Pallets: Making The Most of What Seems Like a Loss Leader

Generally speaking, businesses don’t like purchasing pallets. Because they are an added expense with little return, they are a grudge purchase. Unlike buying trucks or warehouse space, there is little long term value in pallets as you usually don’t get your pallets back, or in some industries you cannot reuse them for quality or sanitary reasons. In these lean economic times, companies are trying to limit their expenses, and even in good times people are not very interested in paying too much for pallets. However, pallets are a necessary part of your supply chain, and an important part of ensuring your goods are shipped and stored safely.

Why is pallet quality important? It’s all about what you put on them. If you are putting thousands of dollars of product on pallets, the quality of those pallets should be a key consideration. If a pallet fails, if it breaks or falls apart and your product is lost, it will cost you and in some cases may be damaging to your reputation. Injuries could result from the handling of faulty pallets. Are you going to keep using cheap pallets and risk losing product and incurring injuries?

How can pallets let you down? Lower quality pallets can be improperly cut, have uneven deck boards and nails that are not flush. These imperfections might seem small, but even small irregularities can cause a load to tumble, especially if you are stacking pallet loads in your warehouse or on trucks for transport. Nails and splinters can snag and tear open packages. An example would be pallets used to ship bags of concrete. Tears mean loss of product and in the long term could mean loss of business. Poorly treated wood can lead to mold growth, and if your company handles food or pharmaceuticals that can mean a quarantine or a product recall.

All too often companies purchase pallets as though they were a commodity and only focus on the price. Because the pallet industry has a low barrier to entry (and even lower for companies that repair and recycle pallets), there are many competitors in the market. Manufacturers cut prices by using cheaper materials and thinner boards on new or repaired pallets, ultimately compromising quality. 

It’s worth thinking about your pallets and what you need before you start looking for the lowest price option. Consider the value of what you are putting on those pallets, and your potential losses if a pallet fails. Saving a few dollars on pallets now could cost you thousands down the road. Don’t treat pallets just as an afterthought in your production and shipping costs.