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6 essential pallet optimisation tips to maximise efficiency

Richard Coombes: Last Updated 27th March 2024
Posted In: Efficiency & Productivity | Guides and Advice | Transit Protection
https://www.gwp.co.uk/author/Richard-Coombes/ xx 31623

Improving efficiency

How to optimise pallet loads

Regardless of your industry sector, if you ship large volumes of products on pallets, these essential pallet optimisation tips can significantly and positively impact your operations.

Optimising how your pallets are loaded includes configuring products, using correctly sized packaging, and choosing a suitable stacking pattern. It is also vital to plan your pallet requirements, choose the right size, and educate your staff on how to load them correctly.

This guide briefly details the benefits of well-optimised pallet packaging and offers six tips for maximising your efficiency.

Contents

Introduction

The crucial role of pallets in packaging and shipping

Pallets play a vital role in the success of your operations.

As an extension of your transit packaging, they allow the safe shipping of both large items and multiple smaller items in a single shipment. Pallets allow for easy manoeuvrability of loads by forklift, usually fit in most warehouse racking, and are accepted by virtually all transport providers.

Pallets also provide the base for widely used pallet boxes and complex composite packaging designs. They are crucial for export packaging and are often fully integrated into wooden shipping crates.

And besides the range of standard Euro and UK pallet sizes, custom-size pallets can provide a solution for particularly large or difficult-to-ship products.

A pile of wooden pallets
Pallets play a vital role in the success of a business' operations, often being an extension of packaging.

Benefits of pallet optimisation

Despite all of the benefits of pallets and pallet packaging, optimising your use of pallets can provide several additional advantages.

Optimised pallets and loads can help reduce transport costs and CO2 emissions by eliminating the shipping of empty space. Optimising your pallet boxes and packaging can also reduce costs by reducing the requirement for secondary packaging.

Improvements in staff efficiency, safety and productivity are all realistic goals, alongside providing suitable protection for items during shipping.

6 essential pallet optimisation tips

How do you optimise your pallet loads and packaging?

So, how do you go about achieving these benefits? The six key points to consider and action when optimising how you load and pack your pallets are:

  • Thoroughly assess and plan your requirements.
  • Select the most appropriate pallet size.
  • Optimise the packaging you use with your pallets.
  • Spend time configuring pallet loads and stacking patterns
  • Ensure you meet customer and transport requirements.
  • Educate your packing staff on how to load your pallets correctly.
Pallet optimisation tips
Following a pallet optimisation strategy can have surprisingly significant benefits for your operations.

Assess and plan

Assessing the requirements of your pallets and packaging

Before you can begin to optimise pallet loads, it is vital that you understand the varying requirements.

For example, how many products do you need to ship daily, weekly or monthly? What is the average number per shipment? How many products do your customers typically order at a time?

Beyond this, you should consider other factors, such as how the goods are to be transported (by road, air or sea). The likelihood of damage to your products is another vital factor you should fully understand.

Similarly, you should also account for secondary factors such as safety and customer expectations.

Select the correct pallet

Choosing the most suitable pallet size

Once you have the required information on the type and number of products you ship, choosing the correct pallet size is the easiest way to optimise your shipments.

Selecting between a standard UK pallet (1200 x 1000mm), a Euro pallet (1200 x 800mm) or even a bespoke pallet can significantly impact your transport efficiency.

You should also consider the weight your chosen pallet can take, alongside the exact specification. For example, block pallets are suitable for various applications. In contrast, solid deck pallets (with a full covering instead of slats to the top) are preferable if your load requires additional protection.

You may even find that reusable plastic pallets are your best option if you have an efficient returnable supply chain setup.

Optimise packaging

Maximising the efficiency of your pallets

The next step is to optimise your packaging to maximise the efficiency of your pallet loads. However, a more successful approach is considering both pallet size and pallet-optimised boxes simultaneously.

The size of the boxes you load onto your pallet can significantly impact transport efficiency (you can potentially be paying to ship lots of empty space if they are not well-optimised).

Boxes that are too large can also lead to increased damage during transit.

Finally, choosing the right material for your packaging is also crucial, depending on your products and expected handling conditions. Your pallet packaging should protect from pressure, shock, vibration and other environmental factors (such as moisture and inclement weather).

So besides size, choosing an appropriate material such as double-wall corrugated, triple-wall, or even timber for export packaging applications is vital.

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

Configure pallets

Appropriate stacking patterns

How your packing team loads products onto your pallets plays a significant role in how well-optimised they are.

Besides the obvious space efficiency, the correct stacking pattern can significantly improve safety.

A pallet using an appropriate stacking pattern – either aligned or staggered – is more stable, provides optimal strength, and, as a result, offers the best protection during transit.

Additional packaging, such as slip sheets between layers of products and strapping or stretch wrap, can help improve the performance of your packaging further.

Educate staff

Ensure packing teams know how to load pallets

A crucial part of optimising your pallets and packing is ensuring your packing team knows how to load them correctly.

Even with the optimum pallet boxes at the ideal size and strength, if your teams load them poorly or incorrectly, much of your optimisation efforts will be in vain.

Initial training, ongoing checks and education and even visual guides can also help ensure that staff pack pallets in the best manner.

A worker in hi-vis, moving a wrapped pallet with a manual forklift.
Optimised pallet packaging can play an important part in staff safety as well as overall efficiency.

Other requirements

Ensure you meet transport and customer requirements

Finally, you should also take a step back and consider any requirements of your transport provider and customers.

What may not seem the most efficient way of loading pallets to you may be what your customers need, for example, to meet specific weight requirements or to be compatible with automated equipment.

Similarly, an efficient pallet load may be too high for your transport providers, who will charge you more than if you packed your pallets differently.

Summary

Pallet optimisation tips to maximise efficiency

Optimising your pallets and packaging should be an ongoing process. But, undertaking this process and using the tips in this guide can have a surprisingly significant impact on the success of your operations.

However, if you are having difficulties improving your packaging, sourcing custom pallets, or just knowing where to start, GWP can help. Our team of experts has a track record in optimising businesses’ packaging so that it not only provides the required levels of transit protection but is also genuinely cost-effective. Please get in touch if we can help.

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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