When it comes to pallets, there are a variety of choices available for warehouse operators, ranging from plastic pallets to steel pallets. A heightened focus on food safety, along with environmental trends, are driving new innovations.
So what does that mean for the pallet industry?
New regulations and trends
Recent regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have shown to have an effect on the pallet industry. In order to assist in protecting consumers, the FSMA mandates more frequent inspections to make sure pallets meet cleanliness standards.
“Hygiene has become an increasingly important trend,” confirms Bob Klimko, director of marketing and sustainability of ORBIS Corporation, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. “Hygiene is becoming one of the cornerstones for any type of system and reusable packaging has an impact on that.”
At the same time, Rex Lowe, president of Orlando, Florida-based iGPS, speaks of an emerging desire for temperature tracking. Since roughly 30 to 40 percent of produce will not be consumed due to a shorter shelf life or damage in transit, the increased awareness makes sense.
“There would be a substantial savings and a substantial need for the ability to monitor temperature more closely,” says Lowe. “[Tracking] will allow retailers in that industry to put a priority on what to put out on the shelves first, based on what’s coming in with the freshest codes.”
Industry experts also note that there has been an increasing interest in sustainability initiatives and ways to reduce costs. One way a company can be frugal—and green—is to implement plastic pallets, such as those manufactured by Plastic Pallet Solutions. The company, based in Denton, Texas, offers customers the option to recycle a company’s raw, plastic materials in order to lower the entry cost of plastic pallets.
“Plastic car bumpers, industrial plastic barrels, milk jugs and pill bottles make up some of the source material,” explains Bob Noland, executive vice president at Plastic Pallet Solutions. “These pallets never have to be disposed of—they can always be recycled.”
Another ongoing trend in the warehouse is a push for more automation. This results in greater product proliferation, reduces labor costs, and increases overall efficiency in the warehouse.
Resourceful pallets and services
Fullerton, California-based AL Pallet offers customers their aluminum Clean Factory Pallet, which is ideal for a sanitary environment.
“This particular model has no seams,” says Young Lee, executive director of AL Pallet. “It is welded throughout the joints, which leaves the pallets with no pores or any openings.”
This seamless pallet prevents bacteria buildup and makes it easier to clean. In addition, AL Pallets’ aluminum pallets weigh much less than its wooden and plastic contenders. The 48 x 40 inch Clean Factory Pallet weighs less than 30 pounds, whereas a wooden pallet weighs about 45 to 70 pounds and a plastic pallet weighs about 60 to 120 pounds. “Beverage companies are looking for durability and lighter pallets,” remarks Lee.
Similar to Plastic Pallet Solutions, AL Pallet also offers a recycling service to ensure that no materials will go to waste. According to Lee, aluminum materials have infinite recyclability and will not show any signs of degradation in quality.
Plastic Pallet Solutions offers customers plastic Beverage Pallets, which can have a positive impact on the environment due to the elimination of deforestation associated with the manufacture of wooden pallets. These pallets are nonporous, which is beneficial in order to prevent cross contamination. Plastic pallets are also tough. According to Noland, plastic pallets can last 15 to 40 times longer than wood pallets and they also come in various sizes.
“We currently have 20 different mold sizes that have non-skid grommets for load safety and pallet stability,” says Noland. He adds that the company is “working on the ability to make any odd size pallet with recycled plastic lumber to supplement our current offerings.”