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Pallet distribution best practices

As an essential part of supply chains, implementing best practices for improving pallet distribution can give businesses many advantages. These are some best practices for overcoming pallet distribution problems and optimising supply chains, from improving pallet distribution to minimising the damage and loss of shipments.

Tips for improving pallet distribution

Supply chains and businesses benefit most from continual improvements and optimisation of pallet distribution. From the moment a pallet shipment is collected to the point of delivery, improving pallet distribution and delivery reflects on efficiency and costs.

Following these tips can help your supply chain to benefit from improved efficiency and reduced costs:

Standardisations for automation

Automation and robotics are becoming popular trends in pallet distribution. Implementing automation alongside humans can significantly improve the efficiency and reliability of pallet distribution.

One way to implement automation into the pallet distribution process is by standardising pallets. Standardising pallets improves the fit to your production lines, alongside handling and storage systems. It also helps improve supply chain efficiency and streamline processes.

Standardised pallets will follow the ISO 6780 standard, which sets all pallet sizes, dimensions, and tolerances. The International Standard also ensures consistency in quality based on the various materials used for pallet construction, including wood, metal, and plastic.

Non-standardised pallets can encounter several problems throughout the supply chain process. Firstly, handling equipment may be incompatible with the construction of such pallets. This makes moving pallet shipments much more difficult and increases the risk of damage.

Secondly, non-standardised pallets may be constructed in different sizes and diameters. This can result in non-standardised pallets being too large or too small. The size difference can create problems in safe and secure storage, leading to poor space utilisation.

Thirdly, the materials used for constructing non-standardised pallets may be lower quality. As a result, non-standardised pallets may not be as durable or safe. Using non-standardised pallets increases the risk of damage or injury.

Ensuring standardised pallets are used throughout the pallet process ensures all shipments are compatible with handling equipment, and such pallets can be integrated seamlessly with integrated automation systems.

Online tracking systems

Throughout the supply chain, pallet shipments can visit any number of warehouses, processing facilities, or regional distribution hubs. The more locations a pallet shipment is likely to make, the more likely something may get delayed or missing.

Besides this, many businesses and customers may want to keep an eye on the location of their pallet shipments and when delivery will be made. Implementing an online tracking system allows for easy tracking of shipments throughout the supply chain can help with this.

Nowadays, most available tracking systems work in real-time and use GPS systems to track the location and whereabouts of pallet shipments precisely. Tracking can be accessed through a designated system by entering a unique code or number.

Each shipment processed through a pallet distribution network is given a unique ID, number, or barcode used for identification. At each stage of the distribution process, pallet shipments are processed using their identification ID or barcode.

Then, the tracking system is updated to reflect accurate pallet shipment locations. Many tracking systems now allow access to distribution documentation, such as proof of delivery. Providing easy and electronic access to such documentation reduces the risk of errors.

Space and vehicle utilisation

Optimising the space and vehicle utilisation, including loading optimisation, is another tip for improving pallet distribution. Improving the space utilisation of vehicles throughout the supply chain and pallet distribution process helps sustainable pallet distribution and efficient supply chains.

In the same way that warehouses need to optimise their storage and space usage, the same goes for loading pallets onto vehicles. Load optimisation, or load planning, involves using software to map out and plan how various shipments will be loaded and stacked onto a vehicle.

Load planning attempts to maximise the available space within a vehicle. This is achieved by consolidating multiple shipments into the best arrangement possible so that deliveries can be made in the least number of vehicles.

Such planning involves optimising and effectively using space to carry as many pallet shipments as possible. Usually, vehicles may carry multiple pallet shipments to reduce emissions and vehicle wastage. After all, no distribution firm wants to truck empty loads!

If properly conducted, load optimisation can improve the efficiency of supply chains, increase delivery capacity, and lower overheads. The result is much-improved pallet distribution while delivering customer satisfaction and quality service. Route optimisation in pallet distribution can also help improve supply chain efficiency.

Strategies for minimising pallet damage and loss

During transportation, it is likely that pallet shipments may experience damage or loss through contamination. Damage or loss can occur at any stage throughout the pallet distribution process, whether handling pallets or improper packing.

Fortunately, some strategies can be implemented to minimise the damage or loss of pallets throughout the distribution network.

Handling equipment

Most of the time, pallet shipments are damaged through improper handling. Various handling equipment, such as forklifts, can damage pallets (and potentially their content) by improper operating such equipment.

Forklift trucks are the culprit of most pallet damage and can cause unintentional damage to pallets in many ways:

  • Using force during pallet entry.
  • Inaccurate fork placement.
  • Unlevel forks.
  • Not adjusting the fork spread according to load size.
  • Short forking (only partially loading a pallet onto the forks).
  • Attempting to move multiple pallets at one time.
  • Not lowering a unit before adjoining with other loads.

To minimise pallet damage while handling them, forklift truck operators should avoid doing the above.

