Pallets, while simple in design and construction, are an integral part of the logistics supply chain. Any improvement to pallet design and capability can increase the efficiency of your facility. Logistics management professionals agree that increased efficiency means better business – whether from more involved system overhauls, or simple changes such as pallet updates. For a manageable, timely upgrade, consider these three pallet trends:
Wood pallets are recognized as a staple across the logistics industry. These pallets check all of the boxes for logistics management: inexpensive, reliable and trustworthy. No wonder wood remains a top choice among pallet materials. Variations and innovations of wood pallets keep them a relevant option.
When selecting a pallet, different support levels require different design needs. Most wood pallets serve a singular purpose, whether storing products on the warehouse floor or on drive-in racks. As a result, employees must transfer product from pallet to pallet, adding time to the supply chain process and affecting your bottom line. And if one of these pallets harbors pests, a transfer can also cause pest cross-contamination, spreading pest activity from one pallet to another. Plus, these transfers require excess manpower and risk employee safety since the contents of these pallets are often extremely heavy and difficult to manage. To combat the need to transfer products from pallet to pallet, and the risks that come with it, many companies find success with pallet customization aimed at multi-use. Customizing wood pallets to withstand multiple needs within the supply chain helps remove the need to switch pallets throughout the process. By using customized, multi-functional pallets, companies can save time and manpower while lowering the risk of cross-contamination.
Consider selecting pallets that can be stored on the floor or on drive-in racks. Emphasize strength and durability to ensure your pallets can be multi-use. Adding coatings to wood, such as urethane, can increase its durability and offer additional benefits. For example, coatings can improve fire resistance and make the pallets easier to clean and reuse. While these upgrades will likely increase the cost of your pallets, it may ultimately save you money in the long run.
Rise of Plastics
While wood may reign supreme across the logistics industry, plastic pallets are on the rise and an ideal option when working with automated systems. Unlike wood pallets, which can have physical discrepancies, plastic pallets are virtually identical because they originate from the same mold. These identical plastic pallets make detecting the edges of the pallet easier for automated systems. The design consistency of plastic pallets can also streamline the automated logistics process, lowering instances of managerial intervention. As material-handling automation systems become more ubiquitous, so will their preferred partner — the plastic pallet.
Like their wood counterparts, plastic pallets can be customized to accommodate varying loads and ensure increased usability. To make the most of the customization process for your logistics facility, consider deflection limits of the pallet design. A deflection limit is the amount a pallet can bow while still supporting the weight of a heavy load. This consideration is especially important when working with an automated system. If the plastic pallet bows past a certain point, it can catch within the automated system, causing unnecessary hiccups. As a result, the benefits of switching over to plastic pallets depend on these careful design considerations.
Making this switch to plastic can be a more expensive option, so take steps to ensure the pallets are multi-use and can work well within your logistics handling system. Consider the initial upfront costs of plastic pallets against the cost savings in pallet replacement, labor to refurbish wood pallets, labor to inspect wood pallets and the savings in the efficiencies improvements with plastic pallets. When designed with the needs of your facility in mind, these long-lasting pallets can be worth the investment.
Attention to Sanitization
While multi-use pallets offer great benefits, they can also carry more germs if not properly cleaned. Since pallets help transport the majority of goods that consumers interact with, they require special attention to sanitization. Whether wood or plastic, pallets need to be cleaned, properly sanitized and disinfected throughout the logistics supply chain to prevent the spread of germs, pathogens and pests. This holds especially true when pallets are being re-used and when implemented, sanitization can increase the longevity of your multi-use system. To continue repurposing pallets safely, it’s important to adhere to a routine sanitization schedule.
When selecting a disinfectant, pay attention to the manufacturer’s label to confirm the product is effective for use on the material of your pallets. Be sure to check the toxicity levels of the product and follow EPA guidelines. And always be sure that whatever product or area is to be treated is listed on the disinfectant label. It’s best to use a powerful, low-toxicity disinfectant to kill bacteria and pathogens that may be living on surfaces. And since pallets often go in and out of use, consider investing a powerful disinfectant service, like this one, that kills 99.99% of bacteria and viruses on hard, non-porous surfaces.
As the expectations around corporate responsibility for mitigating health risks have changed, cleanliness and sanitation is at the top of facility manager’s minds. The global pandemic has made sanitizing pallets all the more important. Of all the trends to follow, this one is worth the investment, as it demonstrates a proactive response to preserving employee and customer safety.
The bottom line: make sure that your pallets, no matter the material, work well with your facility and its technology. Learn more on how to keep your warehouses clean and efficient.