Your Guide to Pallet Types, Uses, and Suppliers

Every day, over 1.8 billion pallets are used across the United States, with a staggering 93% of these constructed from wood. But beyond these statistics, what exactly constitutes a pallet, and how do you select the most suitable kind for your goods? Here’s an exhaustive guide on pallets, highlighting various pallet types tailored to your product or material needs:

What is a Pallet?

A pallet is a horizontal platform that robustly holds products and allows quicker movement. The bottom deck of a pallet qualifies for stable shipping by providing commercial products and materials with support so that forklifts, front loaders, pallet jacks, and other devices can lift them.

Pallets are highly effective storage and handling foundations for handling and transporting products and materials. In addition, a pallet is secure and will not be damaged. Without a pallet, products and materials are in danger of getting damaged during the transportation process.

What Are the Sizes of a Pallet?

In the United States, 48 x 40 inches is the general size of a pallet. Usually, each deck board is three inches long and 5/16 inches thick. This category accounts for around 30% of every new wood pallet produced in the United States. The 48 x 40 pallet is also frequently used for general storage and warehousing. The other two most popular pallet sizes in the United States are 42 x 42 and 48 x 48. These two pallets can be utilized four-way or two-way. This determines the type of entrance for the forklift or pallet jack.

What Are the Parts of a Pallet?

Listed below are the different parts of a pallet. Let’s dive in with some explanation:

  • Stringers: Sometimes known as runners, stringers are elongated beams that provide separation and reinforcement between the top and bottom decks of a pallet. A typical pallet contains three stringers—two on the edges and one in the middle—which support the deck boards. In general, stringers are approximately 2 x 4 in size.
  • Deck Boards: Deck boards are a crucial feature of every pallet, on the top or the bottom. They are numerous and positioned at right angles to the stringers to support the pallet’s base and top surfaces. Occasionally, they may solely provide support to the top. Regardless of placement, deck boards contribute significantly to the pallet’s support and stability.
  • Top and Bottom Lead Boards: The lead boards, found at the forefront and the base of a pallet, are essentially two pieces of timber. They are typically more expansive than the interior boards to enhance the overall strength and stability of the pallet. With a usual width of around 5.5 inches, these boards are often called 6-inch lead boards.
  • Blocks: Blocks are often used as alternatives to stringers. They come in various forms, such as rectangular, square, cylindrical, or multi-sided, and their placement on the pallet is a telltale sign of their presence. Usually, they are located as a central or middle block, a corner block, an end or edge block, or an internal block.
  • Pallet Spacing: The distance or interval between the boards on a pallet, known as spacing, is crucial to its functionality. The careful arrangement of these spaces is vital as it dictates the pallet’s load-bearing capacity and prevents the cargo from sinking into the pallet structure.

What Are the Various Materials Used to Create Pallets?

Pallets are made from various materials, each with its characteristics and suitability for different applications. The most common materials used to create pallets are:

  • Wood: Wooden pallets are a time-honored option and continue to be extensively utilized. Their popularity is attributed to their durability, affordability, and load-carrying solid capacity. Different varieties of wood, ranging from hardwoods such as oak to softwoods like pine, can be employed in their manufacture.
  • Plastic: Plastic pallets are gaining popularity due to their durability, resistance to moisture, and ease of cleaning. They are often used in industries where hygiene is crucial, such as pharmaceuticals and food processing. Plastic pallets are available in various designs, including nestable and stackable options.
  • Metal: Metal pallets offer exceptional strength and durability. They are commonly used in heavy-duty applications and environments requiring extreme temperatures or chemical exposure resistance. Metal pallets are often made from steel or aluminum and are suitable for long-term use.
  • Paper: Paper pallets, also known as corrugated pallets, are lightweight and recyclable. They are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional pallets, especially for industries seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. Paper pallets are suitable for one-time or limited-use applications and are often used for shipping lightweight products.
  • Recycled Materials: Pallets can also be made from recycled materials such as reclaimed wood or plastic. These pallets are an environmentally friendly option that helps reduce waste and conserve resources.

What are the Pros and Cons of Each Pallet Type?

