While the average person probably does not often stop to think about pallets, when he does, he probably thinks that pallets are all the same. Obviously this isn’t true, as anyone in the pallet industry knows. Governments, pallet companies, and universities – to name a few – are constantly conducting research to determine the best design for pallets in terms of capacity, integrity, and economic and environmental impact. They experiment with different materials like wood, plastic, cardboard, aluminum so there will be a variety of options available to ship product locally, nationally, and globally at the least cost with the least amount of damage sustained en route. It’s a work in progress.
Pallet testing is the process of deciding whether the innovations being attempted are good enough to be used to reliably ship goods on a regular basis, and they focus on three main qualities:
When evaluating for strength, pallet tests are designed to determine whether a pallet can hold the load it was designed for: will it hold up without breaking? It will be tested for three main load ratings: static compression, dynamic compression, and racked compression. These test the pallet’s strength under certain conditions. When testing for static compression, the pallet is not subject to bending. It must perform under conditions such as warehouse stacking where it’s weight is being fully supported by the floor underneath it.
Bending is another consideration. Testing for racked compression involves determining how the pallet performs when it is being only partially supported – such as when a pallet is being elevated and moved on a forklift. Dynamic compression involves bearing weight while under other stresses, such as the vibration from a moving truck. Plastic and cardboard pallets are frequently tested for stiffness as well. That is, how much the pallet bends under its load.
Tests for durability measure how long the pallet will last under normal wear and tear and all of the above types of stresses. If a pallet will, in normal use, have to withstand forklifts, vibration, and weight under static and dynamic conditions, pallet makers need to know how much of all of these the pallet can withstand individually or simultaneously and for how long.
Finally there are tests for functionality, but these are not done in a laboratory. The pallet has to meet the government regulations for fire safety, heat control, and pest management, and it also has to operate well within the environment for which it was designed. If a pallet is both strong and durable, but hard to handle or maneuver in a warehouse or into a truck, it’s still not a very useful pallet and will be rejected.
When a pallet meets all specifications and performs well under stress over an acceptable period of time, that is a pallet that companies will want to produce and use over and over. Successful pallet design is, therefore, a critical component in Kamps’s strategy to provide better service to our customers – and better delivery of their products to the appropriate destinations.