Pallets make it easier to move heavy stacks. Loads with pallets under them can be hauled by forklift trucks of different sizes, or even by hand-pumped and hand-drawn pallet jacks. Movement is easy on a wide, strong, flat floor: concrete is excellent. A forklift truck can cost the same as a luxury automobile, but a good reconditioned hand-drawn pallet jack costs only a few hundred dollars.
The greatest investment is thus in the construction of commercial or industrial buildings where the use of pallets could be economical. Passage through doors and buildings must be possible. To help this issue, some later pallet standards (the Euro Pallet and the U.S. Military 35 × 45.5 in/889 × 1,156 mm) are designed to pass through standard doorways.
Organizations using standard pallets for loading and unloading can have much lower costs for handling and storage, with faster material movement than businesses that do not. The exceptions are establishments that move small items such as jewelry or large items such as cars. But even they can be improved. For instance, the distributors of costume jewelry normally use pallets in their warehouses and car manufacturers use pallets to move components and spare parts.
The lack of a single international standard for pallets causes substantial continuing expense in international trade. A single standard is difficult because of the wide variety of needs a standard pallet would have to satisfy: passing doorways, fitting in standard containers, and bringing low labor costs. For example, organizations already handling large pallets often see no reason to pay the higher handling cost of using smaller pallets that can fit through doors.
Due to cost and a need to focus on core business pallet pooling becomes more and more common. Some pallet suppliers supply users with reusable pallets, sometimes with integral tracking devices. A pallet management company can help supply, clean, repair, and reuse pallets.
In a pallet measurement the first number is the stringer length and the second is the deck board length.
Square or nearly square pallets help a load resist tipping.
Two-way pallets are designed to be lifted by the deck boards. In a warehouse, the deck board side faces the corridor. For optimal cubage in a warehouse, the deck board dimension should be the shorter. This also helps the deck boards be more rigid.
Four-way pallets, or pallets for heavy loads, or general-purpose systems that might have heavy loads are best lifted by their more rigid stringers. A warehouse has the stronger side facing the corridor. For optimal cubage in a warehouse, the stronger dimension should be the shorter.
Pallet users want pallets to easily pass through buildings, stack and fit in racks, forklifts, pallet jacks and automated warehouses. To avoid shipping air, pallets should also pack tightly inside intermodal containers and vans.
No universally accepted standards for pallet dimensions exist. Companies and organizations utilize hundreds of different pallet sizes around the globe. While no single dimensional standard governs pallet production, a few different sizes are widely used.
|Dimensions in inches (W × L)||Region most used in|
|48.00 × 40.00||North America|
|39.37 × 47.24||Europe, Asia; similar to 48×40″.|
|45.87 × 45.87||Australia|
|42.00 × 42.00||North America, Europe, Asia|
|43.30 × 43.30||Asia|
|31.50 × 47.24||Europe; fits many doorways|
Although pallets come in all manner of sizes and configurations, all pallets fall into two very broad categories: “Stringer” pallets and “block” pallets. The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association has developed a Pallet Design System PDS© to manufacture pallets. PDS© is a computer program that allows the pallet maker to generate the best-suited pallet design for a specific load and generate several options for wood selections to further reduce costs. Cap3d is another program that does the same thing.
Stringer pallets use a frame of three or four parallel pieces of timber (called stringers). The top deck boards are then affixed to the stringers to create the pallet structure. Stringer pallets are also known as “two-way” pallets, since a pallet-jack may only lift it from two directions instead of four. Forklifts can lift a stringer pallet from all four directions, though lifting by the stringers is more secure.
Block pallets (also referred to as Manoj pallets) are typically stronger than stringer pallets. Block pallets utilize both parallel and perpendicular stringers to better facilitate efficient handling. A block pallet is also known as a “four-way” pallet, since a pallet-jack may be used from any side to move it.
All stringer and some block pallets have “unidirectional bases,” i.e. bottom boards oriented in one direction. While automated handling equipment can be designed for this, often it can operate faster and more effectively if the bottom edges of a pallet have bottom boards oriented in both directions. For example, The operator may not need to turn a pallet to store it and operation is less sensitive to pallet orientation.
The least expensive way to improve a pallet is usually to specify better nails. With non-wood pallets, a controlled the coefficient of friction is often helpful to prevent the pallet from slipping from forks and racks. Stiffer pallets are more durable and are handled more easily by automated equipment. If a pallet does not need to be lifted from all four sides, two-way pallets with unnotched stringers may be used, with the additional benefits of added rigidity and strength. Specifying tolerances on flatness and water content may help the supplier meet target requirements.
Inspection of pallets, whether in person or by a third-party (such as “SPEQ” inspected pallets) offer additional assurance of quality.
The cheapest pallets are made of softwood and are often considered expendable, to be discarded as trash along with other wrapping elements, at the end of the trip. These pallets are simple stringer pallets, and liftable from two sides.
Slightly more complex hardwood block pallets, plastic pallets and metal pallets can be lifted from all four sides. These costlier pallets usually require a deposit and are returned to the sender or resold as used. Many “four way” pallets are color coded according to the loads they can bear, and other attributes.
Wooden pallet construction specifications can depend on the pallet’s intended use: general, FDA, storage, chemical, export; the expected load weight; type of wood desired: recycled, hard, soft, kiln dried or combo (new & recycle); and even the type of fasteners desired to hold the pallet together: staples or nails.