As we walk through this Understanding the pointGUARD® Concept blog series, which is taking an informative look at what pointGUARD® Pallet Protection Products are and what they are not, I asked this question in part one: Why not choose an all plastic pallet? I get asked this quite a bit, usually from friends who are not in the logistics or supply chain business. Plastic seems like the ideal choice. We're told that they are durable, strong, don't have wood splinters that poke into your hand and aesthetically...they look better than wood. We're even told that they are cleaner than wood pallets. So why is roughly only 10% of the pallets used in the material handling industry plastic pallets?
There's a variety of reasons, but first lets start out with the advantages of plastic. They are:
Clean - they are impenetrable to acids, solvents or odors and can be heat-sterilized
Completely recyclable (if only to make another plastic pallet)
ISPM-15 Exempt (treatment for exporting out of the country) due to no bug infestation
Non-porous - so they do not allow for the absorption or growth of bacteria
Absent of nails or screws
As a general rule, weighs less than a wood pallet
Considered to have a good image, which is important to some companies
So, why is the supply chain not drowning in them? One word...cost. It all boils down to the bottom line. For starters, if you are not using a 48"x40" pallet (the standard in the US), chances are you won't be able to use a plastic pallet. Sourcing another size, outside a few other miscellaneous ones, is expensive due to how a plastic pallet is made...a new steel mold has to be created to manufacture the pallet. But even if you are using the 48"x40" size, plastic pallets usually start around the $35 dollar range for a reusable version and can swell upwards to $100+ depending on your storage and handling requirements. So, the upfront cost can be staggering especially juxtaposed to that of a new wooden pallet (48"x40"), which starts at around the $10 range for a standard stringer version or $20 for a high quality and durable block version.
There are other drawbacks as well including:
Deflection - suspended racking will pose a problem if there is a good deal of weight on the pallet. Metal rods must be inserted inside the pallet to reinforce it if a high deflection measurement is a concern.
Repair-a-bility - Once a plastic pallet is damaged, it's almost impossible to repair. Although a plastic pallet is considered more durable, this only counts for normal wear and tear. If a forklift driver is careless (which they are), the pallet can still be damaged easily by a direct hit.
Customization - since the pallet is manufactured using extrusion or injection molding, customizing the pallet us usually not an option.
Replacement Cost - Must have a tight control over where your pallets go such as a closed loop system. If there is a high percentage of loss, then plastic is not an option due to the high replacement costs.
Every situation is different and there is certainly a place for plastic pallets in the logistics arena. If the cost structure was the same as wood, one could argue that they would be the preferred choice (lets forget for a second that they are a by-product of petroleum and that supply is never an issue). Given the reality of the cost however, wood pallets are far more cost efficient. But since plastic pallets offer great benefits, wouldn't it be great if we could tap into those advantages, but not have to purchase the whole kit and caboodle?
Enter pointGUARD® Pallet Protection Products. These one-piece plastic shields marry the advantages of a plastic pallet with the cost savings of a wood version. Using pointGUARD® pallet protector you can:
Avoid the dangers of wood splinters when handling a pallet from the ends where the pointGUARD® Pallet Protector is attached
Protect the entry points of a wood pallet from the forks of a forklift tearing into the lumber
Protect the top lead board from strapping that tears off the end of the wood
Keep wood chips and debris from cluttering the floor
Increase the life of a wood pallet substantially by keeping the pallet in use longer
Reduce the repair costs by keeping the end of a pallet intact using the durability of plastic
In our next blog post, we are going to look at why the pointGUARD® pallet protector design is so unique. Why did we engineer it the way that we did? Do you have to alter the wood pallet so that it will fit? We'll answer these questions and more in part three of Understanding the pointGUARD® Concept.
See the pointGUARD® pallet protector in action. Take a look...