Choosing the Best Pallet Color

Color, Pallet and Pooling – Factors to Consider in Picking Pallet Color

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A distinctive color can prove useful to pallet managers and merchandisers alike

The color of a pallet remains an important consideration for any pallet pool. Just ask CHEP or other pallet and reusable packaging pools around the world that utilize specific colors to promote better control of their inventories.

Pallet pools use a variety of basic pallet colors, as is outlined later in this article. While a variety of automatic identification strategies have emerged that can provide more information about a specific pallet or load, pallet and container color remains an effective measure for control and quality assurance. In addition to assisting in control, pallet color can be an important component of other marketing or quality assurance initiatives. More on these items below.

Let’s start with the basics. When it comes to pallets and the use of color, our go-to expert is Hartson Poland of New Jersey-based PDQ Plastics. “From a purely pragmatic point of view, certain companies use color to designate specific ingredients, products, even processes,” Hartson explains. “A yellow pallet, bin or box can be identified from the vantage point of the production office in the mezzanine. Try doing that with a bar code. And just from a branding and aesthetic point of view, color is as versatile as is fertile the imagination of the user.”

“Most companies will offer maybe one to three standard colors, some charging differently for different colors. For example black is an inexpensive pigment, and many companies use that color for their base model. Black also covers a multitude of sins, black making it easy to add colored regrind, or to add recycled content. Let’s say there might be an upcharge for blue or red from this same company, added charges not only reflecting the possible additional cost of the pigment, but accounting for down machine time and lost product that is inevitable when making a color change. We have seen ‘blue’ often used to designate FDA accepted pallets, but this is not an industry standard, more of a convenient designation.”

“PDQ Plastics, Inc does not charge extra for different colors, choosing rather to have color choice be a core attribute of our company and the pallets that we make. We offer our most popular model, the 40 x 48 “Super D” in 12 standard colors, doing our best to stock all of the colors all of the time. I am unaware of any other pallet manufacturer that offers color in this way. As for FDA designation, we know that there are certain pigments that are FDA certified, and if we know the pallet is to be used in food or pharma where the possibility of product contact exists, we steer companies to those colors that are appropriate.”

So why choose a specific color for your pallets?

The use of a specific pallet color can provide specific benefits, as well as hurdles. We start with the benefits:

Benefits

  • Pallets can be spotted at a considerable distance by asset managers when they are a specific color.
  • Likewise, color coding helps facilitate warehouse pallet audits, even in high rack location.
  • Color marking of pallets enables material handlers to easily sort different types of pallets, and helps ensure that employees use the correct pallet for the correct shipment.
  • Pallet color coding can be indispensable in helping plant employees segregate one type of material from another, where certain materials or processes are associated with a specific color.
  • Color coding can be used to also reduce the risk of cross-contamination where some pallets or totes may be used for unhygienic applications.
  • And of course, pallet color selection can help in retail marketing and store esthetics initiatives.

Disadvantages

  • Color coding may add extra cost to the pallet or container in some cases
  • When color coded assets are assigned for certain applications only, this may limit the utility of the asset to use for other applications, which may evolve over time. Flexibility may be lost
  • There may be confusion if the same color is used by different pool pallets

Which Color to Choose?

A number of considerations go into selecting a pallet color, including UV resistance, scuff resistance, differentiation from other competing products, marketing and esthetic values, and last but not least, relative cost. Here are some of the pallet colors that one often sees in the field, depending upon the part of the world being considered.
CHEP – blue
PECO (North America) – red
U.S. Postal Service – orange stripe
Loscam (Australasia) – red, yellow and grey
IPP Logipal (Europe) – brick
LPR (Europe) – red
Svenska Retursystem (Sweden) – grey
The Beer Store (Ontario) – green
Euro Pool System – green

The future of color markings is unclear as Auto-ID technologies such as RFID continue to find acceptance. It seems likely that to the extent that Auto-ID technologies are fully integrated into a reusable pallet application, pallet color will be less important in the future than today, but for now, the choice of color for pallet pools remains an important tool for pool managers and pallet users alike.

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