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Shipping Pallets: Are pallets the most important object in the global economy?

August 14, 2012

It’s not every day that materials handling and transport packaging, let along pallets, are covered in the mainstream media. It’s less common that an outsider steps into our world with that sense of curiosity of how things work that is the mark of good reporters. It’s even less common that they understand it.

That’s all prelude to an article about the role of the pallet in the global supply chain by Tom Vanderbilt that was posted on Slate.com today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a little obsessed with pallets since I grew up in the industry. There’s probably a twelve step program for guys like me. What’s more, Vanderbilt called me to learn about the industry and quotes me in the piece. So, complimenting an article in which I am quoted is a little like my mother telling you I wrote a great piece on conveyors. However, Vanderbilt did his own reporting and called Mark White, a professor emeritus at Virginia Tech. To quote the lyrics of one of my favorite country songs, Mark has forgotten more about pallets than I’ll ever know.

The point he made, and one I think our industry should keep making over and over again, is that materials handling products and processes - whether its the mundane like corrugated cartons and pallets or the sexy like shuttle systems and AGVs - are playing a vital but unreported role in delivering the products that make all of our lives a little more enjoyable.

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Article Topics

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About the Author

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.


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