Strategy

The pallet standards minefield

By Crown Equipment Corporation

Pallet management can be a problem for both emerging distribution companies and small-to-medium enterprises lacking the knowledge to deal with the issue as well as those without an industry partner able to help them select and use the right equipment.

Managing pallets properly has the potential to place extra demands on storage facilities and material handling equipment, pushing companies to rationalise their pallet stocks or learn to work with them more effectively.

 

Pallet types

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), which works on gaining consensus from its 164 member countries, has approved six pallet sizes which are now becoming common around the world.

Many different pallets have emerged in Europe over the years as each country developed its own material handling needs but, in recent times, standardisation has occurred to a certain extent and we now have a widely-used standard European pallet known as the EUR Pallet, Europallet or EPAL Pallet.

In Australia, the most common pallet size is the ISO-approved 1165mm × 1165mm.

Within Asia, the two most popular pallet sizes are the square 1100mm x 1100mm pallet and the 1200mm x 1000mm pallet. Both are among the six ISO-approved pallet sizes, although the 1200mm x 1000mm pallet is better suited for export from Asia to Europe and the US as these dimensions integrate nicely into both regions’ systems.

This mix of pallet sizes, which are also available in a variety of materials, create the potential for problems if not handled correctly.

 

Making it work

According to Crown’s product engineering development and support manager, Michael Croxford, working with material handling equipment experts who are knowledgeable in warehouse fit-outs can help businesses find the right solutions for dealing with multiple pallet types.

“Many companies in the region are faced with the challenge of dealing with the numerous pallet sizes that exist for different regions and product types when trading with internal and overseas markets,” Mr Croxford said.

“This is particularly evident when trading with the US where items such as groceries, telecommunications equipment and military supplies all have preferred pallet sizes.

“Customers will ideally want their goods to arrive on pallets that suit their own material handling requirements to reduce the costly practice of double handling. The best way to manage this is to work with a material handling company that can. provide equipment that can help operators work with standards as quickly and effectively as possible,” he said.

The ability to provide customised equipment can help businesses meet specific pallet size demands.

“With design and manufacturing plants across the globe, particularly in the US and Europe, Crown lift trucks are built to conform with all ISO pallet dimensions as well as country or region-specific pallet dimensions,” Mr Croxford said.

“While Crown builds a range of lift trucks to cover all aspects of material handling work, from the dock to the top space of a high bay rack, we can also modify our standard designs to help solve specific problems.

“For example, when a large grocery retailer needed something capable of shifting both regular pallets and its spillage pallets, we recommended our GPC Series order picker.

“However, to make it suitable for their intended usage, we modified the width and position of the legs so that it would work effectively and not damage pallets.”

Crown can also simplify modifications and fit options to its lift truck range which help companies operate more efficiently.

“Our sit-down electric counterbalance forklifts and internal combustion trucks come standard with manually adjustable tyne widths, which allows customers who don’t need to deal with a wide range of pallets to still lift any style pallet they need to,” Mr Croxford said.

“However, optioning Crown’s hydraulic fork positioner means that the tynes are adjustable between any pallet standard without the operator having to get out of the driver’s seat.

“Additionally, working with a Crown sales representative to choose tynes with the right profile for different tasks can mean the difference between equipment being compatible or not.”

Crown Equipment’s global approach to research, design and engineering means that it produces a range of lift trucks that offer the best fit to the pallets of their region.

European developed lift trucks are suitable for sites which take a majority of cargo from the continent. If the majority of cargo comes from the US or Australia, lift trucks designed for those regions can better handle the task. However, all Crown lift trucks are ready to handle any kind of pallet.

 

Beyond the lift truck

Being a company with a focus on providing total material handling solutions, Crown can identify other areas of the warehouse that can add efficiency when dealing with a range of pallet sizes.

Mr Croxford said that, because Crown supplies a range of material handling products which can be linked together to form a total solution, the company is experienced with guiding its customers in warehouse fit-outs.

“Having the right racking and shelving infrastructure is another way that our customers can help their operation work more effectively with the pallet sizes they may deal with when trading with the world,” he said.

“Crown consultation includes a detailed review of customers’ operations to help select appropriate material handling equipment and provide input for warehouse design to enhance productivity.

