Load carriers are important for ensuring supply security
The classic load carrier: the EPAL pallet. Photo: Brent Keane, Pexels
Load carriers are important for ensuring supply security
Usually, we hardly notice them. The many products that we consume on a daily basis stand, sorted in order, on the shelves of supermarkets, beverage retailers, drug stores and pharmacists, creating a sea of colour and shape, waiting for us to come in and buy them. However, few of us ever contemplated how they got there before the Corona crisis. In many countries in the world, people are simply used to the fact that all of these products are always available. That is, until the Coronavirus hit. Some products were temporarily sold out or couldn’t be restocked on time. Before, they might have been full of toilet paper for transportation and storage, but now, the pallets lay empty.
ARE LOAD CARRIERS ESSENTIAL?
Without load carriers, there would be huge supplier bottlenecks for everything, including food, medication and medical devices. Evidently, they all need to be transported on load carriers. Supplying energy, fuel and water would also be massively hampered without load carriers. This is because replacement parts for machines and systems also need to be packaged for transportation and storage. This is why industry branches which relate to load carriers have been deemed essential in many countries, thus enabling them to receive aid so that they can run smoothly during the Coronavirus period. In Germany, businesses for manufacturing packaging and packaging material for finished wares, along with supplier operations and logistics service providers for these companies, have not yet been deemed essential. Unlike manufacturers of packaging and packaging material for the food industry, which have been deemed essential. Representative groups continue to call for these industries to be recognised as critical infrastructure.
Eleven wooden planks, nine blocks and 78 nails: This is what it takes to make the best-known pallet in the world - the EURO pallet (EPAL). They are produced on fully automated production lines with sorting units, nail and wood processing machines and stackers and transportation equipment. As they are fitted with RFID sensors and barcode labels, loads can be recorded with great precision and logistics can thus be optimised. In addition, the pallet has become a highly prized interior design item, thanks to the current trend for upcycling. You can make them into beds, sofas or balcony furniture - anyone looking for a stylish, environmentally friendly and cheap piece of furniture is well served by the humble pallet.
The pallet, a coveted design item: Load carriers are given a new lease of life as stylish furniture. Photo: Pexels
The Düsseldorf pallet
The Düsseldorf pallet is almost as renowned as the EPAL pallet. It was developed in 1985/86 by the retail and product carrier industry and was named after the city in which its inventors met: Düsseldorf.
Its area is precisely half that of the EURO pallet - 800 x 600 mm (ISO module 200 x 300 mm). Despite its relatively small surface area, forklift and industrial truck forks can be inserted into this pallet easily. This is one reason for its extreme popularity in the world of retail. It doesn’t take much repacking to use this pallet straightforwardly in product line sales and in promotional areas in chain stores.
Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd want to implement plastic pallets in their supermarkets nationwide from Autumn 2020. Photo: Aldi Süd
The classic EPAL pallet is made of wood. Plastic pallets, however, also provide many advantages: They are completely recyclable and are lightweight yet able to bear a static load of up to 1000 kilograms and a dynamic load of 500 kilograms. Unlike wood pallets, these plastic load carriers aren’t provided and returned using the exchange system but are instead operated using a pooling system, wherein empty pallets from the service provider are checked for damage, cleaned and then given to the supplier.
The Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud discount chains have recently decided to implement these plastic pallets. The Düsseldorf Plastic Pallet (Kunststoff Düsseldorfer Palette or “KDP” for short) will be used in the supermarkets nationwide from Autumn 2020.
Once we run out of goods, we can see the load carriers. Photo: HPE e.V.
In addition, there are many types of special pallet, such as plasterboard pallets or pallets for the chemical industry, called CP pallets, which comply with the APME specifications for the chemical industry. They are designed to be very stable and consist of 15 planks, nine tensioning blocks or solid wood blocks and 81 nails. They are sub-divided into nine standard products dependent on their application, from CP1 for chemical products (e.g. bagged goods, cartons) to CP9, used as container pallets for drums or flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs).
Load-bearing capacity is an important factor when selecting the correct load carrier. Photo: HPE e.V.
Requirements for pallets
Pallets are currently often custom manufactured too. The perfect pallet to meet any need can be produced. Relevant parameters here include: How heavy is the load? How will the load be transported? Via lorry, train, ship or plane? Each mode of transport will cause different forces to be exerted on the load, e.g. due to braking, starting speeds or swells. Security is the top priority here. The designs of the carriers are varied to accommodate these various elements.
Load-bearing capacity is also massively important. Transportation and warehouse shelving must be planned correctly in order to ensure that the pallets do not break under the load they are carrying. Here, we differentiate between static load-bearing capacity (when the load carrier is on the floor) and dynamic load-bearing capacity, when the pallet is transported on a forklift or pallet truck and the racking load, or the maximum load for one pallet on a rack.
By lorry, train, plane or ship: Modern technology ensures that load carriers are tracked seamlessly. Photo: Pexels
Load carriers double up as information carriers
Load carriers are a fundamental component of logistics processes and are becoming not only more individualized but also smarter, due to the diverse requirements of the multitude of industries that they serve.
Where does the load come from? What does it contain? Where is it headed? What was the ambient temperature during its transportation? Has it suffered impact or vibrations? Modern load carriers will be able to answer all of these questions in the future using rewritable RFID tags, for example, and will thus ensure even more security.