.

Santa Claus driving a forklift

Four Essential Tips to Manage Pallets During this Holiday Season

Santa and his helpers always practice safe pallet handling

It is definitely not the season to be jolly if your supply chain grinds to a halt for lack of pallets. If the order picking crews are scrambling to find pallets to build orders, then shipments can quickly get delayed and complicate the delivery schedule. Here are four essential tips for making sure that customers are happy and workers stay safe throughout the holiday season.

Plan ahead for the need

Based on previous experience and projections, make sure to have the pallets on hand needed to fulfill orders. This year (2020) presents a unique challenge in projecting demand, so it makes sense to be nimble in terms of finetuning pallet requirements. Clear communication and an ongoing dialogue with your pallet suppliers are critical.

A best practice tip is to have the supplier hold an inventory of ready-to-ship pallets, so they will available when you need them. Do not be left in a position where you run out of pallets and must start cold calling pallet vendors for an emergency delivery.

Train the seasonal workers

Peak season volumes and seasonal employee support go hand and hand. By taking the time to train new team members in safe manual pallet handling and the efficient forklift handling of pallets, you can reduce the risk of injury and damage to products and pallets alike.

Remember other seasonal team members who make pallet-related decisions, such as new delivery drivers and temps hired to sort pallets. Do they have the necessary knowledge to ensure that damaged pallets are consistently removed from use and that drivers fulfill their responsibility regarding empty pallet return or other duties related to pallet management?

Don’t neglect to bring pallets back

When logistics systems reach peak and delivery driver capacity is stretched to the limit, one shortcut that companies take is to delay bringing back distribution residuals such as cardboard, reusable trays, and, of course, empty pallets. With trucks focused on keeping up with outbound shipments, retail locations are faced with stockpiling pallet accumulations either in the back room or in the parking lot.

Unwanted buildups of pallets can impede store operations and result in those pallets not being returned to the warehouse, where they might be urgently needed. Also, consider that the unprotected outdoor storage of pallets and reusable packaging at retail dramatically increases the risk of pallet theft.

Consider outsourcing to your pallet provider

It can be a scenario of all hands on deck for retail distribution during the holiday season. With labor urgently needed for filling and delivering orders, roles such as pallet sorting are often viewed as secondary. Unsorted stacks of pallets can back up in warehouse corners or fill up trailers desperately needed for outbound shipments.

The other alternative, the introduction of unsorted pallets into your system, can result in other inefficiencies. And as mentioned above, driver and road equipment limitations can impede your reverse logistics process.

Retailers can avoid this seasonal strain by working with their pallet company partners to provide pickup of pallets and other distribution residuals. The result is pallet and residual processing capacity that does not strain your labor availability and provides ‘ready to go’ pallets as needed for the distribution center.

When it comes to the holiday season and pallets, it can be a time of extremes – too few for order picking or too many to return and sort. Attention to planning, training, and pallet supplier coordination can make a big difference.

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