Pallet testing comes of age

Pallet providers are looking to test centers to improve the quality of unit loads.

By ·

Visit the website of the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (, and you’ll see the announcement of a new version of the NWPCA’s pallet design software program, PDS Version 5.0. The new version, according to the NWPCA, integrates the pallet with the end user’s product to create a better unit load.

While the NWPCA’s design program is only available to its members, it underscores a fact the association has been promoting for about three decades with PDS and the pallet lab at Virginia Tech: not all pallets are created equal. It is possible to engineer a better pallet.

For years, that was a tough sell in an industry where orders are lost over pennies a pallet. But it does appear that more recently the pallet industry, the OEMs that work with pallets and some end users are beginning to understand that there’s a relationship between the quality of the pallet and the quality of their delivered loads and the effectiveness of their materials handling systems. Spending a little more money on the optimal pallet can lead to bigger savings in operations and quality control. Look no further than the pallet spec issued by Costco earlier this year.

We were reminded of this fact by an announcement from Baust & Co. GmbH Materialflusssysteme, a German provider of pallet exchangers and transport systems for sensitive goods and hygiene-sensitive areas. Baust gives its customers the opportunity to test the best repacking solution for their own products together with the engineers from Baust at a test center at its headquarters in Langenfeld.

A pallet exchanger is used in industries like pharmaceutical and food, where production and logistics are separated from each other for hygienic reasons. During production, for instance, products are usually conveyed on plastic or aluminum pallets or platforms which can be correspondingly cleaned and sterilized in accordance with hygiene requirements. At the end of the production phase, the goods then need to be repacked – or exchanged - onto standardized transport pallets using a pallet exchange system. In Europe, that is probably a wooden euro pallet; in North America it is probably a 48 X 40 GMA style pallet, or a pooled pallet from CHEP, iGPS or Peco.

As it turns out, there is no one way to make that exchange. Different companies have different requirements dictated by their materials handling and distribution processes. After finding from experience that packing in the pharmaceutical and food industries that customized procedures for handling are required, Baust established its own test center. There, the OEM has installed equipment and systems that allow customers the opportunity to test the repacking of their products “live.” The center allows them to replicate the pushing, turning or tilting that would happen in the field.

“Although standardized transport pallets, like euro pallets,  and the corresponding transport and storage systems are usually uniform, pallets and goods carrier systems used in the production are usually quite the opposite,” says Franz Baust, managing director. “In addition, both in dispatch and in production, an increasing number of different types of pallet are being used. In our test centre we try to work out the best procedure for transferring the locomotive from a narrow gauge to a standard railway track.”

Baust is not alone. Last winter, CHEP launched a test center, where it and its customers can test new pallet and load designs. Similarly iGPS opened an innovation center in Bentonville, Arkansas last fall. Sonoco Transport Packaging has long operated a test center for users of its corrugated pallets and other packaging products.

Examples like these demonstrate that the industry, both here and abroad, is bringing science and technology to a product that many people once took for granted. Think of it as building the smarter pallet.

Read more from Modern’s Pallet and Packaging Report.

CHEP highlights materials handling simulator
Opened in January, CHEP’s new materials handling simulator facility in Orlando provides testing for pallets and customer unit-loads.

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!

Article Topics

Baust · CHEP · NWPCA · Packaging · Pallet Report · Pallets · · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Capturing Labor, Space, and Accuracy Returns with AS/RS
Find out how the demand of e-commerce and digital age expectations are driving the need to automate material handling with AS/RS solutions to improve labor productivity, save space, and reduce costs associated with inaccurate picks
Download Today!
From the November 2017 Modern Materials Handling Issue
A new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business for the fourth time in 20 years and shorten order delivery time from 10 days to three.
10th Annual Salary Survey: The Price of Performance
Let’s put Automatic Data Capture (ADC) Technology to Work
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
The State of the DC Voice Market
A lot has changed in the last 10 years, especially in voice technology. This webinar will cover the state of the voice market, review two leading voice solutions and help you gain a better understanding of the options and capabilities available today.
Register Today!
Lodge Manufacturing: Distribution Cast in Iron
A new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business for...
Rochester Drug Cooperative: Robots ready for work
It’s still early stages, but Rochester Drug Cooperative is proving that mobile robotic piece...

System Report: Pouch sorter powers Stage’s fulfillment needs
How a hometown department store chain transformed its e-fulfillment processes with pouch sortation...
Cubing and Weighing Equipment: Measure Up
The use of cubing and weighing equipment is growing beyond dimensional weight applications.