BlogReducing Supply Chain DamageHow to Reduce Product Damage in the Warehouse with Plastic Pallets

No matter what industry you’re in, product damage is frustrating. If you’re in retail, you must carefully sort out damaged products from your shipment, note them, and send them back for credit. If you’re in the warehouse and notice product damage, you also have to find a place to store the damaged product and coordinate a return to the manufacturer when the overwhelming majority of your transportation is meant to go one way. It’s an enormous hassle and a disruption that can drain time and money from your warehouse operations.

Reducing product damage pays off for everyone. Retailers can reduce the amount of time spent inspecting and sorting incoming merchandise, manufacturers can sell more of the products they make, and logistics and operations managers don’t have the disproportionate hassle of disposing of damaged goods or sending them back to the manufacturer. While procedures to reduce product damage are already part of standard operating procedures in warehouses and along supply chains, it’s possible to do more to avoid product damage and lower operating costs. One change can drastically reduce product damage in the warehouse by replacing an unreliable piece of equipment with a sturdier, safer one. That change is switching from wood to plastic pallets.

How to Reduce Product Damage in the Warehouse with Plastic Pallets

How Wood Pallets Damage Products

A typical reusable wood block pallet is made of relatively thin slats nailed to four-by-four-inch wood blocks with ring shank nails. One- or two-way stringer pallets are even flimsier. The insubstantial nature of wood pallets means they have the tendency to become damaged with use and to “pass on” that damage to the product they carry. Wear and tear, as well as breakages that occur due to general use, can leave them hazardous to product. Even when wood pallets are brand new, they still have the potential to cause damage. Here are a few of the characteristics of wood pallets that make them prone to causing product damage:

  • Variable Weight: Since a wood pallet can absorb moisture, the weight of the pallet will vary with the moisture content of the wood. This variable weight, and the fact that the pallet’s weight may not be evenly distributed (wood is a natural material, after all, with natural variations), can cause product to shift during handling and transportation. These shifts may ultimately damage the product as well as handling equipment.
  • Deck Gaps: The deck boards of a wood pallet are spaced about an inch and a half apart, meaning that it’s possible for product or portions of product to fall in between the boards, where it can be damaged when forks enter the pallet. It is hard to detect when this has happened on a loaded pallet, and difficult to correct when it is detected.
  • Unsanitary Surfaces: The moisture absorbency of a wood pallet not only causes its weight to vary, but can be a source of contamination for a product. Wood absorbs water, allowing bacteria and fungi to grow on and in the wood and potentially contaminate product. Wood may also absorb chemicals and spread them through the supply chain.
  • Puncture Hazard: If you work in a warehouse, you know how quickly a wood pallet’s surface can degrade over time, resulting in splinters that can pierce product packaging. The nails that hold together a wood pallet can also work their way loose and damage packaging–or even end up inside a product.

The major drawbacks of wood pallets are well known in the industry. Traditionally, they’ve been partially addressed by using slip sheets that go between the product and the pallet deck. Slip sheets, usually made of cardboard, prevent product from falling between gaps in the top deck of the pallet and also serve as a means of keeping product from coming into direct contact with the pallet’s surface, helping to prevent contamination. However, they do little to prevent moisture damage and absolutely nothing to solve the issue of a wood pallet’s variable weight.

Durable plastic pallets make it possible to reduce product damage while doing away with slip sheets.

Particularly when made of cardboard, slip sheets also flex and tear, and splinters and loose nails may go through them and into the product above. Companies generally pay $ .60 to $1.50 for this less-than-perfect protection, and over time the additional cost adds up alongside profit losses from product damage. Durable plastic pallets don’t have these flaws, and make it possible to reduce product damage while doing away with slip sheets, ultimately lowering your company’s Total Cost of Business (TCOB).

How Plastic Pallets Reduce Product Damage in the Warehouse

The biggest advantage of plastic pallets is the way they are built. A plastic pallet lacks nails that could protrude and damage products, and its deck is built in one piece, without the long gaps of a wood pallet. Nonabsorbent plastic also reduces the likelihood of contamination by chemicals, and since a plastic pallet doesn’t splinter and is easily washed and sanitized, there is no need for a slip sheet. The consistent and light weight of a plastic pallet not only helps reduces product damage but wear and tear on equipment.

In the end, switching to a plastic pallet can save companies money in more than one way. One of the most obvious is not having to use a slip sheet, which saves $0.60 to a $1.50 on every pallet load. Another is reducing product damage in the warehouse and in transit, which adds up to positive and substantial savings over time on every operation in the supply chain. This combination of practicality, reliability, and safety makes plastic pallets the obvious choice.

To reduce product damage in the warehouse and lose the slip sheet by switching to the iGPS plastic pallet, give our team a call at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.