Skip

Plotting the Future of Pallets
May 26, 2014 4:56 PM   Subscribe


 
It's pretty hard to beat a plain old pine skid. It's light, durable, cheap, and biodegradable.

I can't help but wonder what the problem is that these people think they'd be solving with plastic ones.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:07 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


Gabriel Solis, the owner of Palletteen Pallets, says that God will provide for all colors.

There's a lesson here for all of us.
posted by thelonius at 5:09 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


I can't help but wonder what the problem is that these people think they'd be solving with plastic ones.

That anyone else can make pallets without kicking back to them for the patented new version?
posted by Etrigan at 5:47 PM on May 26 [15 favorites]


As long as new pallets don't mean my Facebook feed is choked with endless housing-out-of-fancy-new-pallets BS the way it's currently choked with endless housing-out-of-shipping-containers BS, I'll be happy.
posted by sonascope at 5:54 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


I can't help but wonder what the problem is that these people think they'd be solving with plastic ones.

Fortunately, they made a whole definitely-not-astroturfed website to tell you all about that. I mean, some concerned citizens did. Just some regular folks like you and me who believe that "it’s time that the real costs of wood pallets-to businesses, workers and the environment-were more fully understood."
posted by strangely stunted trees at 6:18 PM on May 26 [16 favorites]


Fascinating piece, thank you.
posted by smoke at 6:20 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


Now this makes me wonder about all the recent articles I've seen talking about the potential health dangers of pallets and pallet recycling. Just more shilling by pallet-industry insiders?

Also, some of my earliest memories involve pallets (and climbing stacks of boxes on pallets), as my parents owned a warehouse when I was born.

Also, more plastic is not the answer.
posted by limeonaire at 6:38 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, they made a whole definitely-not-astroturfed website to tell you all about that. I mean, some concerned citizens did.

What the hell happened to Joe?!? Did Collin and Sam turn on him? Did he accidentally let slip that he once completed an art project with old pallet wood?
posted by Etrigan at 6:42 PM on May 26


Fascinating! If you are into this, The Box is a great read on containerization.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:42 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


So, even video games set in the future have no excuse for putting crates right on the floor.
posted by zompist at 6:50 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


For Intermodal container ephemera, please see Economic Ephemera and 50th birthday of the shipping container. Fascinating!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:57 PM on May 26


Anecdotally, I much prefer using the plastic pallets at work. The wood ones always look like heavy, splintery, rusty nailery instruments of suffering.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:12 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Oh pallet, I nailery knew ye!

I'm happy for to see ye re-used, re-used, re-used.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 7:47 PM on May 26


Forget pallets, I've got this new hotness called The Bag. Gotta move out real quick? Just throw it in The Bag. Gotta rob a bank? Throw the loot in The Bag. Ate chips? Ya probably touched The Bag.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:07 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]


Sys Rq: I can't help but wonder what the problem is that these people think they'd be solving with plastic ones.

From the article:
When a piece of a wooden pallet sheds, or splinters off, it can bring an entire assembly line to a halt.
General durability, less potential for hazard (as Brocktoon noted), possibly lighter, which matters if the pallets are left on trucks, as there are weight limits for trucks. I think some beverage distribution centers currently use plastic pallets due to some of these issues.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:18 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


As long as new pallets don't mean my Facebook feed is choked with endless housing-out-of-fancy-new-pallets BS the way it's currently choked with endless housing-out-of-shipping-containers BS, I'll be happy.

Wait until you see what I can do with a soup can.
posted by arcticseal at 8:52 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


I can't help but wonder what the problem is that these people think they'd be solving with plastic ones.

Decay, bugs, and moisture wicked up through the wood. For some applications (e.g., shipping to Australia) you need to use specially-treated wooden pallets if you're not using plastic, and for some others you can't use wood at all.

There are lots of really cool things you can do with plastic or metal pallets: you can make them lighter, and stack more nicely, and protect boxes better, &c, &c. The problem is that suppliers don't expect to get their pallets back, so they don't want to pay a whole lot for them; this means that they have two choices: cheap pallets or (rented) CHEP pallets. CHEP's business model is brilliant and it is totally dominant in Australia. I suspect CHEP would resist super-duper plastic or metal pallets because they would be too good, and the pallets would get stuck inside warehouses instead of being shipped out and recovered.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:17 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Haha, I was wondering if they would quote someone from Virginia Tech and they did. We not only have a pallet research lab, but an outdoor sculpture called "Pallets Move the World".
posted by Tesseractive at 9:17 PM on May 26 [5 favorites]


Fascinating. Great post.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:05 PM on May 26


This is a very entertaining article.

It seems less expensve for the manufacturer of whatever is being delivered to leave the pallets than to have the delivery driver continually unstack and restack the load in order to return the pallets and then hire staff to repair the inevitable breakage. A good 48x40 wood pallet B grade 4-way might fetch a dollar on return [$5.00 ea. new], and I'm sure they are cheaper in bulk. I was the shipping guy and I threw away, or sequestered carbon one pallet at a time if you prefer, thousands. I couldn't get anyone, bonfire enthusiasts excepted, to take them.

