The Secret Story Of Pallets

August 15, 2012 in Daily Bulletin

They’re ubiquitous, boring, and crucial to the global product supply chain. Tom Vanderbilt unlocked the story behind the humble pallet:

  • 80% of US commerce is carried on a pallet.
  • Pallets may account for 46% of US hardwood lumber production.
  • IKEA has updated the design of its products not for aesthetic reasons, but to modify it so that more can fit on a pallet. IKEA was able to reduce costs by 60% when it almost tripled the number of mugs that could fit on a pallet.
  • Pallet efficiency is so important that there’s an entire science devoted to figuring out ways to fit more products on a pallet.
  • Pallets trace their rise to the late 30s when gas-powered trucks made pallets the ideal way to transport goods. World War Two also helped. Wars are won, in part, upon the efficiency of supply lines, and the effectiveness of American supply lines were due in part to the pallet.
  • The future of the pallet is uncertain. They’re useful for transporting large quantities of goods. Now grocery stores prefer to get smaller, more frequent deliveries, and consumers order individual goods online.

To read more including the credit given to shipping containers, what “pallet overhang”, “pallet gaps” and “the pallet loading problem” are, the leading pallet magazine, the merits of a pooled versus a one-way pallet, the fragmented pallet standards across the globe, and what “mixed product SKUs” are, click here.

Source: Slate