The Many Faces of Pallets

As noted in a recent article by WiseGeek, “Many companies are starting to realize the importance of pallet repairability, reusability and recyclability.” When you think of a pallet, it is not uncommon to forget that these widely-used and often under-appreciated pieces of shipping and warehousing equipment can have an enormous effect on your operation’s efficiency, expenditures, and even import/export law compliance.

Here are the pros and cons of some of the most common varieties of pallets!

New Pallets

New wood pallets use either soft or hard wood materials or sometimes combine both. They are built to exact customer size and dimension specifications using special design software to ensure a perfect fit. While they are ideal for customers requiring custom specifications—such as size, board spacing, and plank thickness—they tend to be one of the most expensive pallet options because they are made to order using all new materials.

Heat Treated Pallets

Used primarily for export or in situations where no insect contamination can take place, a kiln eradicates all microbes, insects, and other foreign bodies on heat treated pallets. These pallets offer the advantage of avoiding the use of potentially dangerous chemicals, which can be important both for worker health and for crossing international borders. However, heat treated pallets tend to be more fragile than plastic pallets and more expensive than remanufactured or recycled products.

Remanufactured and Combo Pallets

Remanufactured and combo pallets, as the name suggests, are pallets built from either all reclaimed wood or a combination of new and recycled materials. Both remanufactured and combo pallets are custom-built to customer specifications but can render savings of between 20 and 40 percent over completely new wood pallets. However, they may not be as exact in dimension and material as a new pallet and may have more cosmetic flaws.

Recycled Pallets

Recycled pallets are designed for frequent reuse and can be used many times during their useful life cycle. They may develop cosmetic defects but remain structurally sound. Because of their long-lasting usefulness and ability to be reused over and over again, they tend to be one of the least expensive options, as well.

Recycled Plastic Pallets

Like recycled pallets, recycled plastic pallets may be used over and over again during their useful lifetimes. Ideal for export, plastic pallets avoid the need for heat treating due to their naturally anti-insect and microbial nature and also tend to have a longer life cycle than wood pallets, making them a good choice for warehouses that frequently relocate their inventories. Plastic pallets also come in two varieties: nesting or stacking. Both varieties always contain 4-way entry but nesting varieties offer the advantage of taking up less vertical space than stacking pallets.

Know Your Options before You Buy

Knowing the types of pallets available today can be an enormous advantage for any savvy warehouse or distribution center manager. Different materials may be better suited for different situations, and value added features like heat treatment or stackability can improve work environments, cut down costs, and prevent shipping delays. Plus, using recycled or reusable pallets can generate a cost savings over time that can substantially inflate your company’s bottom line.