A pallet ( //), sometimes called a skid, is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies. Goods or shipping containers are often placed on a pallet secured with strapping, stretch wrap or shrink wrap and shipped.
While most pallets are wooden, pallets also are made of plastic, metal, and paper. Each material has advantages and disadvantages relative to the others. (See the sections "Phytosanitary compliance" and "Materials used" below.)
Containerization for transport has spurred the use of pallets because the shipping containers have the clean, level surfaces needed for easy pallet movement. Most pallets can easily carry a load of 1,000 kg (2,205 lb). Today, over half a billion pallets are made each year and about two billion pallets are in use across the United States alone.
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 europallet and the U.S. Military 35 in × 45.5 in/889 mm × 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 corebusiness 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.
- 463L master pallet, a wood and aluminium air cargo pallet primarily used by the US Air Force.
- CHEP, Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool
- Bulk box
- Concrete block
- Crane (machine)
- Forklift truck
- ISPM 15, Regulation of wood packaging material in international trade
- International Plant Protection Convention Dictates ISPM 15 (above)
- Molded pulp pallet
- Packaging and labeling
- Pallet inverters
- Slip sheet
- Stillage, a stackable pallet-like device with sides or a cage to contain the load.
- Stretch wrap
- ULD, lightweight aluminium and plastic pallet or container for aircraft.
- Unit Load
Notes and referencesEdit
- Brody, A. L., and Marsh, K, S., "Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology", John Wiley & Sons, 1997, ISBN 0-471-06397-5
- ASTM D 1185 Test Methods for Pallets and Related Structures
- ASTM D6253 Treatment and/or Marking of Wood Packaging Materials
- Why Use Two If One Will Do?, Palletizer Magazine, 1944
- What Came First, The Pallet or the Forklift?
- An Inspection Guide for the Construction and Inspection of Wood Pallets, U.S. Navy, 1954
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