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Pallets: choosing well for good palletizing

Pallets: choosing well for good palletizing
  • Pallets: definition
  • The most commonly used formats
  • Questions to ask for choosing the right pallet
  • Palletizing goods

Palets : definition

Pallets constitute third level packaging whose job is to facilitate the transport of and protect goods throughout the logistics chain, from the moment they leave the factory where they were made to the moment they are broken down by the end user.

There are all kinds of pallets in varying materials, dimensions, and weights.

  • For the material, we find pallets made from timber, plastic, steel, aluminium, cardboard, and more.
  • As for the weight, we define three categories for pallets: light, medium weight, and heavy duty.
  • And as for the sizes, anything is possible since a pallet can be made to bespoke dimensions. There are however some well-established standards.


The most commonly used formats 

  • The “EUR-pallet”, “Europallet”, or “EPAL pallet” (European Pallet Association): 1200 x 800mm
  • The “industrial” pallet: 1000 x 1200mm
  • The quarter pallet (¼ EPAL): 600 x 400mm
  • The half pallet: 600 x 800mm (½ EPAL)


Questions to ask for choosing the right pallet 

Choosing a pallet means examining a set of interrelated criteria, which the following questions will help clarify:

=> What is the volume of my goods?

Volume is a major consideration in determining the size of the pallet.

=> Single trip or multi-trip?

A pallet can be single trip, by which we mean discarded after the journey, or it can be multi-trip, in which case it is retrieved for reuse. In general terms,

  • a light pallet is best kept for single-trip use
  • a medium weight pallet can withstand several journeys but its useful life remains limited
  • a heavy duty pallet must be chosen if intended for ongoing point-to-point use 

BUT, the number of round trips alone is not enough to determine the best choice of pallet!

=> How heavy are my goods and what load type(s) will my pallet have to carry?

Haulage costs are calculated on the basis of palletized weight; that’s the weight of the goods + that of the pallet. Therefore it’s important not to choose one that’s unnecessarily heavy.

It is however essential to use a pallet that can support the load it must bear and is compatible with that type of load. For safety and stability reasons, you should always keep within the maximum loads stated on the product’s technical data sheet, which apply to a pallet in good shape (no deterioration, cracks, etc.).

  • static load: maximum allowable load for an immobile pallet, i.e., one used for storage on the floor without undergoing any significant handling
  • dynamic load: maximum allowable load for a pallet that will be regularly handled with a forklift or pallet truck.
  • rack load: maximum allowable load for a pallet intended for storage at height on multi-level racks

=> What type of handling is my pallet likely to undergo?

Is palletizing automated? What type of storage is it used in? Will the pallet have to go up and down roller ramps? Long or short shipping circuits?

The answers to these questions will help determine the pallet’s characteristics, e.g., how many bottom boards? blocks or stringers? deck type? 2 or 4 way entry? stackable or non-stackable? etc.

=> Will my pallet have to withstand refrigeration or freezing?

For goods that demand an unbroken cold chain in transport and storage, a material must be chosen that is able to withstand low temperatures as well as variations in temperature.  

=> Export or domestic?

If your goods are intended for export, you will be subject to standard ISPM 15 (international standard for phytosanitary measures No. 15). A rough-sawn untreated timber pallet will certainly not meet ISPM 15 requirements.

Palletizing offers 2 major advantages:

  • It facilitates and streamlines handling, storage, and shipping operations. 
  • It optimizes haulage vehicle fill rates (minimizes “shipping air”)

But beware! Poor palletizing can give rise to a variety of problems in the logistics chain.

Some pro-tips:

  • Build a compact load that forms a coherent whole and not the sum of disparate items.
  • Take care to position each item so as to spread the load and avoid hollow spaces
  • “Fix” the load part to the pallet part (e.g., by film wrapping)
  • Avoid excessively tall pallet loads. It is generally recommended not to exceed 1.45m, although this limit can vary by sector and product.

Load stability (good “anchoring” between the different items and between the goods and the pallet), load uniformity, and optimum height will facilitate good handling, will optimize storage and transport, and will reduce the risk of the load breaking open or being damaged.