Necessity is the mother of (pallet) invention

Plastics manufacturer PTM developed plastic crates and a plastic pallet for the Latin American soft drink and beer markets. Next stop, North America?

By ·

What do you do if you’re a plastics manufacturer and your parent company in the soft drink and beer industries is in need of a better plastic crate and pallet?

If you’re PTM (click on the top to translate into English), whose parent company FEMSA bottles Coca-Cola and Heineken in Latin America, you design the better product. In this case, a plastic crate that is wear-friendly to plastic soft drink bottles and a plastic pallet featuring structural foam reinforced columns that is good for up to 100 trips, according to testing conducted at Virginia Tech’s Center For Unit Load design. The crates and pallet are currently being used by FEMSA in its Coca-Cola operations in Mexico; Heineken recently placed a significant order to convert from wood to plastic pallets in 6 plants.

If you think you’ve done a good job, you also set your sights on introducing the pallet to the North American market, according Jose Antonio Fernandez Garza, PTM’s CEO and general manager. “We went to Modex as a visitor and we’ll be exhibiting at PackExpo in the fall,” Garza told me last week. “Right now, we’re talking to distributors and we’re visiting the North American operations of some of our large customers to learn the market. We believe we’ll have a handful of customers in the next couple of months.”

First, a little about PTM. The company was founded over 37 years ago as a division of Heineken in Mexico to manufacture plastic crates. Over time, the Mexican beer industry moved away from plastic to other materials so PTM branched out into plastic coolers, ice chests and plastic furniture. Today, the company is the leading manufacturer of plastic crates in Latin America. PTM has over 1000 employees, two production facilities in México and operations in the US, Colombia and Brazil.

About ten years ago, PTM jumped back into the materials handling industry with a new plastic crate design for Coca-Cola. “We developed a plastic crate that doesn’t cause wear when the bottle is cradled in the crate,” Garza said. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola was using plastic pallets manufactured by one of PTM’s competitors. “We didn’t have a plastic pallet and decided to get into the industry,” Garza explained.

Working with a consultant, PTM designed a structural foam plastic pallet for FEMSA known as the Ultra Pallet (r). The technology behind the pallet consists of combining low and high pressure molding injection processes. The cover and base are injected at high pressure, both parts are then assembled with a snap fit mechanism, and then 8 out of 9 blocks are injected at low pressure with structural foam. Thanks to the structural foam injected in the blocks, the pallet becomes a single, inseparable and highly durable product.

What then is different about the pallet? According to Garza, the most damage to pallets used in the beverage industry occurs to the columns. By reinforcing them with a foaming agent, he added, the pallet is resistant to damage and disassembly and is relatively lightweight, which saves on transportation costs. The pallet is fully recyclable. And while the pallet is priced in the range of competing plastic pallets, Garza contended that the pallet will last longer than the competition and deliver a lower cost per trip. 

In addition to FEMSA’s Coca-Cola and Heineken operations, PTM has sold the pallet to a few other customers in Mexico in the CPG and automotive industry. They are also branching out into plastic dunnage. “We’re in a shift from a company that for years only made plastic chairs and tables to a materials handling company with a full line of products,” Garza said. “We believe there’s a lot of opportunity in Latin America, especially in the automotive industry, which is switching from wood to plastic.”

And then, there’s the U.S. market. “When it comes to impact resistance and durability, we believe we have a product that is second to none for companies that have a closed supply chain,” Garza said. “If we win a contract, we’re even thinking of putting up a plant or partnering with another manufacturer. We’ll provide products at a very competitive price to the US.”


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Corrugated Boxes Deliver for E-Commerce
Corrugated box can and should be thought of as one of the key technologies for e-commerce-era fulfillment.
Download Today!
From the January 2018 Modern Materials Handling Issue
PFS built one of the largest and most automated AS/RS freezers in the world in Washington state. Next up is a new design for automation. Automated Storage/ Automated Retrieval System, Cold Storage.
Lift Truck Series Part 1: Lift truck technology connects pickers to productivity
Breaking Through On Yard Visibility
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Emerging Technologies for Your Distribution Center
Come get an insider's view of the latest technologies for inside your Distribution Center. You'll learn which technologies are being piloted, which are having success and moving from concept to implementation and into production on the maturity scale, and what's coming on the horizon.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Trinchero Family Estates: Pallet handling in the vineyard
The second-largest family-owned wine company in the world turns to automated pallet handling and...
System Report: Rocky Brands Sees the Light
Confronting an aging materials handling system and new channels of business with new customer...

Top 20 industrial lift truck suppliers, 2017
The top lift truck suppliers list is changing with industry acquisitions causing a dramatic...
Lodge Manufacturing: Distribution Cast in Iron
In a new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business...