The grocery industry is a closed-loop system with a single pallet size specification: a 48” x 40” pallet that holds 2,000 pounds. This standardized size means the industry can easily re-use pallets – and save money.
Not every industry is like this. The roofing industry is a huge user of pallets, but it doesn’t have a standardized size. Without this standardization, pallets in the roofing industry can’t be re-used. Contractors and distributors need to purchase new custom pallets every time.
If North American businesses want to keep these costs under control, they could consider a way to embrace standardization.
It Takes Teamwork – and Leadership
Pallets across all of Europe were standardized in 1961, under the guidance of the International Union of Railways. Many European industries also take part in the European Pallet Pool, in which businesses delivering goods on pallets receive an equal number of pallets in return. This makes it easy for European companies to re-use pallets across all industries.
Cost Savings – Just In Time
There’s a good reason that now is the time for American organizations to follow the European example and standardize across industries. The pallet industry is currently undergoing a paradigm shift, and pallet-buyers are going to have to turn their thinking away from traditional hardwood and embrace alternative materials.
Unfortunately for buyers, these pallets will likely come at a higher price. Costs are already beginning to climb. Recycling pallets could cut overall costs in half.
Although standardized sizes would decrease the demand for new pallets, pallet manufacturers would experience growth in repair business due to pallet re-use.
Who Will Lead The Way?
Still, for this to happen the will has to be there, and all the players in the industry need to come to the table. Someone needs to lead the charge to standardize, whether it be the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, a group of pallet suppliers, or a group of end users.
Creating a closed-loop environment with standardized pallets would create opportunities for everyone: Industry could save on the cost of new pallets, and pallet manufacturers could diversify their businesses by increasing business through pallet retrieval and repair.