“Additionally, Crown’s in-house-developed fleet management technology makes warehouse reporting easier, improves the safety culture and helps manage operator behaviour for a more efficient operation.

“All in all, it’s accurate to describe Crown as a ‘project management partner’ because we perform numerous roles beyond supplying lift trucks to help companies manage their logistics operations and steer them toward success.”

 

Pallet Information

 

(WxL) mm Dimensions inches (WxL) Wasted floor, ISO container Region Most Used In
1016 x 1219 40 x 48 3.7%
(20 pallets in 40ft ISO)
North America
1000 x 1200 39.37 x 47.24 6.7% Europe, Asia, similar to 40″ x 48″
1165 x 1165 45.9 x 45.9 8.1% Australia
1067 x 1067 42.00 x 42.00 11.5% North America, Europe, Asia
1100 x 1100 43.30 x 43.30 14% Asia
800 x 1200 31.50 x 47.24 15.2% Europe; fits many doorways

 

European Pallets

EURO pallet type Dimension (W x L) ISO Pallet Alternative
EUR, EUR 1 800 mm x 1200 mm 31.50″ x 47.24″ ISO1 same size as EUR
EUR 2 1200 mm x 1000 mm 47.24″ x 39.37″ ISO2
EUR 3 1000 mm x 1,200 mm 39.37″ x 47.24″  
EUR 6 800 mm x 600 mm 31.50″ x 23.62″ ISO0, half the size of EUR
  600 mm x 400 mm 23.62″ x 15.75″ quarter the size of EUR
  400 mm x 300 mm 15.75″ x 11.81″ one-eighth the size of EUR

 

North American Pallets – by industry

Dimensions mm (W x L) Dimensions inches
(W x L)
Industries
1016 x 1219 40 x 48 Multiple, including groceries
1067 x 1067 42 x 42 Telecommunications, paint
1219 x 1219 48 x 48 Drums
1219 x 1016 48 x 40 Military, cement
1219 x 1067 48 x 42 Chemicals, beverages
1016 x 1016 40 x 40 Dairy
1219 x 1143 48 x 45 Automotive
1118 x 1118 44 x 44 Drums, chemicals
914 x 914 36 x 36 Beverages
1219 x 914 48 x 36 Beverages, packaged paper
889 x 1156 35 x 45.5 Military 1/2 ISO container
1219 x 508 48 x 20 Retail

 

Pallet Materials

Pallets are manufactured in a variety of materials for effective use in different industries and conditions. Common materials include wood, plastic and metal.

 

Wood

Wooden pallets are the most commonly used across a variety of industries. They are produced in all ISO sizes for storage in racking and are generally used in one-way flows for heavier items.

Advantages:

  • Keys into racking well – high friction
  • Strong, relatively durable and reliable
  • Cost effective
  • Materials easily sourced
  • Repairable and recyclable
  • Can be resold
  • Easy to construct

Disadvantages

  • Weight
  • Issues associated with porous material (hygiene, mould, water damage)
  • Handling hazards (splinters, breakage)
  • Not as durable as other materials

 

Other types of wooden pallets are also available.

Presswood pallets, including those made from chipboard or MDF, can be lighter than regular wooden pallets but are susceptible to the same water tolerance issues. Lightweight plywood also offers a weight advantage over regular wooden pallets but load capacity can be lower than a traditional hardwood pallet.

 

Metal

The improved strength and water resistance means that metal – including steel and aluminium – has found an important place in pallet manufacture.

Heavy goods and those requiring sanitary conditions, such as food and medical industries, benefit from many of the advantages of metal pallets which include the following over wood pallets:

  • Strength and durability
  • Non-porous surfaces for easier cleaning
  • Reduced pest infestation
  • Splinter-free

The only major disadvantages are increased weight and cost compared to wood (depending on materials used).

Plastic

Plastic pallets offer benefits similar to those of steel pallets – strength, durability and non-porous surface – with improved weight for lower shipping costs.

Like wood and steel, plastic pallets are recyclable. They offer a long service life, good shock resistance and are customisable but cost more than other types and are not easily repairable.

 

Corrugated Cardboard

Cardboard, while being light, is capable of carrying heavy loads.

Its low weight makes it easy to handle and reduces shipping costs. It is also recyclable.

Cardboard is less durable than wood, steel or plastic and has a shorter working life. It is also more susceptible to water damage and is not cleanable.

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