Wood Pallets Still in Demand, Alternatives Growing in Popularity

Pallets have long been a mainstay of warehouses and DCs for storing and transporting goods. They’re so common that people don’t realize all the capabilities of these simple structures. Wood is just one of many material options that meet a variety of needs for the consumer, including storage capacity, productivity, and organization.

Wood pallets are the most popular, but with the major lumber issues that have occurred over the last year, it’s useful to look at how everyone uses them. We can evaluate what sort of demand there is buying the same products and also explore some of the options that we may not understand all too well.

Modern materials handling conducted an annual reader survey of pallet usage. The latest results compile the 2017 Pallet Market Evaluation Study. A full summary is offered on mmh.com’s article by  Bridget McCrea, “The Pallet Report: Pallets help optimize operations, protect products and organize space.”

Qualified responses from 274 respondents revealed information about pallet usage, including selection process, seeking alternative materials, and international shipping trends. Here’s what we learned:

The most important factors users reported considering before selecting pallets were price, strength, durability, and reusability. This translates to 93% usage of wood, 45% plastic, 18% wood composite, and 10% metal. Not surprisingly, the most significant increase from 2016 to 2017 was the use of plastic pallets. They’re strong, durable, cleanable, and very reusable. Companies that can leverage their lifespan will spend less on pallets in the long run despite the initial investment.

Thinking about the issues with cost and availability of lumber, it will be interesting to see how not only plastic pallet usage changes, but also wood composite and other recycled/recyclable options. Used pallets are somewhat popular, but the majority of people who’d consider this option either haven’t found quality selections, or have trouble finding them at all. Perhaps this will become a more viable avenue for companies as the need for alternative solutions evolves.

When predicting the availability of wood pallets, it’s also important to consider how people choose pallets for domestic vs international cargo. There are unique factors to consider when shipping overseas, like environmental impacts and additional regulations (think ISPM).

When asked what they do differently when shipping internationally (as opposed to domestic), 25% of respondents said they don’t change anything. Another 43% has pallets treated, and 19% use plastic, corrugated pressed wood or metal rather than wood.

Therefore, while the fight for softwood lumber goes down a little when it comes to international shipping, the greatest change people make here is treating the wood.

Ultimately, the demand for wood pallets is still high and looking to remain about the same unless other options A) meet companies’ needs, and B) become apparent to those who can make a change. If you want to explore alternatives to your current pallet system, talk to Packnet. We manufacture a variety of pallets and remain updated the softwood lumber industry. Packnet will also ensure ISPM compliance if need be.

Find out whether your options can make you less dependent on regular wood pallets. The right pallet system will not only save you money, but optimize your storage, productivity, and organization. Contact Packnet at 952.944.9124 or CustomPackagingSolutions@packnetltd.com.