In logistics management, timetables are finely tuned. Grocery and pharma industries depend on just-in-time delivery to get perishable goods to market. The just-in-time approach—pioneered by Toyota—focuses on making or delivering only what is needed, when it is needed, and in only the amounts that are needed. It is a philosophy that frees companies from spending money on excess inventory, maintaining that inventory in storage, and being forced to choose between selling the product in their inventory at a steep discount or holding onto it in the hope of a market shift. It’s an efficient, effective system that has much to recommend it.
However, it is not a system with a lot of redundancies and safeguards. This means that even a small interruption in the flow of products through the supply chain can have dramatic consequences farther down the line. A missed shipment means that those tight timetables are thrown off and distribution centers may struggle to make their deadlines. Efficient supply chain management systems depend on consistency and reliability at all levels, even–perhaps especially–down to the shipping platform used. That is why truly efficient supply chain management demands the use of plastic pallets.
Wood Pallets Aren’t Compatible With Efficient Supply Chain Management
What’s wrong with the ubiquitous wood shipping pallet? Wood platforms are simply too inconsistent for modern supply chains because they’re made of a natural material. Because it was once alive, wood is largely made of transport tissue meant for moving water from the roots to other parts of the tree. This means that wood is naturally porous and prone to absorbing moisture. This factor alone makes the task of supply chain management more difficult in the following ways:
- Imprecise Loading: The weight of a reusable wood pallet can vary by as much as 15 pounds depending on the moisture content of the wood. A supply chain using wood pallets must factor this into its loading plans, and it may result in shipments that go out under the weight limit, resulting in higher transportation costs than necessary.
- Unstable Dimensions: Wood’s ability to shrink and expand means that the dimensions of a wood pallet are unstable. Inconsistent wood dimensions can affect Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) and other machinery, causing machinery downtime that requires human intervention and slows down operations.
- Unhygienic: Wood’s porous nature is also a sanitation issue. Absorbed moisture encourages mold and bacteria growth on and in the wood. Toxic and caustic chemicals may also be absorbed, and once in the wood can be spread through the supply chain, potentially bringing it to a stop while the source is found and isolated.
In supply chain management systems that rely heavily on ASRS, interruptions come at a significant cost as processes are put on hold to allow technicians to fix the highly specialized machinery.
In the world of supply chain management, all of these problems pale before the unreliability of a wood pallet in handling. The wood slats and boards that make up wood pallets sometimes pull loose or break during transportation and handling. This creates wood splinters that can jam or damage vital equipment, harm employees, and bring operations to a halt. In supply chain management systems that rely heavily on ASRS, these kinds of interruptions come at a significant cost as processes are put on hold to allow technicians to fix the highly specialized machinery.
In a world where efficient supply chain management systems depend on just-in-time deliveries, interruptions due to shipping platform failures represent an unacceptable loss of time, product, and money. A stable, reliable shipping pallet, on the other hand, supports a company’s processes rather than hinders them.
Plastic Pallets Work Hand-in-Hand with Supply Chain Management Systems
The strength and reliability of plastic pallets mean these platforms move through the supply chain with fewer delays due to pallet or product damage. The durable, integrated construction of a high-quality plastic pallet also does away with wood pallet debris in the warehouse, such as splinters, boards, and loose nails. The result is less time spent cleaning the warehouse and removing debris from machinery and more time spent moving product. These are just two ways plastic pallets can improve efficiency in daily supply chain operations.
However, arguably the biggest advantage plastic pallets have is their consistency. A plastic pallet’s weight won’t change with the moisture content of the air, as wood will. Moreover, the dimensions of a plastic pallet are not variable. This consistency improves supply chain efficiency in the following ways:
- Lower Energy Costs: A plastic pallet weighs less than 50 pounds, while a typical reusable wood pallet weighs 70 to 80 pounds. This lower weight helps reduce fuel expenditures in transporting goods through the supply chain, reducing operational costs and making each run more fuel efficient for trucks that cube out.
- Efficient Loading: Since plastic pallets have a consistent weight, loading plans no longer need to account for the variable weight of wood pallets. This means that not only is more of a shipment’s weight salable product, but that shipments can take full advantage of a vehicle’s carrying capacity.
- Improved Interoperability: The consistent dimensions of plastic pallets ensure easy handling in all parts of the supply chain, from automated systems to forklifts at distribution centers to pallet jacks at retail outlets. This precision and ease of use makes a pallet’s movement through any part of the supply chain as time-efficient as possible and improves manufacturer-retailer relationships.
Each of the benefits above makes the jobs of operations managers and coordinators easier. For instance, no longer do loading plans drawn up in advance have to account for the possibility of a little extra weight from damp wood pallets. Neither do logistics workers have to account for idiosyncrasies in how their transportation and retail partners handle pallet loads. Consistency is absolutely necessary for a truly efficient supply chain management system, and plastic pallets–rather than wood–are able to provide that efficiency.
The easiest way to switch to plastic pallets is to use a plastic pallet pooling program. A pooling program takes care of pallet management and maintenance, allowing logistics operators and warehouse managers to focus on getting goods to market. Choosing a pallet rental program makes it possible to implement a new shipping platform quickly and improve supply chain efficiency immediately.
To lower your Total Cost of Business (TCOB) with the iGPS pallet by increasing supply chain efficiency, give our team a call at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.
Image 1: Unsplash user Logan Stephens