Who doesn't like pallets? They make warehousing and transportation easier and more efficient, they save time and money, and they're found in just about every warehouse in the world—even in Antarctica. In other words, they're both ubiquitous and indispensable. But ... they're not exactly exciting. After all, they just, well, sit there.
Which is why you might be tempted to think that there isn't much new in the world of pallets. But appearances can be deceiving. As a walk around the floor at the Material Handling Industry of America's inaugural Modex 2012 show showed, pallet manufacturers are putting a lot of thought and effort into innovations and refinements that reflect changing market demand, such as the growing interest in environmental sustainability.
Nearly two-dozen exhibitors at Modex had pallets on display. We can't describe them all, but here's a quick peek at some that were a little out of the ordinary.
Aluminum goes airborne
When AL Pallet says its patented pallets are lightweight, it means it. The low-cost aluminum pallets weigh just nine pounds each but can hold up to 2,500 pounds. They're fireproof, noncorrosive, and easy to repair and clean. They're also fully recyclable and have a high scrap value, according to the manufacturer.
Perhaps the biggest benefit, the company says, is that their remarkably low weight helps reduce airfreight costs. Companies like Samsung, Nokia, LG, and Dell use the pallets for international shipping worldwide. Because they're aluminum, there are no worries about water absorption, toxicity, pests, or product contamination, making them a favorite of pharmaceutical companies. (AL Pallet USA)
Buckhorn Inc. clearly believes its reusable plastic Universal Pallet can handle whatever comes its way in almost any manufacturing, distribution, and warehousing application. According to the company's website, the model delivers such superior performance that it "makes wooden pallets look like twigs."
According to the manufacturer, the 68.3-pound Universal Pallet is a 48- by 40-inch size with an edge-racking capacity of up to 2,800 pounds—without support—and a full range of configuration options. Buyers can decide whether to have perimeter lips or not, a solid or ventilated top deck, and metal or plastic reinforcing rods. The low-profile pallet also comes with replaceable bottom runners and rubber anti-slip plugs on the top deck, rails, and fork entry. (Buckhorn Inc.)
Have it your way
Conitex Sonoco says its LoadRunner corrugated board pallets are ideal for operations that want to save on freight costs by reducing pallet weights; want to minimize vibration and shock; and/or need clean, sanitary pallets for medical, pharmaceutical, and food products.
Buyers can essentially custom-design the pallets. For the top and optional bottom sheets, they can choose from single-, double-, and triple-wall corrugated or honeycomb decking of various thicknesses. The top sheet can also be die-cut to accommodate a particular product; the bottom sheet can be die-cut to accommodate a pallet jack or other material handling devices. The pallet runners include cylindrical supports and can be engineered in almost any size and strength to match the buyer's specific application. The runners can also be purchased separately and directly applied to a product in lieu of a pallet. (Conitex Sonoco)
Stick to it
De Luxe Paper Products is best known for its food and consumer packaging, but the Canadian company also makes a useful accessory for pallets: a nonslip paper sheet that is placed between each row of product on pallets to prevent them from sliding during warehouse handling and transportation. The sheets stabilize pallet loads by introducing friction between cartons, which helps to keep them in place even when the pallet starts to tip or the load comes to an abrupt stop. This reduces the need for corner boards, straps, glue, stretch wrap, and other packing materials, the manufacturer says.
Made from recyclable materials, the sheets are non-toxic and water-resistant. Ideal for grocery applications, they can be used in temperatures ranging from -5 degrees F to 160 degrees F. (De Luxe Paper Products)
Best of both worlds
As president of a pallet rebuilding and recycling mill, Robert Kessler knows more than most about pallet damage and its causes. Concerned about pallet-related waste and the number of trees used to build short-lived wooden pallets, Kessler invented the Green Line Armor Hybrid Sustained-Use Pallet, a wooden pallet with molded bumpers. The bumpers, made of 100-percent recyclable, biocomposite material, resist impacts, reducing damage and lengthening the useful life of wooden pallets.
The pallets themselves are made of heat-treated white oak, with alloy self-tapping screws and six-sided protective stain for mold/mildew resistance and UV protection. Each pallet is equipped with two EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, one at each end of the pallet in built-in RFID compartments in the bumpers. The pallets come with a 10-year limited warranty. (Green Line Armor)
Great for groceries
The Grocery Distribution Pallet from Orbis Corp. was specifically designed to efficiently store, ship, and handle product throughout the grocery supply chain. When nested, the pallets optimize space in standard 53-foot trailers. Their anti-skid surface effectively holds cases and boxes in place in transit and in the retail operation.
The all-plastic Grocery Pallet has contoured corners and smooth surfaces. It boasts an easy-to-clean design and is smooth and nonporous to avoid absorbing moistures or odors. Additional features include long service life, a lower per-trip cost than alternative pallets, and versatile handling, with four-way hand and fork truck entry. (Orbis)
The ProStack Solid Deck Pallet by Polymer Solutions International Inc. features a solid top for consistent support across the full plane of the pallet's surface. It also includes a patented, telescoping double-leg design that incorporates a series of interlocking "teeth." This ratchet-style construction secures the top deck to the base via the interlocking legs, producing a connection that's three times stronger than welded or snap pallet construction designs, says the manufacturer. The double-leg construction offers superior resistance to potential damage caused by forklift and pallet jack impacts.
The hygienic pallets are made from 100-percent recyclable, FDA-approved high-density polyethylene (HDPE) with a smooth finish that is easy to clean and inspect, making it suitable for food, pharmaceutical, and medical environments. The ProStack Solid Deck Pallet is available in several different materials, including Factory Mutual Research Corp.-approved grades for fire-retardant applications, and with optional anti-microbial additives. (Polymer Solutions International Inc.)
In addition to the companies mentioned in this article, the following companies also exhibited pallet products at Modex: