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Cost Benefits of Expert Unit Load Design

06 Nov 2015

The logistics and distribution industry has experienced an unprecedented spell of growth during the past few years. Market commentators largely espouse the view that this expansion is sustainable over the coming months and years. They do, however, sound a note of caution and highlight the sector’s vulnerability to rising costs. Recently, though, a noted specialist, Mark White, has developed a thesis which indicates that the real key to cutting packaging costs is the interaction between the pallet, load and stabilisers.

What Is the General Approach Being Advocated?

Mark White PhD is described as a “world-renowned pallet guru”. He argues that changing the focus from pallet design to the design of the entire unit load has the potential to save users “hundreds of thousands of dollars” by reducing the cost of packaging and enhancing the supply chain. The pallet supplier is central to these cost savings. Wooden pallets, for example, are the meeting point of the product and the unit load handling equipment. In other words, by changing the pallet, packaging can be reduced and potentially vast savings will ensue.

What Are the Implications?

White goes on to say that research has generated the possibility of more efficient systematic unit load design. Equally, pallet suppliers are able to add value by delivering unit load design as a key part of their service rather than just offering wooden pallets for sale. In a highly competitive industry, this can distinguish a company from its competitors and give it a real commercial edge. Furthermore, when a manufacturer is designing the appropriate packaging for a product to be placed on a pallet, the designer tends to concentrate on the compression strength of the packaging, when in fact the pallet itself can be used to reduce the compression and subsequently pare the cost of packaging. He offers detailed explanations of ways in which users can save on total unit load costs using advanced proprietary technology such as Best Load software. Included as examples are plastic pails of coating materials, 24 packs of bottled water and cases of small carpet squares.

Are More Advances Imminent?

There is significant research currently being undertaken in both the private and public sectors. For example, Virginia Tech Center for Packing and Unit Load Design is a specialist institution whose objectives are to improve the design and functionality of pallets and unit load systems, evaluate packaging systems and analyse marketing studies. The organisation, whose global reputation in this discipline is unparalleled, has published or is soon to publish research on various matters which will be of intense interest to the industry at large, including increasing the efficiency of packaging systems, developing a “life-cycle inventory” for the process of repairing used wooden pallets, constructing performance specifications for those pallets which are used in automated unit load handling equipment and optimising and updating unit load design for efficiency and cost savings.

Clearly, those in the logistics and distribution industry will want to keep abreast of this fascinating work as they continue to modify their approach to unit load design.

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