I'm sure there is a point where it becomes economical [for the company, setting aside the planet as they do] but where I worked at the end point taking in pallets of material and shipping out boxes, it apparently wasn't.
posted by vapidave at 10:37 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


Vapidave, the way it works here in Australia is exactly that: the driver rolls up, the warehouse staff unload the goods on pallets and sign a delivery docket for the goods and also for the CHEP pallets. Every now and then they return the pallets to CHEP, or get rid of them by using them for their own shipments. If the recipient of your goods isn't on the CHEP system you can either use disposable pallets or use CHEP pallets and pick them up yourself. So there's a big incentive to get your customers onto the CHEP system:you're paying a small rental fee for every pallet and every day, and if you lose one of CHEP's pallets you have to pay around $30 to get it replaced.

Interestingly, the inevitable loss of pallets has created a black market in CHEP pallets. A large Australian retailer that was not on the CHEP system had to pay around $10 million for using them illegally and not returning them to CHEP on demand.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:58 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


Tesseractive, I had no idea that was even there.

Also, I try not to bag on people's work, but I would have expected a little more creativity than a globe on top of a pallet. We get it.
posted by a halcyon day at 12:09 AM on May 27 [3 favorites]


It kinda looks like they just delivered the globe and forgot to unpack it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:43 AM on May 27 [4 favorites]


CHEP rental reminds me of software DRM where you never really own what you buy, or at least in rental-is-the-only-option sales.

I also seem to recall a joke in an article about the start to crate method of game review (in which the creativity of a game is judged by how long it takes to find a crate) about how designers know crates and pallets are related but they are not usually stacked, the pallets lean against walls or are otherwise near crates.
posted by NoraReed at 12:46 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]


A point of nomenclature from 1960s factory-worker me: pallets have boards across the bottom. Skids don't; they sit on the pieces that the top boards are nailed to (or sometimes on iron feet). Skids are usually made of heavier material than pallets.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:03 AM on May 27


CHEP is big in the USA and Europe too.
They bought a Dutch plastic pallet firm, IFCO, for over $1b.
And their previous plastic pallet competitor went backrupt:
http://www.fool.com.au/2013/06/13/brambles-to-competitor-wood-beats-plastic/
posted by bystander at 4:12 AM on May 27


I should also mention that CHEP pallets are made to a higher quality than single use pallets, so the risk of pallet damage etc. is less.
posted by bystander at 4:14 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]


It can be quite nice being a small enough operation that you are off the chep system but still receive deliveries on them. I used to earn a bit of karma giving un-owed chep pallets to suppliers I liked.
posted by deadwax at 5:29 AM on May 27 [4 favorites]


Worth it for the court transcript quote where someone says to an ex-CEO, "You'll never work in this supply chain again!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:50 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]


For more than half a century, pallet futurists have announced the next big thing, only to see the basic wooden variety remain the workhorse of global logistics. “Lots of people have tried to invent a better pallet” . . .

Make me down a pallet on your floor
Make me down a pallet on your floor
Make it out of plastic, in colors bright and bold
Make me a plastic pallet on your floor

Build a pallet better than before
Better than the ones we had before
Do it and the world will beat a supply chain to your door
Make me a plastic pallet on your floor

Don't try to kill me with a forklift, bro'
A pallet jack, tow-motor, or hi-lo
Let's just unroll the shrink wrap, wrap another unit load
Don't back over me with that ol' forklift, bro'

Monback!

[Instrumental]
Beep beep beep beep, Beep beep beep beep
Beep beep beep beep, Beep beep beep beep
Beep beep beep beep, Beep beep beep beep
Beep beep beep beep, Beep. . .

Whoa! Tha's good.

Stack more plastic pallets on the floor
Plastic pallets spillin' out the cross-dock door
Ship the empties out to China, they'll fill 'em up some more
Stack me up more plastic pallets on the floor

(with apologies to Mississippi John Hurt)
posted by Herodios at 9:49 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


My company used to work with iGPS. I think I will leave it at that.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:29 PM on May 27


There are a few companies leasing pallets in Canada too. Both Pepsi and GFS gave us stuff on deposit paid pallets. Milk crates are also on the deposit system. We'd get pallets of crates of milk and one of the things I'd sign for was X number of milk crates and Y number of pallets. Being a resort facility with lots of short term young workers it was a constant battle to prevent people from stealing the crates.
posted by Mitheral at 4:43 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


"CHEP rental reminds me of software DRM where you never really own what you buy, or at least in rental-is-the-only-option sales."

Except there is a market for secondary sales in CHEP. You can legally sell CHEP.

There are parallels but I think CHEP, with the product being transferrable has a closer analog to a carbon tax. DRM means that the product is non-transferrable to no one ever.

I'm not entirely confident so please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by vapidave at 7:57 PM on May 27


No, CHEP pallets are only available for rent, although there's a thriving black market in them. The software DRM comparison fails, I think, because most warehouses are actually glad to be able to manage their pallet inventory by making a phone call. If you're a retailer you tend to find pallets accumulating; if you're a manufacturer you tend to run out of them. Without CHEP you'd have to buy and sell pallets or transfer boxes manually; the CHEP system lets you do things like ask your driver to pick some extra pallets up from your customer when they get their next delivery. The customer will be glad to get rid of the pallets, which can't be sold and take up space, and it just takes a few signatures to take the pallets off the customer's account and on to your own. Also, there's a sort of Gresham's Law with non-CHEP pallets: you keep the best ones for yourself and send your goods out with progressively-crappier ones, until some poor bastard gets stuck with a couple of broken planks joined together with rusty nails. That isn't a problem with CHEP pallets because you can have them replaced.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:53 PM on May 27


« Older "A neon sign starts and ends with a line."   |   “the machinery that was built... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post