We at Kamps understand the impact the pallet has on the transportation of goods in today’s global economy. Do you? There are 2 billion pallets in supply in the United States, and 3.2 billion board feet of hardwood is produced every year to maintain this supply. Approximately 80 percent of U.S. commercial goods are shipped on pallets. The clothes you are wearing and the food you ate today were shipped on pallets made by companies like Kamps, and the computer you’re reading this blog on journeyed at some point on a pallet before it got to you. Pallets are everywhere.
It wasn’t always that way, though. Goods have been shipped for millennia using some kind of box or container, but mass transport required something more both for economy and efficiency. Shipping products long distances over sea or land was already complicated and expensive enough! Longshoremen used wooden skids to transport cargo from ship to shore. These were just boards nailed together to create a flat surface that could be loaded up easily and efficiently, but by using skids, they could save literal days loading or unloading instead of making individual trips carrying boxes or cartons. Railway workers also discovered their superiority, and U.S. commercial transportation was changed forever.
By the 1940s new innovations, including the invention of the two-faced pallet and the fork lift in 1939, made the pallet, an improved version of the wooden skid, poised to revolutionize shipping in war time and had a direct effect on supply lines during World War II. Particularly in the Pacific, these supply lines were very long. Norman Cahners, a Navy Supply Corps officer seeking to improve turnaround time, invented the four-way pallet which allowed for multi-direction lifting. Forklift operators could pick this pallet up no matter which way it faced.
The next time you see a pallet, whether it is at Costco, in art or reclamation projects, or stacked behind a warehouse, take a minute to think about how something so simple has changed the way we live and shop, kept soldiers fed, and doesn’t stop being useful from the moment it’s nailed together until it is ground up for mulch to keep your landscape beds free from weeds. You don’t have to make or supply pallets to appreciate them!