It’s far too easy to forget about the humble pallet and these wooden shipping tools’ massive role in the supply chain. We toss them around warehouses, run into them with machinery, and see them lying around everywhere. The ubiquity of pallets and the constant abuse we level on them undermines their true importance.

Without pallets, supply chains would work like a jet airplane trying to take off without tires.

The Humble Pallet, a Supply Chain Superhero

Supply chains are complex and dependent on constant movement. As we saw during the pandemic, any kink in the workings might halt an entire supply chain and spread problems to others. As the supply chain flows like a river from its origination to its destination, pallets are necessary at almost every point to keep it flowing.

According to the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association, more than 1.8 billion pallets are used in the United States daily. That number does not include the pallets used for the more than $400 billion in annual exports.

A pallet isn’t only essential to enable moving products with a forklift; it protects the load, absorbs the stresses of moving, holds large amounts of weight, and withstands impacts between forks and trucks. Higher-quality pallets increase the volume of products per shipment, reducing product loss and preventing injury to workers or potential damage due to overloaded shipments.

A high-quality pallet is the supply chain hero that doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

Pallets Help Streamline Logistics

Pallets do more than act as an essential supply component; palletizing loads streamlines logistics for shippers in three ways.

  1. Pallets Streamline SKU Management

The ability to palletize by SKU or mix SKUs using new technologies offers options to increase the efficiency of picking and pulling shipments. Palletized loads are optimized for unloading at delivery, and product gets off and onto shelves faster when utilizing pallets.

  1. Pallets Make LTL Shipping Possible

Palletizing also opens up the world of less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, meaning an entire truckload needn’t be utilized for fast and efficient shipping. The ability to palletize and ship via LTL moves products when they need to move, not when an entire trailer can be filled, and saves money for everyone down to the consumer.

  1. Pallets Speed Up the Last Mile

Last-mile logistics are often the supply chain’s most challenging and expensive part. Using pallets makes loading and unloading faster due to their ease to transport resulting in faster vehicle turnaround times and greater efficiency of on-site equipment. The result of these increased efficiencies is more rapid last miles.

Pallets Are Awesome, Even When Not in Use

Pallets are lightweight, uniform in size, and easily stacked and stored when not in use. In addition, should a wooden pallet fall into disrepair or reach the end of its lifespan, it is easily repaired or disassembled and recycled, making pallets genuinely sustainable.

The Pallet Is a Supply Chain Essential

Those humble pallets you see every day are essential to moving goods efficiently, safely, and cost-efficiently. They make loading, moving, and unloading goods faster, protect products, open up LTL shipping options, speed the last mile, and are truly sustainable.

All hail the humble pallet!