After sensibly investing in all the right materials handling equipment, wouldn’t it be a shame if your operation came to grief over such a fundamental mistake as a bad choice of pallet?
A poor-quality or damaged pallet may collapse under its load – perhaps at a great height. The impact on people, goods, materials handling machinery and racking can be enormous.
When buying a forklift truck you should select the model besting fitting your application – not the cheapest option. The same applies when choosing pallets. When choosing pallets, do the same, making sure you inspect them routinely for signs of damage or weakness.
Alternatively, think about renting from a good pallet pool company. The operator will maintain pallet quality and can even take away the headache of tracking and returning the pallets.
Traditional or modern?
We’ll assume you know what size and shape are best for your forklift truck, racking and transport needs, but what about the material? Usually the choice is between traditional wood and the increasingly popular plastic.
Some forklift truck users switched to plastic to avoid complication when the EU introduced rules requiring proof of timber origins, and a variety of benefits have convinced others to change, but wooden pallets still dominate.
Wood or plastic?
When it comes to hygiene, plastic pallets certainly stand up to harsh scrubbing and disinfection. Wooden pallets used exclusively for ‘clean’ applications can be suitably treated – and anyway you would never place unwrapped goods on any pallet.
In some cases, plastic’s resistance to moisture or to acidic and alkaline liquids might be a key consideration.
Regardless of conditions, a plastic pallet should maintain exactly the same shape, size and capacity throughout its life. It will also be free from splinters and protruding nails. The counter-arguments are that damaged plastic can be very sharp, that wooden pallets are easier to repair and that quality control measures should take any poor wooden pallets out of circulation.
Plastic pallets lend themselves to an endless variety of shapes for different materials handling and logistics purposes. Think, for instance, of how much storage and transport space can be saved by nesting pallets. Or what you might save in air freight costs if you use a lightweight design.
Which is the most sustainable choice is often debatable. Plastic pallets last much longer and can eventually be recycled into other plastic products, but their manufacture and recycling consume a lot of petrochemicals and energy. Using and re-using sustainably grown timber seems more natural and simple.
Metal or cardboard?
The final message from Fork Truck Direct is: don’t forget to look at the more unusual options. Metal pallets may be expensive to buy and heavy to transport but they offer the ultimate in strength and durability. They are also non-inflammable.
At the other extreme, what about cardboard pallets? As long as your pallet loads are no heavier than, say, 0.75 tonnes, and are unlikely to get wet, these very light pallets might well save on transport costs.