What Are Pallets and How They Are Used?
A pallet of a skid is a portable rigid horizontal platform that is used to stack, store, assemble or transport goods. Pallets have been a key component in improving the efficiency in warehouses as they allow stacked goods to be moved easily with machines such as pallet jacks and forklifts. There are several types of pallets and one for every budget and every requirement.
Pallets can be reusable or expendable, can be made from wood, plastics, or metals, and comes in different styles – reversible, stackable and so on. They also have some standard sizes; six standard sizes are recognized by ISO. These 1219mm × 1016mm in North America, 1000mm × 1200mm in Europe and Asia, 1165mm × 1165mm in Australia, 1067mm × 1067mm in North America, Europe, and Asia, 1100mm × 1100mm in Asia only and 800mm × 1200mm in Europe. Besides these sizes, there are also other sizes that are often used in the industry.
Types of Pallets Based on Materials
Here are some of the different types of pallets, based on the materials that they are made of.
Wooden pallets are the most common type of pallets. They are fairly strong and durable and can be repaired easily. Wooden pallets provide much higher friction than plastic or metal pallets and hence are easier to grip. These are mostly used for heavier products and in a one-way flow. The pallets are often damaged at the end of the supply chain and are repaired and reused, or just recycled. Moreover, these pallets can be recycled into other wooden or wood-based products, such as paper.
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One of the biggest drawbacks of wooden pallets is the weight. This increases the cost of air shipping. Wood is also prone to moisture damage. Splinters, protruding nails and other deformations may also injure workers.
Presswood, also known as engineered wood, is made from wood fibres that are processed in high temperature and pressure to form a solid single block. These are very light and provide decent strength for the weight. It’s also very easy to handle. However, these are very prone to water damage and is not as strong as traditional wood.
Plywood pallets are ideal for shipping light to medium weight goods. They are very light and are yet survive rough usage. Plywood is slightly more resistant to moisture than engineered wood and more resistant to bug infestations than normal wood. Then again, plywood can easily degrade over time if not maintained properly.
Metal pallets are much stronger than wooden pallets. Usually, light metals, such as aluminium are used to make these pallets. This also keeps the construction costs low. Metal pallets can be reused multiple times, do not get infested with pests, or do not degrade over time if left outdoors. They can be used in wet environments, can be sanitized if needed. This is why they are also quite popular in the food industry. The disadvantage is that these pallets cannot be repaired easily. Some metal pallets are quite heavy and therefore increases the shipping costs a lot.
Here is how you can prepare your goods for shipping and using the right types of pallets.
Plastic pallets are stable, safe and a versatile packaging solution. They weigh quite less and are still strong enough. Moreover, these pallets are resistant to chemical corrosion, stress, shock and humidity. This gives them a lifespan of over ten years. These do not suffer chipping, have protruding nails or screws and hence are completely safe to handle. These can also be cleaned like metal pallets.
The biggest disadvantage, however, is the ability to repair. The pallets are generally made by injection moulding and hence, repairing a crack or break is quite difficult. Even after repairs, these do not get back their complete strength. Moreover, plastic pallets are non-recyclable and are quite expensive.
Corrugated Board Pallets
Corrugated boards can also be used to make lightweight pallets that can take a load of up to 750 kilograms. These are completely recyclable and customizable. However, they are not for repeated and regular use and do not hold up well when exposed to the weather elements.
Types of Pallets Based on the Configuration
Pallets come in different sizes as well as in different styles. Pallets come with a top layer, called the top deck, and a bottom layer called the bottom deck. The top deck and the bottom deck are spaced by other boards or solid blocks. The boards are called stringers – they run perpendicular to the direction of the wooden or metallic bars. Here are 5 types of pallet configurations explained.
Block/Deck Board Pallets
Block pallets allow forklifts to enter from all the four directions. The upper deck is supported by twelve columns or wood, metal or plastics from the bottom. There may or may not be a bottom deck. Block pallets provide high handling efficiency.
Stringer pallets come with extra support over block pallets. Two boards running between the top and bottom deck on two opposite ends of the pallet provide some extra support but blocks the entry from those two sides. Four-way stringer pallets are also available where the stringer has a notch cut into it to allow forks of forklifts to enter the pallet.
Double Face Pallets
Most pallets are generally having the top deck only. Double-face pallets have a top and bottom deck and can be used with any side up. Having two decks also increase the strength.
Double Wing Pallets
In Double-Wing pallets, the top and the bottom deck extend beyond the stringers to offer additional surface area.
Solid Deck Pallets
A solid deck has a single continuous sheet of wood, metal or plastic with no spacing in between them. These are quite easy to clean and transport and helps in transporting smaller items.
Finding the Right Pallet for Your Business
The type of pallet, size and style that you may need for your business depends solely on the requirements of your business as well as the budget you have. Wooden block pallets are essentially the jack of all trades with a few minor drawbacks. Plastic pallets have a long life and high reusability. Metal pallets allow easy sanitization.
Based on your requirement, you can easily find pallets that will suit your needs. There no “best pallet” out there, but only you can find the “right pallet”. Every pallet comes has its own pros and cons, and hence, requires careful estimation of the operating costs.2