January-February 2018

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18 PalletCentral • January-February 2018 WOOD & CARDBOARD allets are a key component in the multi-billion-dollar supply chain logistics system that delivers goods across the country and globe. One problem with a pallet can impact a shipment and the satisfaction of a key customer. With the industry closing in on 2 billion wood pallets in circulation in the United States alone, cardboard pallet manufacturers are seeking to claim a portion of that market. But, how should the two products be compared? "Cardboard and wood pallets are very different," said Lindsay Shean, national accounts manager at Valley Pallet in Salinas, California. "Wood pallets are more durable and can be used multiple times. "I actually think it is unreasonable to compare the cardboard pallet to the wood pallet because they are used for different purposes." "Generally speaking, the wooden pallet industry does not consider cardboard pallets to be a significant threat because of their inherent limitations," stated Brad Gething, PhD, NWPCA director of science & technology. Cardboard pallets are susceptible to moisture, and you would have to alter substantially the multi- billion-dollar supply chain logistics across the country and globally. The limiting properties of cardboard pallets mean that a total overhaul in the system would be needed for safe and effective widespread implementation. There is also the issue of safety. "While financial savings are important, safety must take precedence," commented Mike Hachtman, president of Houston-based reLogistics Services, adding that supply chain logistics is a complicated and intricate national web of distribution centers, transportation and warehouse hubs that span the country. Even a small untested change could create a significant safety issue, considering the speed with which goods move from manufacturer to retailer to customer. An additional benefit of wooden pallets over cardboard ones is their strength in wet and dry weather conditions. As Shean added, "In cases where unit loads are heavy, or conditions are wet, corrugated pallets are just not safe. Wooden pallets hold up under the stress of loading, transportation, and fork lifts and their drivers, as proven by the state of Oregon independent study." Shean added that wood is the most practical within the supply chain because it can perform under many different handling conditions. "There are also national and international design standards to protect both consumer goods and supply chain workers," said Gething. "Implementing paper-based pallets would be a logistical and workplace safety nightmare." But, there are some advantages to cardboard pallets for certain sectors. Some companies in the food sector prefer cardboard pallets for shipments. They may even pay more – depending on the product. These two segments of the pallet industry also share some P Mainstream and Niches By Esme Neely Smith COVER STORY

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