Pallet Optimization 101: 5 Basic Rules
Pallet optimization is not something that can come as an afterthought: You must come up with a packaging strategy especially curated to your product. Every industry has its rules regarding the way you optimize your pallet distribution, but there’s still 5 golden rules that apply to everyone’s pallets.
FIRST RULE - Packaging design is pallet optimization
Be conscious of fully adapting and using your packaging to the most of its design. Your product must occupy most of the package dimension, so it’s condensed and stable in its packaging, and it in your pallets.
SECOND RULE - Your packaging material affects your pallet optimization
Whether it’s cases or bags, make sure the packaging material you choose is sufficiently resistant for your product. Keep in mind that your pallet will be subject to different conditions and will be stacked with other pallets; individual packages within the pallet will also go through these situations. Make sure you pick something that can withstand anything the transport phase will throw at it, as it’ll give you the most flexibility when it’s time to think pallet optimization.
THIRD RULE - The most common cause of pallet damage to optimize for
A pallet will sustain several different types of stresses, from the moment it’s stored in your plant or moving to a client. You must prepare your packaging and your pallet to withstand the 4 most frequent causes of damages: pressure, shock, vibration and environmental.
Pressure: Your pallet will be stacked amongst other pallets. The pressure a potential charge would create must be taken into consideration when choosing the type of packaging, the type of pallet, the stacking pattern and so on.
Shock: Your pallet and its content can suffer knocks and bumps at any given time during your shipment process. Don’t forget to tighten it with straps and corrugated pads.
Vibration: From the forklift to the truck, your pallet will endure constant vibration that the load will amplify. If you are packing high-density products in cases, you might need some form of isolation to prevent this situation. Also, the usage of anti-slip sheets in-between layers can bring more stability to the overall package.
Environmental: A loaded pallet will be stored and transported often, and the environmental conditions in which that happens will vary greatly. It might be at the mercy of the elements for a while or transported in a -10°C trailer or a 45 °C humid container. Keep your products safe with some sort of protection like a stretch wrap.
FOURTH RULE - Pallet optimization starts with the right pallet type
Choose the right pallet for your needs, as well as your client’s. There are 6 sizes of wooden pallets listed in ISO Standard 6780, this can obviously drastically influence your pallet optimization. Some industries or clients might prefer certain models or even go for more durable and hygienic plastic pallets . The key is to be settled as to what is expected of you and your shipment once it leaves your plant.
FIFTH RULE - A cubical pallet is an optimized pallet
Think of your pallet as a block. It needs to be compact, solid and perfectly square so it can reach its optimum strength. A condensed and packed pallet will be much more stable, and your product will consequently be far more protected. It’s important that your product is either aligned or staggered on the pallet. You must avoid pyramidal shapes or any overhanging product from the pallet to obtain that perfect block. A well configured pallet will decrease chances of harm to your product during handling, but it will also allow your pallet to be stacked and stored properly.
Finally, the secret of the optimal pallet is simple: it’s the sum of all the details and attention you put through your entire packaging line. Your goal is to protect your goods against uncontrollable variables while optimizing every step, from the packaging material to the choice of pallet, all the efforts you put into your product will pay off until the end of your line and beyond. Once you reach the palletizing step, the last determinant you will need to figure out, to master your pallet efficiency to the fullest, will be to select your favored pallet configuration.