Ah, the typical pallet. So easy to overlook, yet so hard to live without.
Although often taken for granted, pallets remain the backbone of most supply chains worldwide. Just imagine trying to transport your goods without this century-old staple of logistics management – efficiency would plummet, and costs would skyrocket. Since the early 1920s, these deceptively vital yet straightforward tools have kept businesses around the world moving through their ability to:
- Speed up the supply chain by transporting items in bulk
- Reduce damage to products by keeping them packed closely together
- Improve safety by minimizing the risk of loose things falling and causing injury.
With so much riding on pallets, a company should be armed with the necessary information to make the right choice. And there are several factors to consider.
First among these is pallet material.
Wood pallets are the most common type of pallet used today, with a market share of between 90% and 95%. In addition to being the most common, wood pallets are also the most cost-efficient and easily customizable. As a result, they’re a great all-around choice for a variety of manufacturers. They are easily recycled or refurbished into new wooden pallets – making them an eco-friendly option as well.
Easier to clean and disinfect than wooden pallets, plastic pallets have gained ground over the years. Though they are lighter than wood pallets, they are more expensive, can’t be easily repaired, and surfaces can be very slippery with moisture.
Primarily used in the metal industry and typically made of steel or aluminum, these pallets are made to support cumbersome loads. As a result, they have a long life but they’re also more expensive, and much heavier than the alternatives.
The next key consideration is the configuration of the pallet.
Sometimes referred to as deck-board pallets, these typically have between four and twelve supports between the upper and lower decks and can be lifted from all four directions. These pallets are ideal for heavier loads and are one of the main styles of pallet design. They are also available without bottom boards.
Another standard pallet design, especially in the United States, these pallets feature stringers, or pieces of wood, between the top and bottom decks on opposite sides. This means workers can only lift them from two sides, but it also makes them great for heavy loads.
These pallets are made up of decks on the top and bottom. The bottom deck feature makes the pallet stronger and helps distribute weight evenly.
Solid deck pallets
As the name implies, these pallets don’t have any gaps or spaces on their top deck. These are advantageous when transporting smaller-sized items – the continuous surface ensures nothing falls through the cracks.
The type of pallet you choose will depend on many factors, including the type of products you’re shipping, the amount they’ll need to be moved, your shipping destination, budget, and more.
A looming crisis
In addition to other shortages and supply chain stressors companies face worldwide in the wake of the pandemic, there’s a severe pallet shortage that’s causing headaches for companies everywhere.
There are several reasons for this, and one key factor is the cost of raw lumber. Prices have increased exponentially over the past several months, which directly impacts the construction of wood pallets. Manufacturers are passing those increased costs on to buyers, with prices ballooning to as much as 400% more than just a few years ago.
Another factor is simple demand – between an explosion in new home construction and supply chains everywhere struggling to return to some sense of normalcy following a sluggish 2020, demand has grown just as sawmill capacity has decreased.
Understand what’s coming
Even for something as ubiquitous as the pallet, there are several dynamic factors a company should bear in mind when planning for their future needs. At Gorgo Group, we’re experts in every detail related to packing, shipping, and warehousing – and we’re eager to help you map out the best, budget-friendly pallet strategy for your business. If you’d like to discuss how the right pallet choice can benefit your supply chain, reach out to our experienced team today.