Product Damage Related to Pallets and Reusable Totes

Reducing Product Damage in the Supply Chain – Here’s How (Return to Page 1)

Pallets, Reusable Totes, and Product Damage

Exposed nail head results in carton damage.

Exposed nail head results in carton damage and potential injury to worker attempting to slide or lift from the pallet.

Pallets themselves can result in compression or puncture damage, where slats are missing or damaged and splinters or nail heads are exposed. Likewise, compression damage can result if the gaps between deck boards are too great. Missing wood on the end of lead boards can result in unplanned overhang of product, which again may lead to compression damage.

Bodenheimer stresses to pallet suppliers any missing wood on the edge of the lead board can result in the pallet being less than 48×40, and lead to overhang and compression damage. “That is something that I think must be incorporated into the inspection criteria,” he says. “Usually pool pallet programs can be beneficial because they have a robust inspection program. On the other hand, we see the typical white wood pallet generally doesn’t get the care and attention for refurbishment that pool pallets do, and that is why we probably see more damage associated with white wood pallets.” One company he was working with went to a higher percentage of deck board coverage and eliminated 80 percent of its compression damage.

Another cause of compression damage includes the stacking of unit loads in greater quantity than allowed. “Step stair” or “chimney” picking of boxes by distribution center order selectors versus layer picking can be another source of damage as remaining cases are unstable and more likely to fall.

Ultimately, Bodenheimer concludes, there isn’t one particular driver of damage. There is a whole host of them.

Reusable Totes and Product Damage

In GENCO’s practice, it sees a lot of products moving from the distribution center to retail in reusable totes. Bodenheimer has observed some companies migrating to a corrugated tote in order to save money, but this can turn into false economy if the cardboard tote is used for more than a few trips, resulting in product damage, versus a durable reusable plastic tote.

Bodenheimer does note, however, that product damage is much more likely to take place in a “less than case” pick where inner units are being picked into totes, where larger items are often mixed with more fragile smaller items. This, however, can be addressed through attention to the warehouse management system with respect to segregating incompatible items from going into the same tote.

Goods that are just "tossed" into a tote experience a higher damage rate than organized packing.

Goods that are just “tossed” into a tote experience a higher damage rate than organized packing.

Genco Offers Assistance in Dealing with Product Damage

GENCO, as Bodenheimer explains, provides the resources to monitor performance in the real world and to evaluate the resulting data for root cause and corrective measures improvement programs. “We can use our assessment capabilities in the field combined with a robust analytic package we use to identify opportunities. “In many cases we can advise customers on what the corrective measures should be, and in other cases, we offer the resources to define and correct those problems.”

Additionally, as GENCO is now part of FedEx, it can leverage FedEx’s substantial package testing expertise on behalf of bricks and mortar as well as e-commerce clients.

Gene Bodenheimer is managing director, retail logistics damage research at GENCO. He can be reached at