All wood packaging, and in particular wood pallets, is designed to support a unit load, which consists of the pallet or crate, the packaging or product being carried, and any materials used to stabilize the entity so it can be moved as a unit through the supply chain. This requires an understanding of safe maximum weight bearing and performance requirements of the pallet under various support and handling conditions.
Building wood packaging begins with the product specifications, which incorporate the species, moisture content, and grade of lumber being used along with component sizes and fastener parameters. These are designed based on the size, style, and load bearing requirements of the unit load. Product specifications demonstrate to the user how the pallet meets the unit load requirements, including the overall dimensions, stacking characteristics, and weight of the product shipped. In addition, it shows how the pallet being manufactured will perform while under load, whether in transit or in its particular storage or racking environment (2). When wood packaging is built with careful consideration of and accuracy to these specifications, it will ensure proper protection of the product under load and safe handling through the supply chain.
Engineering software programs, such as the widely used Pallet Design System™ (PDS), provide manufacturers of wood pallets with a professional tool to integrate design specifications according to performance requirements. Not only are the structural, durability and handling characteristics of pallets provided, but also the safe load capacity estimates which are critical for pallet users, as it ensures safe handling and protection for workers using these products. PDS enhances quality assurance because it incorporates the best manufacturing practices recommended by the America National Standards Institute (ANSI) MH1 Standard for unit load bases (3), and aids in promoting compliance with International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No.15 (4).