Originally published on Packaging Revolution
Move one box at a time or up to one hundred? Pallets were largely accepted to be one of the two greatest innovations of the Twentieth Century, along with the barcode. And while the use of palletsalong with the palletization of materials was once considered to be a powerful component of materials handling strategy, today, industry takes the practice largely for granted. In fact, in the effort to continually improve supply chain operations, pallets are sometimes looked at as a technology to be avoided, in an effort to eliminate their cost, their weight or their cube (the space that they require in transport and storage.) And that trend continues to be explored, although it is not new, as is witnessed from this magazine ad from the 1950s which promoted palletless handling.
When the palletization concept was first introduced, however, it had a dramatic impact on the improvement of material handling efficiency. Rail cars that had taken two days to unload could subsequently be unloaded in just one or two hours. You can read more about the history of pallets.
Then as now, the use of pallets as a base for unit loads offers a number of benefits:
1. Palletized products can be moved more quickly than by the manual handling of individual palletized cartons.
Benefits of this quicker handling include:
- Faster turnaround of delivery vehicle and increasing operational efficiency of transport equipment
- Quicker availability of the trailer door for the next arrival
- Dramatically reduced labor requirement versus manual handling
- Reduced risk of temperature abuse for perishable products on unrefrigerated docks
2. Because palletized goods require less manual handling, we expect:
- Less risk of product damage
- Reduced risk of worker injury
3. Palletized products can be moved more efficiently and stored more efficiently in warehouses.
- Standard sized pallets can optimize operations in pallet racks and other warehouse storage solutions.
4. Customers often prefer the receipt of palletized goods
5. Pallets are typically easier to handle with material handling equipment than other styles of unit load bases such as slip sheets, which may require specialized equipment.
6. Pallets provide drainage and circulation for commodities requiring this, including fresh produce.
There are three basic approaches to palletization. These are manual palletization, semi-automated palletization, and automated palletization.
Moving beyond the question of whether or not to palletize, we extend the conversation into pallet selection options and finding the best pallet system for a particular application.