Jim Hardisty, MD of Goplasticpallets.com provides insight into the latest trends and developments in the UK pallet logistics industry…
Whilst the last few years have been challenging for the wooden pallet industry, due in part to the steady increase of timber prices and heat treatment capacity requirements of ISPM15 regulations for exports on wood packaging, the plastic pallet industry has continued to thrive with a strong rise in demand from supply chain stakeholders for lightweight and nestable pallets.
This increased demand is also having an impact on plastic pallet product development with application specific pallet features and colour options becoming more popular. For instance, plastic pallet manufacturers are investing in different recycled materials that deliver a more cost-effective yet robust product, in order to diversify with new sizes and styles to suit an evolving range of applications.
Although corrugated pallets claim to be cheaper and lighter than wood or plastic versions, they are only suitable for single trips and need to be stored in a dry environment. Furthermore these cardboard pallets aren’t suited to carrying heavier loads, so offer limited capabilities.
Pallet networks continue to operate worldwide, however UK businesses are yet to recognise the cost savings, hygienic and operational benefits associated with implementing and managing their own pallet pools. In Europe, businesses have been much quicker to embrace the closed loop scenario and are leading the way in terms of replacing pools of wooden pallets with plastic ones. This is something we’re encouraging UK businesses to do, by demonstrating the benefits.
We’ve found that some businesses with a wooden pallet supply chain, for example, use only 45 percent vehicle space and pay over £1m per year for wooden Aframe pallets, whilst other manufacturers export unpalletised goods, which requires budgeting for a large warehouse operations team to manage the process of unloading and palletising the goods at their final destination.
UK businesses can also improve health and safety efficiencies by operating their own pool of plastic pallets, as they are safer to handle than wooden ones, less susceptible to damage and breakages, and can reduce contamination risk as part of Best Practice implementation.
In addition, the economic and environmental benefits are very worthwhile as a closed loop plastic pallet network means that all pallets can be tracked throughout outbound, inbound and reverse logistics processes, resulting in a better overview of resources, reduced impact on forestry sustainability and measurable CO2 emissions.
Understandably, the biggest challenge of implementing any closed loop pallet network is the change of processes required. There may be reluctance initially, however if businesses start to make the transition to plastic pallets, they will realise the benefits within a 12-18 month period at most