A pallet is a pallet is a pallet ...isn't it? As we found out during a recent tour of CHEP's Innovation Center in Orlando, Fla., it definitely is not. Even pallets that look identical and are built to the same specifications do not always perform the same way.
At the center, CHEP, the world's largest pallet pooler, runs pallets of all types (including wood, plastic, and steel) through rigorous tests. We watched as technicians compressed, torqued, and dropped several of the familiar blue-painted wood pallets in machines that simulated storage, automated handling, and transportation conditions. The platforms cracked at similar stress levels, but there were some differences in their breaking points due to nail placement, the number of trips the pallets had made and the loads they had carried, storage temperatures, and so forth.
Even geography can affect pallet performance. In Chile, said our friendly guide, CHEP engineers found that just five degrees of latitude caused wood from the same tree species to behave differently. Furthermore, wood from the base, the mid-section, and the top of most tree species can significantly differ in strength.
Speaking of trees, the economic slowdown has been good for the pallet industry in one way, our guide noted. The decline in demand by home builders has led to a drop in price for yellow pine, making the sturdy material affordable for pallet construction once again.