Wood Packaging: Engineered For Performance

Wood is not only one of the most sustainable manufacturing materials; it is also embodied with structural properties that offer a number of benefits including flexibility, durability and ease of application.

The wood packaging industry uses both softwood and hardwood lumber which have been graded for structural performance and can be customized to specific sizes to fit end-product requirements. Lumber used in wood packaging is manufactured by sawing logs into rough size lumber which is then edged, re-sawn into dimension lumber and cut to length(1). Wood panel products are manufactured by the application of adhesive products and processed wood fiber under pressure in well-defined manufacturing standards. The lumber most often used for packaging is what is referred to as industrial grade lumber, which is not utilized for applications like home construction, furniture, and flooring.

Lumber used to construct wood pallets is graded according to quality rules established by the American Lumber Standards Committee, National Hardwood Lumber Association and the Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board, where grades are codified as to their performance and appearance characteristics.

Performance Design

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).

Recycled Wood Packaging

Wood has durability characteristics that permit extensive reuse. Wood packaging and wood pallets are engineered to allow for re-use multiple times and can be recycled between users for similar unit load applications.

The ease by which wood can be reused and the durability factors of many wood species provide the opportunity for wood pallets to be mechanically disassembled and rebuilt into new pallets with recycled wood components.

Recyclers repair and recycle pallets with “fit–for–use criteria” that ensure that the wood pallets meet the performance requirements of the secondary users.

The use of wood coupled with product specification tools ensures that wood packaging is not only one of the most renewable packaging materials (5) but is designed to eliminate product damage and ensure safe handling across the supply chain.

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