Comparing the 4-way pallet vs. the 2-way pallet, it’s obvious that the main difference between the two pallet types has to do with forklift entry. Two-way pallets are only accessible to a forklift from two sides, while 4-way pallets are accessible from all four sides.
This design difference will affect how, and in some cases where, a given type of pallet is used. If space is an issue, a 4-way pallet may be a better option because it simplifies transport of the pallet by forklift. If cost is a bigger concern and there will be a limited amount of pallet movement, a 2-way pallet is likely a viable alternative. Before assembling a pallet fleet, it’s vital to think about the differences in cost, durability, and capacity between these basic pallet types.
Choosing a 4-Way vs. a 2-Way Pallet: Pros and Cons
The most obvious benefit of a 4-way pallet is that a forklift operator can lift it from any side. Due to its design, however, the 4-way pallet has other advantages that distinguish it from a 2-way pallet as well, which we’ll discuss in the chart below. It’s also important to note that there are two different kinds of 4-way pallets: partial 4-way pallets have notched stringers on one side which allow them to be picked up from any side by most forklifts, but from only two sides by a pallet jack. A true 4-way pallet (almost always a block pallet) can be picked up by either a forklift or pallet jack from any side.
4-way block pallets combine higher durability and strength with the convenience and other advantages of true 4-way entry.
|4-Way Block Pallets||Highest durability: Of the three types of pallets, block pallets are the most durable due to their design and the high-quality wood generally used.
Highest weight capacity: The 4-way block pallet has a static capacity of 2,800 pounds, higher than its 2-way or partial 4-way counterparts.
Improved operational efficiency: 4-way block pallets combine higher durability and strength with the convenience and other advantages of true 4-way entry.
|Expensive: Of the three types of pallets, block pallets are the most expensive as they require the most wood and their design is more complex.
Heavy: A 4-way block pallet can weigh anywhere from 80 to 100 pounds. This increases the weight of a truckload of pallets, driving up transportation costs.
Wasteful: 4-way block pallets are often made from hardwood trees. These trees take decades to grow, so it’s not possible to replace them at the same rate that they’re being cut down.
|Partial 4-Way Pallets||Uses space effectively: As forklift entry can occur from any side with a 4-way pallet, they don’t require special storage orientation to allow forklift operators to lift them.
More pallets per truckload: The flexibility of a 4-way pallet also extends to the back of the semi-truck, where more pallets can be stored as they don’t require special orientation for unloading.
Enhanced supply chain speed: Forklift operators can quickly load and lift 4-way pallets without worrying about maneuvering to approach them from a specific angle. This speeds loading and unloading time and reduces labor costs.
|Lower durability: The notches in a pallet’s stringers allow forklift operators to enter them from every side, but also weakens the pallet and increases the likelihood of damage.
Lower weight capacity: Again, due to their notched stringers, partial 4-way pallets can’t carry as much weight as their two-way or block pallet counterparts.
Higher cost: Because of the additional effort involved in adding notches, a partial 4-way stringer pallet will cost more than a 2-way pallet (though still not as much as a block pallet).
|2-Way Pallets||Enhanced durability: The stringers in a 2-way pallet are solid from end to end, meaning that they are stronger and less prone to breakage than pallets whose stringers have been notched to create a partial 2-way pallet.
Mid-level weight capacity: For the same reason as above, a 2-way pallet can typically carry more weight than a 4-way stringer pallet.
Lower cost: As the design of a 2-way pallet is simpler than that of a true or partial 4-way pallet, they’re easier to manufacture and the cost is lower at purchase.
|Poor warehouse space utilization: 2-way pallets require a storage arrangement that takes into consideration the fact that they can only be entered from either the front or back.
Reduced loads: These pallets must be placed in the truck in such a way that they are accessible to a forklift or pallet jack. This limitation in the way the load can be arranged means that each truck is able to carry fewer pallets of goods in one load.
Reduced supply chain efficiency: Individuals moving 2-way pallets must spend more time maneuvering around them in order to lift them properly, which wastes time and ultimately increases labor costs.
Comparing 4-way vs. 2-way pallets makes it clear that each of these types of pallets has its pros and cons. Choosing one type over the other is a matter of prioritizing which pallet characteristic is most important to your company or industry. However, your choice doesn’t have to be between a typical wood block pallet and a stringer pallet. Alternative materials, such as plastic, are being used to create pallets that have all the advantages of both 4-way and 2-way pallets, with very few of the drawbacks.
How Plastic Pallets Eliminate the Downsides of 4-Way Platforms
If it weren’t for the limitations of 4-way block pallets, most businesses would opt for them. They allow greater flexibility, efficiency, and storage capacity. They last longer than 2-way pallets and are less likely to be rejected by retailers due to their condition. However, they have plenty of drawbacks as well, such as their weight and expense. Plastic 4-way pallets are designed to provide warehouse and logistics managers with the benefits of a wood block pallet while addressing the downsides.
It’s easy to see that 4-way pallets are superior: they are simply more efficient and more versatile.
Since plastic pallets can be shaped into whatever form is most useful, the majority of plastic pallets are designed for true 4-way entry. Plastic pallets don’t use fasteners, which makes them less likely to fail or fall apart than a 2-way or 4-way wood pallet. Their unibody construction and resilient plastic material also allow plastic pallets to carry more weight, as much as 5,000 pounds of dynamic weight with an evenly distributed load. The pallets themselves are up to 35% lighter than their wood counterparts, which means that more inventory can be carried in each truckload for loads that weigh out. For loads that cube out, each truckload will weigh less, saving on fuel costs.
When comparing the 4-way vs the 2-way pallet, it’s easy to see that 4-way pallets are superior: they are simply more efficient and more versatile. Plastic pallets provide that same efficiency and versatility while minimizing the drawbacks of a wood 4-way pallet. Lighter, stronger, more resilient plastic pallets help manufacturers reduce their Total Cost of Business (TCOB) by enhancing efficiency in the supply chain and conserving space on the warehouse floor while, at the same time, providing a slew of benefits that wood pallets can’t match.
High-quality pooled iGPS plastic pallets are an ideal alternative to 4-way or 2-way wood pallets. Their unibody construction gives them greater durability than a stringer pallet, while their design offers the flexibility of a true 4-way block pallet. For more information, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.