BlogSupply Chain: Lowering Your Total Cost of BusinessThe pallet inspection process is an important part of receiving pallets.

It is a rare warehouse delivery that isn’t shipped on a pallet. It is even rarer for a load to leave a warehouse unpalletized. The intake and throughput of pallets is a near-universal constant in the supply chain. At every stop along the way, a pallet inspection procedure should be used to ensure that incoming pallets will stand up to use in the warehouse and can be relied on to safely transport a load of products to their next destination. 

The facility taking custody of a pallet has the job of determining whether or not a pallet is in acceptable condition. An inadequate pallet inspection procedure can cause product loss during transit and rejected loads when a delivery arrives at a retailer. It is important to develop adequate inspection processes and repair procedures to ensure that all the pallets used and shipped by your business are fit for use. These inspection processes should apply regardless of the type or size of pallet used. We’ll discuss what a basic pallet inspection procedure should look for in order to keep your employees, products, and equipment safe.

Basic Pallet Inspection Procedure Guidelines

Wood stringer pallet inspection at the warehouseThe International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides criteria for pallet inspection procedures in ISO 18613:2014, which mainly cover pallet requirements for export and are aimed at preventing the spread of invasive species by ensuring compliance with the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM), specifically ISPM-15. Domestically, there is no organizational body that regulates inspection criteria for pallets. As a result, businesses must create their own inspection processes and standards.

A missing fastener will need to be replaced before the pallet can be returned to service.

Any inspection process for wood pallets shipped domestically should be primarily concerned with determining whether the pallets are structurally sound and safe to handle and are not contaminated. These criteria should be the same whether the pallets are stringer or block pallets. Secondary inspection criteria should ensure that the pallet and its components won’t shed wood splinters and debris or lose fasteners. These are safety issues, as splinters and screws can puncture product packaging and cause product loss, harm employees, and damage equipment in the warehouse. At a minimum, a pallet inspection procedure should look for:

  • Broken Wood: Pallet boards that are broken all the way through are grounds for a pallet to be found unsuitable for use. A pallet should fail inspection if it is broken across the grain all the way through the board so that it separates a section of board from an anchor point where fasteners connect it to another board.
  • Split Wood: Wood sometimes splits along the grain, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the pallet is unusable. However, splits that exceed half the length, width, or height of the board or block, or splits of any length in stringer notches, indicate that the pallet should be pulled from service.
  • Missing Wood: Pieces of board that are absent and expose a connection point or the shank of a fastener make a pallet unsuitable for use as-is.
  • Protruding Splinters: Large splinters that protrude from any surface that comes in contact with products or is handled by employees should be removed. If the splinter’s removal exposes connection points or fastener shanks, the pallet is no longer fit for service.
  • Missing Fasteners: A specific number of fasteners are used on each pallet joint. The absence of one fastener means that the pallet no longer conforms to the structural standards to which it was built. A missing fastener will need to be replaced before the pallet can be returned to service.
  • Protruding Fasteners: Fasteners extending from boards pose the same safety hazard that protruding splinters do, and they also represent an unacceptable compromise of a pallet’s structural strength. They should be pulled and replaced before a wood pallet is reused.

A wood pallet that doesn’t pass an inspection doesn’t necessarily have to be discarded. Fasteners can be replaced, splits can be reinforced with additional wood or specially designed steel plates, and broken boards can be removed entirely and replaced. Unfortunately, for facilities taking delivery of potentially hundreds of pallets per hour, sorting out unsuitable wood pallets is time-consuming enough to be problematic. Hiring carpenters to repair and refurbish unsuitable pallets and designating an area for them to work in is a time, money, and space expense that most logistics facilities cannot easily afford. The need to streamline or eliminate this process is part of the reason that plastic pallets have been gaining an increasing percentage of the pallet market.

Streamlining Pallet Management With Plastic Pallets

Pooled plastic pallets are inspected at a depot.Plastic pallets have a big advantage in durability over either wood stringer or block pallets; high-quality plastic pallets can make up to a hundred trips through the supply chain in their lifetime and are significantly less likely than wood pallets to arrive at a warehouse or distribution center damaged. As a result, far fewer plastic pallets typically need to be sorted and separated from arriving pallets for repair, saving facilities space that would otherwise be needed to group and store damaged wood pallets. 

The pallet inspection procedure for plastic pallets is a simple pass or fail inspection.

The pallet inspection procedure for plastic pallets is also a far simpler process than that of wood pallets. Since plastic pallets have a unitized construction, they don’t use nails or screws that can protrude or become lost in the warehouse where they might harm workers, products, or equipment. Plastic pallets are not prone to splinters, which does away with another source of damage or injury in the warehouse and lowers the risk of product damage during transportation. The integrated construction of plastic pallets also means that they have multiple redundant connection points. For all of these reasons, the pallet inspection procedure for plastic pallets is a simple pass or fail inspection that takes into consideration the overall condition of the pallet rather than examining many individual points of failure. 

Altogether, plastic pallets enable a simpler, more streamlined pallet inspection procedure that saves time and space and ensures that more pallets are fit for reuse when they arrive. Plastic pallet pooling takes this one step further by making plastic pallet repair and retrieval the responsibility of your pallet pooling provider, saving you time, space, and money that will ultimately reduce your Total Cost of Business (TCOB).

iGPS rents durable, lightweight GMA-spec plastic pallets with a unitized construction designed to streamline your pallet inspection procedure. To talk about what our pallets can do for your supply chain, contact us at 1-800-884-0225, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.