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Pallet distribution challenges and solutions

Throughout the pallet distribution process, many challenges can be encountered. These challenges can slow down distribution efficiency and cause delays throughout the supply chain. Identifying the challenges and solutions minimises the risk of disruption.

Common challenges in pallet distribution

A broken wood pallet

The pallet distribution process entails many points, from the point of collection to the point of delivery. Throughout the process, there can be many challenges, problems, or difficulties that can hinder efficiency. Here are the common challenges and how to overcome them:

Difficulty handling pallet shipments

One of the most significant problems in pallet distribution is the difficulty handling pallet shipments. Whether moving pallets or loading them onto delivery vehicles, this problem can cause unnecessary damage and costs to all parties.

This problem can occur at any time throughout the pallet distribution process. Fortunately, this is one of the challenges of pallet distribution that is easier to overcome and resolve.

The solution to overcoming difficulty handling pallet shipments is to improve and upgrade existing handling equipment. It also involves providing employees with appropriate handling equipment, such as pallet lifters, to pick up and move heavy pallet shipments around easily.

Pallet contamination

Another common challenge in pallet distribution is the contamination of pallet shipments. There are many reasons why contamination can happen. Usually, the cause is moisture, mould, or microorganisms that harbour inside the material due to the porous nature of wood.

Pallet contamination can be costly and slow down distribution efficiency. Shipments, such as food and medication, are most at risk of contamination. Such contaminated shipments will be wasted due to the possible health risks.

The solution to pallet contamination is to ensure that pallets are properly treated. This becomes more difficult when using second-hand pallets but try to check the origins of a pallet. If in doubt, avoid using it. Properly wrapping items in a shipment can also reduce the risk of contamination.

Risk of injury

Another challenge in the pallet distribution process is the risk of injury. Injuries and safety hazards can occur for several reasons, including overcrowded pallets, dangerously packed pallets, obstructions, or lack of training. Injuries can range from minor to severe.

The solution to minimising the risk of injury and safety hazards is to adhere to health & safety regulations and legislation to ensure safe working conditions. You should also ensure that there are no obstructions during the movement of pallet shipments and that staff are adequately trained.

Insufficient space available

Pallet shipments can take up much room, mainly when many are grouped. This can lead to a need for sufficient space available to store or load shipments onto vehicles, which is another problem experienced in the pallet distribution process.

There can be several solutions to this problem, including minimising the number of pallets, increasing the number of routes/deliveries, or expanding the available space. However, all these solutions can be costly and slow down efficiency.

An alternative and more efficient solution is pallet consolidation. Pallet consolidation creates empty spaces by combining pallet shipments that are only partially loaded for space optimisation in vehicles and distribution centres.

Labour availability

Another challenge experienced in pallet distribution is labour availability and whether there is enough labour to meet demand. With the current logistics labour shortage, logistic providers may not have sufficient staff to meet demand.

There are several solutions to try and overcome labour shortage while minimising disruptions to efficiency, including hiring new staff where possible, cross-training and developing existing staff, providing incentives and rewards, and adopting a positive culture.

Pallet instability

Pallet instability is another pallet distribution challenge. Typically, pallet instability results from poor loading and packing of pallet shipments. However, pallet instability can also occur if pallets are not properly stacked.

To ensure pallet shipments are securely stacked, check out our guide on best practices for preparing pallets. During distribution, properly stacking pallets to ensure no risk of falls is also advisable.

Traffic delays

Traffic delays are inevitable sooner or later during the pallet distribution process and can drastically slow down the speed of delivery, in some cases, leaving vehicles with shipments stuck for long periods.

While traffic delays are sometimes unavoidable, monitoring traffic conditions can alert you to any existing traffic delays. It would be best to inform everyone of any delays, including the delivery recipient.

Late or missing deliveries:

Late or missing deliveries are a regular occurrence in the pallet distribution process and can cause unnecessary delays in the supply chain. Pallet shipments can get misplaced, or delivery can fail, usually because no one is present to accept the delivery or someone rejects the delivery.

Implementing tracking systems throughout the distribution process can allow all concerned parties to monitor and track the precise location of pallet shipments. Some tracking systems will even provide a delivery estimate to ensure the recipient is present to accept delivery or rearrange delivery.

Missing or incorrect documentation

Another challenge that occurs in pallet distribution is missing or incorrect documentation. Certain documentation must be correctly filled in to prevent delays depending on where pallet shipments are being sent from or to.

To ensure that all the correct documentation is present and contains no errors, consider providing a checklist of all the requirements a pallet sender needs to complete. This includes ensuring all barcodes and shipment info is visible and unobstructed.

Emerging trends and innovations

Automation machines handling pallet shipments

With the emergence of new technologies and advances in supply chain efficiency, several emerging trends and innovations exist. These emerging trends and innovations can improve efficiency and improve pallet distribution for a better customer experience:

  • Transportation management systems & tracking systems improve the monitoring and planning of pallets alongside optimising the movement of goods.
  • Route planning software allows pallet distribution companies to optimise the routes for efficiency, cutting time on roads and reducing overheads.
  • Alternative pallet materials, such as plastic, are becoming much more widespread because they are eco-friendly and more durable than wooden pallets.
  • Sustainability is a growing trend, with pallet companies adopting more eco-friendly and sustainable methods.
  • Automation and robotics are growing innovations improving pallet load handling, movement, and distribution.
  • Labour shortage and wage competition is a trend in pallet distribution, causing service delays.
  • Load optimisation software allows logistics companies to plan the best use of space for loading pallets onto vehicles.
  • Universal pallet sizes are becoming more common, reducing the territory differences in pallet sizes.
  • Hydrogen fuel is gaining much traction as an alternative to petrol and diesel. While still in its infancy, hydrogen fuel is a step towards zero-emission pallet distribution.

Many challenges can occur throughout the different steps of the pallet distribution process. Awareness of these challenges and how to overcome them can help minimise disruptions and maintain supply chain efficiency. Keeping up with emerging trends and innovations can also help.

Further reading