Pallet stacking

Another problem that can damage pallets is improper stacking of pallet contents. While not the responsibility of pallet distributors, improper stacking of pallets can result in damage during the distribution process.

To prevent damage, pallets should be stacked safely and securely. Never use a pallet that shows signs of wear or degradation. You should also choose the material best suited for your shipment content. There are several tips to follow for safely stacking shipments onto a pallet.

Stacking pallets

  • Never stack items into a pyramid formation.
  • Always stack boxes on top of one another, not interlocked.
  • Ensure no items are sticking out or hanging over the edges.
  • Always place the heaviest items at the bottom.
  • Avoid oversizing a pallet load.

Securing pallets

  • Use rachet straps to hold down large or unusually shaped items.
  • Always wrap pallet shipments using strong plastic wrap.
  • Fragile and perishable items are appropriately wrapped.
  • Ensure shipping labels are visible and not obstructed.
  • Prevent liquid spillages by firmly sealing containers.


Another factor that can cause damage to pallet shipments is contamination. One of the many pallet distribution challenges, contamination can happen in many ways, including mould & fungal damage, rodent contamination, chemicals, or water damage.

Contamination of pallet shipments can affect the safety and quality of content. More often than not, contamination will make the entire pallet shipment unsuitable. This leads to higher costs and delays throughout the distribution process.

There are different ways to avoid contamination of pallet shipments. Firstly, ensure the content is securely wrapped and packaged to prevent contamination from damaged products. You can also pallet covers to prevent contaminants from affecting the quality of goods.

Another way to avoid contamination is to check the quality of pallets beforehand. Most of the time, pallet contamination happens due to not thoroughly checking the quality of pallets firsthand. Wooden pallets are most susceptible to this because wood is more porous.

Wood can harbour many contaminants of pallet shipments, including bacteria, fungi, mould, chemicals, and moisture. As a result, wooden pallets are unsuitable for distributing food, beverages, and medication.

Wooden pallets can still be used as an effective way to distribute pallet items throughout the supply chain. However, you should pay careful attention to quality. Usually, pallets will have treatment codes that determine whether they are safe to use.

Pallet Quality Codes

  • DB – Debarked, meaning the pallet is not treated and is safe to use.
  • HT – Heat Treated, meaning the pallet has been treated using heat and is safe.
  • KD – Kiln-Dried, meaning the pallet removes any moisture from a pallet and is safe to use.
  • EPAL – European Pallet Association logo, meaning the pallet has been safely treated and is safe to use.

If a pallet contains these markings, you should avoid using them altogether.

  • MB – Methyl Bromide, meaning the pallet has been treated using chemicals and could be toxic.
  • Coloured markings – the pallet has been exposed to chemicals or other toxins and is unsafe to use.
  • EUR – Old European Pallet Association logo may be unsafe unless stamped with EPAL.

You should always check the origins of a pallet to be on the safe side. Reusing pallets is only safe, providing you are sure there is no possible risk of contamination and the quality of the pallet is not compromised.

Collaboration and communication techniques

Internet of Things (IoT)

Tracking pallets in the supply chain has always been difficult due to the mixture and assortment of communication platforms throughout the supply chain. Cloud computing and the Internet of Things have helped bridge the gap in easily collecting, storing, and transferring information.

The Internet of Things (IoT) combines physical objects, or ‘things’, embedded into software or other internet-connected technologies. Incorporating IoT makes connecting, transferring, and exchanging data much easier over an internet-connected network.

Many previous platforms failed to collect data directly from goods using incorporated sensors. This meant real-time processing was non-existent without a platform to access such information. It also made transferring data throughout the supply chain more challenging.

The evolution of IoT technology and computer platforms makes communicating information much easier and more reliable. Objects are connected to one network through the Internet so that data can be accessed remotely throughout the supply chain.

Such data obtained through the scanning and sensors implemented with IoT can also be used to manage, track, and control pallet shipments. Information can be accessed through a cloud network, allowing individuals to access the data regardless of location securely.

Collaborate with Pallet Networks

Pallet distribution companies can collaborate with pallet networks to improve the efficiency and reliability of distribution. A pallet network is a collection or group of logistics providers who work together to deliver their services.

A pallet network usually consists of regional hubs and local depots that each haulier operates from to collect and deliver pallets within their given area. Any shipments due outside the haulier’s area are processed at the local depots to another haulier who operates within the given area.

There are many benefits to collaborating with a pallet network. Benefits include:

  • Operate just-in-time control.
  • Benefit from economies of scale.
  • Reduces costs.
  • Benefit from the network equipment and IT.
  • Increased speed through speedy delivery options.
  • Better reputation and customer service.

Following the best practices outlined above, you can focus on optimising and improving pallet distribution and delivery processes. Your supply chain can benefit from improved efficiency, timely deliveries, and reduced costs.

Further reading