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Should you consider using bespoke pallets at your business?

Richard Coombes: Last Updated 27th March 2024
Posted In: Design & Innovation | Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31623

Bespoke size pallets

Are bespoke pallets suitable for specific shipping and packaging applications?

As the person responsible for sourcing pallets (and associated packaging) at your business, you may have asked whether you should consider bespoke-size pallets.

Bespoke pallets are custom-produced to the specific size you require. Bespoke-size pallets are popular for large products and parts or those that are difficult to ship. Loads on oversized pallets are often called “ugly freight” in the transport industry. Their use for custom composite packaging is also common.

This guide assesses the advantages and disadvantages of bespoke pallets, helping you to make an informed decision on whether they are suitable for your specific shipping or packaging application.



Standard UK and Euro pallet sizes

When most businesses need to source pallets, they typically use either a UK standard or Euro-size pallet.

UK pallets have a footprint of 1.2 x 1 metres, whilst Euro pallets are 1.2 x 0.8 metres. It is also common to see Full, half and quarter pallet sizes, but these refer to the height of the load (2.2, 1.2 and 0.8 metres, respectively) rather than the footprint.

Whilst UK standard pallet sizes tend to be mass-produced items, businesses can use bespoke or custom-size pallets for specific applications.

Using bespoke pallets is particularly prevalent when using them as part of a composite pack or where the pallet forms the base for a cardboard pallet box.

However, bespoke pallets have several inherent advantages and disadvantages, meaning they are only suitable for some businesses.

A worker in PPE, moving a pallet full of packaging through a warehouse on a pump truck.
Correctly sized pallets and pallet packaging can save space on the pallet and within the pack itself

Advantages of bespoke pallets

Benefits of using bespoke size pallets

For the correct application, there can be significant benefits to using custom-size pallets. The advantages of bespoke pallets include:

  • Being able to accommodate large or oversized products.
  • Improved weight distribution and safety for difficult items.
  • Increased space efficiency.
  • Reduction in transport costs.
  • Improvements in sustainability.
  • Allows for increased optimisation of packaging.

Accommodating large products

The main use case for bespoke pallets is that they can be a size that accommodates a specific product. This dimensional flexibility is essential for larger or bulky items that do not fit on a standard-size pallet.

Bespoke pallets can also be manufactured to a specific strength for particularly heavy items.

As a result, bespoke pallets (and custom pallet boxes) are commonplace in aerospace, heavy engineering and industrial manufacturing industries.

A worker using a forklift to move large heavy pallets
Bespoke pallets are essential for moving and transporting larger products.

Improved weight distribution and safety for difficult items

Similarly to accommodating the size of a product, sometimes the weight distribution of a product or part makes handling on a standard-size pallet difficult.

Using a bespoke size pallet allows you to manage any difficulties and allows for easier and safer handling by forklift drivers and transport providers.

Increased space efficiency

It is not unusual for larger products to fit onto a standard-size pallet but with lots of additional space left (e.g. it only takes up 70 per cent of the available footprint). In this scenario, there is 30 per cent empty space for every pallet stored in your warehouse.

Bespoke pallets can eliminate this, allowing much more efficient use of space.

Reduction in transport costs

Similarly to storage, tailoring your pallet size to the product you are shipping can allow for more efficient transport (and, in turn, a reduction in costs).

By maximising the number of products you can fit on a single shipment, and not paying to effectively transport fresh air, you can see significant reductions in your transport costs.

Improvements in sustainability

A reduction in transport costs – through improved efficiency – tends to go hand in hand with lower emissions.

As a result, the overall sustainability of your packaging and shipping operations improves. This advantage is particularly true if using timber pallets as these are often reusable across multiple trips, are recyclable, and can be part of FSC-certified packaging (using material from sustainable sources).

A pallet of optimised goods, being loaded on to a lorry with a pallet lift.
Optimised pallet packaging can maximise available space on transport, reducing costs and CO2 emissions.

Allows for increased optimisation of packaging

A final way bespoke pallets can help your business is through improved pallet optimisation.

If it is not possible for your staff to efficiently stack the packaging of smaller, individual units you are shipping in bulk on a pallet, this can also result in wasted space in transit. Whilst pallet-optimised boxes are crucial here, sometimes looking at the pallet size you are using is the easiest way to improve your operations.

Disadvantages of bespoke pallets

The potential negatives of bespoke size pallets

Although there are some applications where bespoke pallets are a must, and others where they can result in significant benefits, there are many scenarios where standard-size pallets are more suitable.

The disadvantages of using bespoke pallets include:

  • Higher purchasing costs.
  • Longer lead times.
  • Inefficient storage and shipping.
  • Rejection by transport providers or customers.

Increased costs

Standard-size pallets are an “off the shelf” product, with manufacturers able to mass produce them cost-effectively. Bespoke pallets, however, are usually made in lower volumes without the same efficiencies or economies of scale.

As a result, bespoke pallets cost more than standard pallets. However, you must consider the additional upfront cost against the potential savings you could make (i.e. through improved transport efficiency).

A bespoke pallet in a warehouse
As bespoke pallets are not an "off the shelf" item, they typically cost more than standard pallets.

Longer lead times

Being manufactured bespoke also means custom pallets have longer lead times than standard pallets (which suppliers often hold in stock).

If you choose to use bespoke pallets, you must ensure you have planned your expected usage and stock level requirements in advance.

Inefficient storage and shipping

Although bespoke pallets can lead to more efficient transport and storage, they can also be less efficient.

Confused? Well, most transport providers are set up to accommodate standard-size pallets, meaning they are generally efficient by default. Whilst custom pallets eliminate wasted space on the pallet, it may lead to wasted space in the truck or shipping container instead, negating any benefit.

As such, if you are not using a bespoke pallet to accommodate an oversized item, careful analysis of the whole supply chain is required.

Warehouse workers using bespoke pallets
Bespoke pallets can lead to less efficient storage, as they may not maximise space on standard racking.

Rejection by transport providers or customers

Some transport providers may not be able to accommodate custom-sized pallets. The reasons can include potential inefficiency, as detailed earlier, but can also be because they do not have suitable equipment to handle them.

This latter point may be equally true of your customers, who cannot manoeuvre or store custom pallets due to their pre-existing warehouse setup.


Applications where you should consider bespoke pallets

Bespoke pallets are essential for shipping large or particularly heavy/bulky items. They are often the only solution for some products or parts.

And whilst you can use bespoke pallets to optimise your pallet packaging, there are various factors to consider before deciding whether they are right for your business or application.

As bespoke size pallet manufacturers, GWP can advise on whether using a custom size would be the best option for your business. So, if you are considering switching or have an upcoming project that requires bespoke pallets, please get in touch.

Further reading

About the author

Richard Coombes

Richard Coombes

General Manager | GWP Protective

Having originally joined GWP Protective back in 2004, working on the factory floor, Richard now heads up the business as General Manager.
Read full bio

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