Each pallet type has advantages and disadvantages, which should be considered based on specific application requirements. Here are the pros and cons of some common pallet types:

Pros of Block Pallets

  • Excellent load-bearing capacity due to their construction with solid blocks at all corners.
  • Sturdy and durable, suitable for heavy-duty applications and stacking.
  • Can be easily accessed from all four sides, allowing for efficient handling.
  • Less prone to damage and deformation compared to other pallet types.

Cons of Block Pallets

  • Higher cost compared to stringer pallets due to the additional materials required.
  • Heavier weight, which can affect transportation costs.
  • Limited availability and may require custom manufacturing.
  • Require more storage space due to their thicker construction.

Pros of Stringer Pallets

  • Cost-effective option due to their more straightforward construction with stringers and deck boards.
  • Lightweight and easy to handle, reducing transportation costs.
  • More flexibility in terms of customization and repairs.
  • Commonly available and suitable for a wide range of applications.

Cons of Stringer Pallets

  • Lower load capacity compared to block pallets.
  • Prone to damage and instability if stringers or deck boards are compromised.
  • Limited access points, typically requiring two-way entry.

Pros of Double-Face Pallets

  • Both top and bottom decks are identical, allowing for reversible use.
  • Offers flexibility in loading and unloading products from either side.
  • It can be rotated or flipped for balanced loading or specific handling requirements.
  • Provides consistent and uniform support for products during transport.

Cons of Double-Face Pallets

  • Slightly heavier compared to single-face pallets due to the additional deck boards.
  • It may have a higher initial cost compared to single-face pallets.
  • Limited availability compared to single-face pallets in certain regions.
  • Require more storage space due to the double deck board construction.

It’s important to note that the pros and cons mentioned above are generalizations and specific variations and designs within each pallet type may have advantages and disadvantages. When choosing a pallet type, consider your requirements, load capacity needs, handling equipment compatibility, and industry standards. Conducting a thorough evaluation of the pros and cons will help you make an informed decision.

What Is the Difference Between a Pallet and Skid?

While pallets and skids may seem similar, critical differences lie in the structure beneath the top deck. Skids typically have four feet under the top loading deck, while a pallet includes three or four stringers running across it in any direction.

Skids have been around longer and were initially used before the advent of lift trucks and modern handling equipment. Skids are great for stationary storage, elevating the products off the ground and providing stability. Additionally, skids often have a single-deck design that serves as the base for the goods, making them suitable for heavier, stationary loads such as machinery.

Conversely, pallets have a double-deck design that adds more stability and protection to the products. In addition, pallets are typically designed for handling and transportation with forklifts and pallet jacks, making them more versatile for varying applications.

Additionally, some skids are designed with full-length runners instead of individual feet within the corners, making for a smoother glide during transport. On the other hand, some pallets are specially designed to bear heavy loads and may incorporate more stringers to support the hefty weight on both the top and bottom platforms.

How Do I Find the Best Pallet Supplier?

The right pallet supplier can significantly impact your supply chain’s efficiency. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a pallet supplier:

  • Quality: Quality should be a paramount consideration when selecting a supplier. The supplier should be able to provide high-quality pallets that meet your specific requirements and the applicable industry standards. It’s also essential that the supplier has strict quality control measures in place to ensure consistency in the pallets they provide.
  • Reliability: Timeliness is crucial in supply chain operations. It would help if you had a supplier consistently delivering high-quality pallets when needed. This also means the supplier should have robust production capabilities to meet your volume requirements, even during peak seasons.
  • Sustainability: If your company is committed to environmental sustainability, choosing a supplier that shares these values would be beneficial. Look for suppliers who use sustainably sourced materials, have energy-efficient manufacturing processes, and offer a pallet recycling or buy-back program.
  • Cost: While the cost of pallets is a significant consideration, weighing the cost against the value you’re receiving is essential. Low-cost pallets might initially seem attractive, but if they’re of poor quality, they could lead to product damage, inefficient handling, or even safety issues. Therefore, when comparing prices, consider the overall value, including factors such as durability, load capacity, and lifespan of the pallets.
  • Customer service: A good supplier should provide quality products and excellent customer service. They should be responsive to your queries, be able to provide expert advice when needed and act quickly to resolve any issues that arise. A supplier committed to customer satisfaction will create a smoother, more positive working relationship.

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