Today, selecting a pallet is much more challenging than it was 10 years ago. Logistics professionals have to consider not only what type of pallet is best suited to their application – most commonly plastic or wood – but also things like size, style and loading capacities.
Jim Hardisty, Managing Director of Goplasticpallets.com and founder of Pallet Evolution, has worked in the logistics sector for more than 35 years and to date has specialised in pallets for 20 years.
In this article, Jim shares some of his customers most commonly asked questions and offers his expert advice.
Q1. There are so many different pallets to choose from, how do I pick the best one for my application?
It’s true that we’re spoilt for choice these days with so many different types and designs of pallet to choose from. Selecting a pallet will be easy if you take a step by step approach.
First decide what size of pallet you need. Then, think about how it will be used, by asking yourself whether it will be stacked or double stacked, whether racking will be required, and if the pallet is for one-way trips or needs to be more durable to use over and over again. Also consider how much weight will go on the pallet and what type of load it is.
With this information, you should be able to identify the type of pallet you need. But, if you’re still in doubt, ask a supplier like us who will offer free expert advice and cost up the various options.
Q2. What are the benefits of open deck versus closed deck plastic pallets?
Where closed deck pallets offer superior hygiene and are easier to clean, open deck pallets allow easier drainage and are often lighter than their closed deck alternative, making them easier to handle. Choosing between the two really comes down to what the pallet will be used for.
Q3. How do I check my pallet is strong enough to handle my goods?
The only way you can be 100 per cent sure that your pallet is strong enough to handle your goods is by using plastic ones, which have stated loading capacities. Wooden pallets do not have guaranteed loading capacities, whether they are new or reused. The reason for this is because the strength of timber varies. Make 50 wooden pallets one month and test them and they might all have the same loading capacity, but make another 50 pallets a few months later and there is no telling how the capacity of these pallets might differ and what consequence this might have on your logistics operation.
Plastic pallets, in contrast, normally have three stated capacities: static load – the maximum weight that the pallet can withstand when placed on a level solid surface; dynamic load – the maximum weight that the pallet can accommodate when being moved by a forklift; racking load – the maximum weight that the pallet can accept in racking.
All plastic pallets have a safety margin to ensure that they can be loaded to these limits; however these capacities assume that the load is evenly spread. If your load is concentrated in or across the centre of the pallet, then this should be allowed for. Bulk bags, where the contents shift towards the centre, should be given special consideration.
Q4. Is it true that plastic pallets are much more costly overall than wooden ones?
This is definitely NOT the case. Wood pallets inevitably deteriorate over time, whereas plastic pallets always stay the same and retain their size and integrity.
We have customers who have been using our durable plastic pallets repeatedly for more than 10 years and still have the same number they purchased from us originally. Although plastic pallets require a higher outlay initially, over time customers can experience a massive pay back by opting for plastic.
Businesses prepared to make the switch from wood to plastic pallets can benefit twofold – by owning a stock of durable, reliable plastic pallets that can be reused over and over again, and by investing in a product that will last up to 10 times longer than wooden pallets and can be recycled at the end of their long working life.
Q5. We’ve recently fitted out our entire 364,000sq.ft. warehouse with highly sophisticated automated equipment. Are all pallets safe for use in automated systems?
Automated systems work best with consistent pallets. By this I mean pallets that are of a consistent size, weight and strength and remain unchanged. Plastic pallets perfectly fit this brief as they are produced under enormous pressure in very large, heavy injection moulds, so each one is manufactured exactly the same as the next.
Wooden pallets, on the other hand, change size and shape over time as the quality of the wood deteriorates, splinters and small sections of wood break off, which can either jam machinery or build up on the floor creating both a fire and safety risk.
The thing to remember with automation and robotics is that consistency is the key!
Q6. I’ve read lots about the hygienic benefits of plastic pallets, but what’s the difference between a hygienic plastic pallet and a standard closed deck plastic pallet?
In our range we refer to one type of pallet as truly hygienic, our IPS Hygienic pallet, because it is designed to have a 100 per cent smooth top deck, underside and runners for ease of cleaning.
All plastic pallet decks have a number of vertical sections which create the rigidity of the top deck, and on most pallets these are visible as part of the deck structure, or exposed underneath the deck if the pallet is a closed deck style. With the IPS Hygienic pallet, these sections are sealed inside the deck, making it much easier to keep clean.
We’ve recently introduced to our range a new, improved version of our IPS Hygienic pallet, which has been optimised for superior performance in automated conveyor systems.
Q7. How long do plastic pallets last?
Obviously there are a lot of variables here. Firstly it depends on what type and style of plastic pallet you’re using.
To give you an example, in a closed loop distribution scenario with normal handling and loading within design limits, a plastic pallet has the potential life span of up to, and sometimes exceeding 10 years. When compared with a wooden pallet, this extended life could be as much as 10 times longer.
Q8. We’re in the process of reviewing our warehouse safety procedures. What safety advice can you offer about pallet handling?
In terms of manual handling pallets, the normal rules apply. You should make sure you have good posture to prevent unnecessary strains and pulls, and you shouldn’t stack pallets manually more than seven pallets high – a forklift should be used for higher stacks. When handling wooden pallets, there are some additional safety precautions you should take. These include: wearing cut resistant gloves to prevent cuts and splinters; assessing the pallet before you pick it up as it may have rusty nails sticking out; and taking broken pallets to the recycling area immediately to prevent clutter and unavoidable accidents.
For staff operating forklifts the general safety rules include: observing all around the vehicle for obstacles and hazards before mounting; never operating a lift truck with wet or greasy hands, gloves or shoes; using the hand and footholds properly to get on and off the vehicle; and taking extra care when using machines outdoors, particularly in snow and wind.
When using racking systems, be aware that the racking itself has design limits and will have a maximum load capacity, often for each bay. It would be potentially very dangerous to exceed the load capacity of the racking.
Great care should also go into choosing suitable protective clothing for staff since failure to do so could leave you vulnerable to prosecution.
Q9. Last time I placed an order for 5,000 plastic pool pallets I had to wait 12 weeks for them to be delivered. Is this normal?
It depends on the type of pallet. With nestable pallets, you would expect this number to be available from factory stock with delivery in a few days. At the other end of the scale, heavy duty pallets are normally available from stock, but larger orders and special colours might need a special production run so a maximum lead time of four weeks would be reasonable here.
Of course we have a range of more than 155 different plastic pallets and currently hold 33,121 pallets in stock, which is why we can offer next day delivery for the widest selection of plastic pallets available in the UK.
Q10. What is ISPM15 and do I need to worry about it?
If you’re an exporter or import goods into the UK using wood packaging materials, then you should be aware of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 (ISPM15). These regulations require any wooden pallets transported into the European Union or exported from Portugal to be heat-treated to eliminate all risks of pest and bacteria contamination.
The European Commission is in the process of reviewing an extension of ISPM15 to make the heat treatment of all wood packaging moving within EU member states compulsory.
With plastic pallets, you don’t need to worry about getting caught up in ISPM15 regulations as they are completely exempt.
For further pallet advice
Tel: 01323 744057