Rethinking the Pallet
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If you run your warehouse like most, you’ve probably come across your share of softwood pallets. But unless your company is about to host a large bonfire, you can probably get more bang for your buck by investing in something other than a softwood pallet. It’s time to rethink palletization. Supply Chain Digital breaks down the advantages and disadvantages of the four main types of pallets offered on the market.
Advantages: Expendable and cheap, the softwood pallet is the most common pallet on the market. According to Millwood, Inc., the softwood pallet is the “most economical shipping platform available.” That’s good for short-term budgetary measures, as it’s relatively cheap to ship a few large loads using only softwood pallets. The Stringer and Block design are both capable of handling heavy loads – there’s a reason the softwood pallet has been used since the early 20th Century – and are easily lifted by forklifts.
Disadvantages: While a company can get away with sending a few softwood pallets over the course of a year, if your business ships large loads on a regular basis, costs can add up with such an expendable pallet. The softwood pallet also does not fare well when not housed properly, as precipitation can induce rot, which can weaken the wood and cause damage to whatever you’re shipping. Also, think of the trees! The softwood pallet is perhaps the least green pallet on the market, as most softwood pallets are simply taken apart and tossed after a single trip.
The Verdict: Extremely versatile and cheap, the softwood pallet does not offer competitive long-term costs for companies that ship large loads often.
Advantages: You never would have guessed, but metal pallets are the strongest available on the market. Stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminum are the most common types, with carbon steel offering the most bang-for-your-buck. Aluminum pallets are arguably the best pallet on the market if price isn’t a factor. Long-term costs can be considerably less than that of wood, as metal pallets can be used for over 15 years, according to www.metalpallets.com. Stocking your warehouse with metal pallets rather than traditional softwood will also make for a cleanlier environment.
Disadvantages: There’s a reason metal pallets account for less than one percent of the market today, as costs can be prohibitive for small or even medium-sized companies. As indestructible as they look, some metal pallets are susceptible to rust, so storage can be an issue. Metal pallets are also slick and offer little friction, resulting in your goods sliding around in transit during long, strenuous trips.
The Verdict: Extremely durable but cost-prohibitive, the metal pallet does best in closed-loop systems, where returning the pallet is less of an issue.
Advantages: Lightweight and easily recyclable, paper pallets are an excellent alternative for light shipments. Extremely cost effective, the paper pallet is actually stronger than it looks. Since it’s not made from wood, the paper pallet won’t splinter and doesn’t require fumigation. Paper’s flexibility also makes this pallet an excellent choice for customizable loads.
Disadvantages: If you’re shipping anything heavier than a bowling ball, you’ve got a problem with the paper pallet. Housing the paper pallet is also an issue, as it’s extremely susceptible to moisture.
The Verdict: A great alternative for light-weight, customizable loads, the paper pallet is a more solid choice than its name would indicate.
Advantages: Offering the cost-effective nature of the softwood pallet and the reusability of the metal pallet, the plastic pallet is 100 percent recyclable, easily stored and assembled and can handle extreme temperature shifts. Easily cleaned and resistant to odor, plastic pallets are a great alternative to their wooden counterparts because of their longer lifespan and lighter weight.
Disadvantages: Most plastic pallets are not meant to be exchanged, meaning they’re intended for storage, not shipping.
The Verdict: If you’re using pallets just for storage, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more cost-effective solution than the plastic pallet.
Biden establishes Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force
The US government is to establish a new body with the express purpose of addressing imbalances and other supply chain concerns highlighted in a review of the sector, ordered by President Joe Biden shortly after his inauguration.
The Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force will “focus on areas where a mismatch between supply and demand has been evident,” the White House said. The division will be headed up by the Secretaries of Commerce, Transportation, and Agriculture, and will focus on housing construction, transportation, agriculture and food, and semiconductors - a drastic shortage of which has hit some of the US economy’s biggest industries in consumer technology and vehicle manufacturing.
“The Task Force will bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. It will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions - large and small, public or private - that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints,” the White House said.
In late February, President Biden ordered a 100 day review of the supply chain across the key areas of medicine, raw materials and agriculture, the findings of which were released this week. While the COVID-19 health crisis had a deleterious effect on the nation’s supply chain, the published assessment of findings says the root cause runs much deeper. The review concludes that “decades of underinvestment”, alongside public policy choices that favour quarterly results and short-term solutions, have left the system “fragile”.
In response, the administration aims to address four key issues head on, strengthening its position in health and medicine, sustainable and alternative energy, critical mineral mining and processing, and computer chips.
Support domestic production of critical medicines
- A syndicate of public and private entities will jointly work towards manufacturing and onshoring of essential medical suppliers, beginning with a list of 50-100 “critical drugs” defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
- The consortium will be led by the Department of Health and Human Services, which will commit an initial $60m towards the development of a “novel platform technologies to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for API”.
- The aim is to increase domestic production and reduce the reliance upon global supply chains, particularly with regards to medications in short supply.
Secure an end-to-end domestic supply chain for advanced batteries
- The Department of Energy will publish a ‘National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries’, beginning a 10 year plan to "develop a domestic lithium battery supply chain that combats the climate crisis by creating good-paying clean energy jobs across America”.
- The effort will leverage billions in funding “to finance key strategic areas of development and fill deficits in the domestic supply chain capacity”.
Invest in sustainable domestic and international production and processing of critical minerals
- An interdepartmental group will be established by the Department of Interior to identify sites where critical minerals can be produced and processed within US borders. It will collaborate with businesses, states, tribal nations and stockholders to “expand sustainable, responsible critical minerals production and processing in the United States”.
- The group will also identify where regulations may need to be updated to ensure new mining and processing “meets strong standards”.
Partner with industry, allies, and partners to address semiconductor shortages
- The Department of Commerce will increase its partnership with industry to support further investment in R&D and production of semiconductor chips. The White House says its aim will be to “facilitate information flow between semiconductor producers and suppliers and end-users”, improving transparency and data sharing.
- Enhanced relationships with foreign allies, including Japan and South Korea will also be strengthened with the express proposed of increasing chip output, promoting further investment in the sector and “to promote fair semiconductor chip allocations”.