Types of Pallets and When to Use Them

Posted by: admin on November 27, 2018

Types of Pallets and When to Use Them

Industrial pallets play a key role in storing and transporting commercial products.

The first ones were made of wood and came in one basic design. These days, pallets come in many different types of materials and designs. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses. They also differ by cost, ease of use, hygiene and eco-friendliness. Knowing the differences can help you choose the right one for your shipping and storage needs.

Wood Pallets

Commonly used for heavier products, standard wood pallets offer many advantages:

  • Strength and durability
  • Can be stored in racks
  • Cost less than other pallet materials
  • Quick to build and easy to repair
  • Can be recycled or resold

Wooden pallets weigh more than other types of pallets, so they cost more to ship via air freight. They are hard to clean, and prone to water damage if left outside. Splinters, nails, warping and shrinking can create safety risks for handlers.

Lightweight Plywood Pallets

Plywood pallets are surprisingly strong for their weight. They offer a smooth, clean surface. They don’t soak up much moisture. And they can be used for rack stocking or layer stacking.

Plywood pallets don’t work well for long-term storage. They are hard to store in racking and can suffer water damage if left outside. Despite these shortcomings, plywood pallets are a good choice for products that require sturdy packaging, such as electronics, medical, and computer products.

Presswood Pallets

Presswood pallets use intense heat and pressure to mold dried wood fibers into one solid piece. This creates a strong, lightweight wood pallet that offers a lower-cost alternative to plastic and metal pallets. Presswood pallets can be stacked on top of each other, and are easy to handle. They resist insect infestation, can be used many times, and are 100% recyclable.

Like other wood pallets, presswoods can suffer water damage if left outside. They can be hard to store in racking. And their use can be limited, as many warehouses are not set up for this type of pallet.

Metal Pallets

Made with steel and aluminum, metal pallets are stronger than wood and plastic pallets and are very durable. This makes them ideal for transporting heavy goods, as well as air-freight, at-sea and long-term outdoor storage. Aluminum pallets are a favorite of large industrial companies due to their strength. Restaurants and catering firms like them because they are easy to clean.

Metal pallets offer many advantages over wood and plastic, including:

  • Weather resistant
  • Don’t rot or decay
  • Free of termites and other pests
  • Don’t splinter
  • Can be recycled
  • Good sanitation

On the downside, metal pallets cost more to transport due to their weight.

Plastic Pallets

Plastic pallets provide stable packaging for most transport. They’re lightweight. They combine a high load capacity with a non-slip surface. Suitable for all conditions, they can be reused many times without needing special maintenance. Advantages include:

  • Long lifespan of 10+ years
  • Resist humidity and corrosion
  • Easy to clean
  • Safe handling due to lack of screws, nails and splinters
  • 100% recyclable

On the downside, they cost more than wooden pallets. They don’t store well on shelving. And cracks or breaks require melting and remolding to repair.

Corrugated Cardboard/Paper Pallets

These lightweight pallets – made from recycled materials – are strong for their weight. They can be customized to fit the product being transported. They’re easy to clean. They don’t splinter like wood pallets. And their light weight reduces transport costs. Cardboard and paper pallets aren’t designed for heavier loads and don’t hold up well in outdoor conditions.

Pallet Jacks vs. Forklifts

The two main tools for handling pallets are jacks and forklifts. With a top lift height of under 10 inches, manual jacks are best in limited space with ground storage. They can only lift up to 5500 lbs.  Using a jack to move a load that exceeds capacity can damage the equipment and put employees at risk.

Forklifts are the right choice when moving heavier loads stored on shelving. They handle better than pallet jacks. They a have much higher lift capacity. And they reduce operator fatigue because they are motor-driven. The choice between pallet jack and forklift depends on the number and weight of pallets moved daily and the type of storage.

Pallets and Safety

Some industries have specific requirements for pallet usage. Know your industry’s rules and regulations before using any type of pallet to store or transport goods. Safety guidelines and pallet stacking tips include:

  • Don’t use pallets to lift people.
  • Don’t store empty pallets on end.
  • Never stand on pallets.
  • Use a pick hook to reach products at the back of a pallet.
  • Always use protective equipment (gloves, safety shoes) when handling pallets.
  • Don’t use damaged pallets or types not rated for the task.
  • Keep the work area free of pallet debris.
  • Don’t stack pallets higher than four feet.

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