The Pallet Industry Carrying The World On Their Backs
SME Magazine Singapore|September 2018

Trade is the lifeblood of the global economy.

Ong Xiang Hong

The invention of containerisation in the early 20th century heralded an explosion in the global trade volume. On the back of containerisation came the increasing use of pallets. Organisations using standard pallets for loading and unloading can have much lower costs for storage and handling.

Each year, over half a billion pallets are made and about two billion pallets are in use across the United States alone. Pallets are built to withstand loads of up to 1,000 kg or more. Heavy-duty pallets can be reused multiple times, whereas lightweight pallets are designed to be used only once. The best use of pallets is in conjunction with a warehouse with lots of flat floor space, as pallets with loads can be moved easily across the facility using a forklift.

WHAT IS A PALLET?

A pallet is a flat transport structure, which supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift or other lifting device. As the structural foundation of a unit load, pallets allow or handling and storage efficiency. Since the advent of containerisation, the use of pallets has dramatically supplanted older forms of crating like the wooden box and the wooden barrel, as it works well with modern packaging like corrugated boxes and intermodal containers commonly used for bulk shipping.

Although pallets come in all manner of sizes and configurations, all pallets fall into two very broad categories: block pallets and stringer pallets. Various software packages exist to assist the pallet maker in designing an appropriate pallet for a specific load, and to evaluate wood options to reduce costs. Block pallets are typically stronger than stringer pallets. Block pallets utilize both parallel and perpendicular stringers to better facilitate efficient handling. A block pallet is also known as a “four-way” pallet, since a pallet-jack may be used from any side to move it.

On the other hand, stringer pallets use a frame of three or more parallel pieces of timber (called stringers). The top deckboards are then affixed to the stringers to create the pallet structure. Stringer pallets can have a notch cut into them allowing “four-way” entry. Forklifts can lift a stringer pallet from all four directions, though lifting by the stringers is more secure.

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