Submitted by Megan Wild
For companies that rely on daily inbound or outbound shipments, pallets are a necessary part of business. Those who fail to monitor and track their pallet usage can run into a bevy of problems, including elevated operational costs, process bottlenecks or inefficiencies and excess waste around the warehouse. As a result, some owners are turning to their creative side when dealing with used pallets.
1. Team Up With Other Businesses
Businesses in and around the community can serve as a trove of resources for recycling, reusing and offloading used pallets. Partnering up with a neighborhood wood shop, scrap yard or recycling center will keep your factories and warehouses clear of excess waste while providing local contacts with increased work and productivity.
To achieve the best results, try developing a long-term relationship with one or two organizations. This lets you maximize your community relations while also providing a backup option if things go awry with your primary partner.
2. Use Standardized Pallets
Pallets come in various sizes. While this is great for companies that work with a wide range of products or materials, those who experience consistent shipping needs can benefit from standardizing the size of their pallets.
There is some amount of standardization already. Common pallets in the U.S. are 40 x 48 inches, but other popular dimensions include 36 x 36 and 42 x 42. Businesses that stick with one design or another can maximize their shipments on a consistent basis.
Moreover, many different types of pallets exist. Reversible, close-boarded and winged are amongst the most popular options. Again, choosing the design that best suits your shipping and receiving needs is the key to maximizing pallet space and reducing overall waste.
3. Clean and Reuse Pallets
Reusing pallets is the simplest and most straightforward method. But the biggest drawback of cleaning and reusing pallets is the additional time spent doing so. For warehouses or factories that are plagued by excess waste or unused pallets, this is a great way to reclaim some space and knock the dust off from that old hardware.
You can also reuse pallets that accompany inbound shipments for your own outbound shipping needs. Many companies do this and it's a great way to minimize the overall storage space needed for idle pallets and to prevent excess units from accumulating.
Depending on their current condition and prior usage, you may need to remove grime and dirt to reuse pallets. Pressure washing via machine is much quicker and far more efficient than doing the job by hand, and some machines are meant specifically for washing and cleaning wood pallets. Other power washers and tools can be used, but take care not to damage the unit.
4. Eliminate Traditional Wood Pallets
Wood pallets can be eliminated altogether in some situations. Not only does this decrease the overall amount of waste around the workplace, but it also lends itself well to greener operations and environmental sustainability.
IKEA, the popular furniture manufacturer, recently replaced wood pallets meant for international shipping with a plastic design. Weighing in at less than two pounds and made of 100% recyclable materials, the “OptiLedge” is just as efficient as its outdated counterparts.
5. Join a Pallet Exchange
Pallet exchange programs, which are growing in popularity, are a great way to connect with other businesses that work with pallets on a regular basis. These programs can be as simple as negotiating with suppliers to take back their pallets upon shipping or they can involve multiple organizations in a structured program.
The former, referred to as a closed-loop system, is highly beneficial to the environment and cost-effective. Although wood pallets can be used in this type of exchange, plastic or metal pallets can be incredibly efficient over a long-term basis.
Community-wide programs are sometimes sponsored by local government officials. This ensures the overall integrity of the service while allowing you to tap into a well-established pool of potential partners and resources.
Serve as a Role Model for Your Employees and the Community
Business owners who take it upon themselves to begin recycling and reusing pallets are setting a stellar example for everyone involved. Highlighting the importance of reducing and eliminating excess waste, both around the workplace and beyond, can bolster your reputation throughout the community and help stave off the threats of global warming.