FEATURE WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT GOOD WOOD Counterfeit pallets can be avoided by

selecting a closed-pool provider, whose pallets are not exchanged with those of other suppliers. A pooler will also be able to confirm the history of its pallets, or you can buy your own pallets and track them yourself.

You may not have given them a huge amount of thought, but pallets are the backbone of the supply chain. Could yours be the weakest link? Simon Wood, operations director for pallet pooling specialist LPR UK & Ireland, explains why pallets matter and how you can make sure they don’t let you down


f a pallet is wrongly configured for its task, poorly constructed, or suffering

from damage and/or poor repairs, its ability to support loads safely is affected. Pallet collapses may result in spoilt goods and rejected deliveries, not to mention the risk of damage to equipment or serious injury. Lesser imperfections, such as protruding

nails or splinters, can damage packaging and goods, leading to rejections. When pallets are used in automated warehousing or production machinery, even a small fault can lead to operational downtime. The cost of this downtime to your business could be financial, but could also damage your reputation.

NOT ALL PALLETS ARE EQUAL There are several different wooden pallet types, in terms of design and size. You need to select a pallet which is suitable for the task to be undertaken, taking into account the load on the pallet and how it will be transported. You will also need to consider the final location of your goods, as well as whether the pallet will be used within racking and automated systems.


Using pooled pallets, rather than buying your own, gives greater flexibility to alter pallet specifications and volumes, to meet your changing business needs. For strength and durability, you should insist on pallets made from 100 per cent solid wood with no composite blocks. Poor-quality pallets are prone to failure, a false economy. The properties of timber vary between tree species and with different lumbering and sawmill processes. You need to be confident that your pallet supplier demands and uses the right quality. PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)-certified pallet businesses guarantee their timber’s origin, as well as its responsible harvesting. Some pallet pooling companies paint

their products in distinctive colours, which give additional confidence of a pallet’s source. Amongst ‘white wood’ – i.e. non- painted – pooled pallets, problems have been subject to counterfeiting by eastern European gangs. Dealing with fake pallets, whose quality and size vary greatly, has the potential to generate additional inspection and administrative costs.


By making the right pallet choice, or engaging a specialist company to manage pallets on your behalf, you can make rejected deliveries a thing of the past

MAINTENANCE ISSUES Knowing where a pallet has been is important if contamination is to be avoided. For example, are you sure it has never been treated with inappropriate fungicides, exposed to other toxic substances or stored in insanitary conditions? The main hygiene issue to consider is the cleanliness of the environments in which pallets are kept, handled and transported. Without clean, dry shelter, for instance, they may become wet, mouldy, dirty or even contaminated by bird droppings, giving customers further reasons to reject deliveries. To ensure satisfactory condition, pallets

should be inspected each time they are used. A good inspection will identify any weaknesses, splits, splinters or chips in the wood, as well as protruding, displaced or missing nails, loose components and visible contaminants. Defective pallets should then be repaired to a high standard, and cleaned if necessary, or sent for recycling if repair is not possible. Specialist facilities have been developed

by some pallet suppliers and poolers to maximise the efficiency of sorting, inspecting, repairing and storing reused pallets. If you choose to buy and manage pallets yourself, this is an area of activity that requires much investment in time, staffing and space.

CAREFUL CONSIDERATION Whether you decide to invest in your own pallet pool, or hire them from a pooler, careful consideration should be given, especially where they are to be used in a warehousing or in production automation. The automated equipment provider should give accurate specifications for pallet dimensions and structure. These should include a reasonable tolerance for small deviations from the perfection of a brand-new pallet. You will need to ensure that your staff can identify and exclude pallets falling outside the set criteria. Trialling of pallets through the system before implementation makes good sense. By making the right pallet choice, you


can make rejected deliveries a thing of the past.


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