There are dozens of different sizes of pallets. Each industry, and even individual companies within industries, may have different pallet size requirements. Pallet size is determined by the unit load requirements as well as the racking and stacking system available in a warehouse.
In the United States, pallet dimensions are given in inches and follow a basic length by width convention. The first number, which corresponds to the length of the pallet, is the stringer length. Stringers are the boards that form the sides and the inner support of the pallet. The second number, or the width of the pallet, is the length of the deckboards. This is an important convention to follow, as a 40″x48″ pallet has different properties than a 48″x40″ pallet.
Pallets are typically either square or near-square, meaning that either the stringers or the deckboards are slightly shorter. A pallet should be very close to square in order to provide the best stability for the unit load and prevent load tipping. Shortening one of the sides slightly, however, can help maximize warehouse space usage and transportation efficiency.
Pallet Size and Warehouse Space
Whether the stringers or the deckboards should be shorter depends on your warehouse configuration. If you use 2-way pallets, or pallets that can only be accessed from two sides and are lifted by the deckboards, then your pallets will be stacked with the deckboards parallel to the corridor. In this case, the deckboards should be shorter to maximize space. On the other hand, if you are working with four-way or partial four-way pallets and you have the stringer boards facing the corridor, then the stringer boards should be shorter for optimal usage of space.
In order to select an appropriate pallet size for your operational purposes you must consider industry standards, warehouse space, and how the unit load and pallet interface with your palletizer and trailer capacity. A Pallet Design System (PDS) can be a very useful tool to help determine the optimum pallet size for your unit load, palletizer and warehouse space.