Remanufactured Pallets Present Green, Low Cost Path to Custom Pallets

Tyson Steffens explains the opportunities for remanufactured custom pallets.

Remanufactured pallets I delivered to a customer. Lumber is discolored but pallets are consistent and built to specification.

Remanufactured pallets I delivered to a customer. Lumber is discolored, but pallets are consistent and built to specification.

There are few things more confusing to the novice than the recycled pallet market.  In an earlier article, I looked at the GMA pallet and the fundamental features of it that are important to pallet buyers to understand.  In this post, I will explore the nearly limitless possibilities of remanufactured pallets.  The remanufacturing process provides a custom pallet, built specifically to meet a customer’s needs, except that it is manufactured with recycled components. This approach keeps the costs down and scores well with corporate sustainability programs.

A remanufactured pallet is created when a pallet builder constructs a pallet, to your specifications, using reclaimed components dismantled from used pallets that are beyond repair or not of the desired footprint.  This pallet should not be confused with a recycled unit which the recycler recovers from the end user, inspects and repairs it as necessary, but then sells it again in its original configuration.

Here is the big difference from a functional standpoint.  Let’s say my customer ships a bliss box so most of the strength is contained in the overlapping corners.  To ship that product with the least amount of wood and get it to market unharmed, I need to make sure the corner regions are fully supported.

If I go to the used pallet market and find my customer a recycled 36×36-inch pallet, I can’t be sure the corners of each box will be supported because the recycler may have accumulated 14 different flavors of 36×36 pallets.  Some of these will work perfect for my customer but many would not because the deck coverage is inadequate or in the wrong place.  The recycler usually doesn’t get enough of any one design to justify singling it out.  Furthermore, those pallets may have originated from dozens of different new pallet manufacturers. They will feature a variety of quality attributes and deck thicknesses.  We just don’t know what we’ll get!

When I create a source for remanufactured pallets, I have a lot more control.  Since we are going to remanufacture this out of individual used components, we can build to a specification with particular board counts and placement.  A professional pallet recycler will take responsibility to make sure the workmanship is correct. We expect the pallet to be square, the nailing correct, and the pallet components arranged as requested.  The result is a custom pallet that best meets the customer’s needs while being made from recycled parts. This approach keeps costs in line and provides green purchase points for companies which track this information.

Now that we understand the fundamentals of the remanufactured pallet, we need to know which pallets would be good candidates to buy as remanufactured and how to go about doing that.

  1. Opportunities for sourcing remanufactured pallets are best for pallets less than 48 inches long and less than 40 inches wide.  Components shorter than this are sometimes called ‘shorts’ meaning they are not prime cuts.  The shorter the board, typically the less value it holds.  You can source remanufactured pallets larger than 40 inches wide, but that often requires an approach, value proposition, and long term progression that would be difficult for most purchasers to bring together.
  2. The recycler won’t be able to give you an exact board thickness like a new pallet manufacturer because they are dismantling whatever comes their way.  So, you’ll need to choose between ‘thin’ (generally boards 3/8 – ½”) and ‘thick’ (usually boards 5/8 – ¾”).  Whichever route is right for your load and material handling environment, you should insist that the recycler keeps the decks consistent.  If the builder gets an overly thick board, they must match it to other thick boards.  I look for most pallet decks to be kept within 1/8” total deviation.
  3. Insist all nails be flush with the deck.  No high-top nails.  This fault is totally within the builder’s control and therefore the easiest aspect to promise and deliver.
  4. Insist that boards be fully intact.  This means that one end is not smashed and splitting into fibers nor is one end 3.5-inch wide while the other end is 2 inches wide.
  5. I saved the best for last!  When you spec out your remanufactured pallet, overdo it!  Many people run into trouble by trying to build the remanufactured pallet exactly to the new pallet spec.  This approach is almost always a bad move.  You are using recovered lumber, so you need to build in some redundancy just in case one of these boards has an undetected defect.  If an over-built remanufactured pallet saves $2, thank the pallet Gods, and go about your day!  You may save an extra $0.30 by using the new pallet configuration but fail in the manufacturing process. As a result, you may end up giving all your savings back in product damage!  Exercise restraint.  There have to be at least a half dozen Chinese proverbs that address this type of situation. Read them all.  Please.

There is your introduction to what a remanufactured pallet is, why it might be right for you, and what to look for as you explore supply options.  Remanufactured pallets hold enormous potential but have the most variables to control. With that in mind, hire a professional to take care of it for you or proceed slowly and go step by step.

 

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waterThe opinions stated above are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of PackagingRevolution.net. To speak to Tyson and find out more about the  innovative wood pallet solutions offered by The Pallet Alliance, Inc., visit www.tpai.com