The European Pallet Association e.V. (EPAL) was inducted as a new member of the Logistics Hall of Fame on 29 November 2022 at a gala reception in Berlin with other individuals and organizations. Bernd Dörre, EPAL CEO, participated in this written interview in conjunction with the event.
“The Logistics Hall of Fame recognises individuals worldwide who have shown exceptional dedication to the continuous development of logistics and supply chain management,” explains the Logistics Hall of Fame website. EPAL said in an announcement that it is proud to be able to count itself in this group as a ‘Pallet Pioneer’ and would like to express its thanks for the appreciation that goes with this award of the EPAL Euro pallet pool, the many users of EPAL Euro pallets, and the EPAL licensees who have made this significant success possible through the production and repair of EPAL Euro pallets.
On the occasion of the award, Bernd Dörre, EPAL CEO, answered a few questions from the Logistics Hall of Fame in the following written interview:
What has been the most significant event in the history of the pallet as far as your service is concerned?
Bernd Dörre: The most significant event happened in 1989, two years before EPAL was founded, and that was the opening of the borders between Western and Eastern Europe, which had divided the people of Europe up to that point. The movement of goods came with the freedom of movement for people, and the load carrier of choice for this new freedom was the EPAL Euro pallet.
Until 1989, pallet associations were national affairs: in Germany, it was the Gütegemeinschaft Paletten e.V. which was founded in 1977. These associations quickly recognized that the rapidly growing movement of goods through the now undivided Europe needed a standardized, high-quality, interchangeable Euro pallet. And success was just around the corner.
Shortly after EPAL was founded in 1991 by the EPAL associations in Germany, France, and Switzerland, other EPAL associations were set up in Poland, Italy, Spain, and many other European countries. This tight net of manufacturers and users of EPAL Euro pallets and the countless goods transported on EPAL Euro pallets today connect people throughout Europe and many other countries across the globe.
The birth of EPAL and the EPAL Euro pallet pool, and what was undoubtedly the most significant event in the history of EPAL Euro pallets, was overcoming the division of Europe. The importance and success of EPAL can also be seen in the numbers.
More than 100 million EPAL Euro pallets were produced in 2021 for the first time in a calendar year and there are more than approximately 625 million EPAL Euro pallets in circulation – a conservative estimate. This means that EPAL is the largest Euro pallet pool in the world by far. Users from retail and industry can be provided with EPAL Euro pallets at any time due to the large number of EPAL Euro pallets in circulation and the more than 1,500 EPAL production and repair operations.
Unlike other pool operators, users have not seen any disruption to the supply of Euro pallets through the EPAL exchange pool since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Despite the war and sanctions, compared to the previous year, EPAL licensees increased the production of EPAL Euro pallets by 6.25 million pallets (+12.5 %) in the first six months of 2022. EPAL has therefore provided an impressive demonstration of the resilience of pallet supply through the EPAL Euro pallet pool, which has been extremely important during this period of time.
What challenges will pallets face in the future?
Bernd Dörre: It is impossible to conceive of the world today without the EPAL Euro pallet and so it must also face today’s central global challenge, that of overcoming climate change and all its impacts on the environment and people.
Many countries have experienced exceptional heat and drought this year, as well as the associated forest fires and damage to trees and nature. Using wood for economic and industrial purposes will only be possible in the future if it is part of sustainable forestry and the responsible use of wood as a resource. EPAL Euro pallets and the EPAL exchange pool have already met these prerequisites for many years.
EPAL Euro pallets are predominantly produced from regional and certified timber stocks and the use and exchange of EPAL Euro pallets over a period of many years significantly reduce the demand for wood. The use of energy from predominantly renewable resources and 100% recyclability complement the positive climate and environmental impact of the EPAL Euro pallet. The challenge for the years ahead will be to make the use and exchange of EPAL Euro pallets through the open EPAL exchange pool more attractive for even more companies and in even more countries so that logistics and the packaging industry can make an even greater contribution to protecting the climate.
What plans do you have for the future of the pallet?
Bernd Dörre: The success of the EPAL Euro pallet is directly associated with pallet exchange through the open EPAL exchange pool, which is an exemplar of a functioning circular economy. The future of the EPAL Euro pallet depends on making the use and exchange of EPAL Euro pallets through the open EPAL exchange pool even easier and better.
Key to this is the further digitalization of the processes where EPAL Euro pallets are used. The next step on this path is the serialization of EPAL Euro pallets which will allow users from logistics, retail, and industry to capture individual EPAL Euro pallets’ location and load. At the same time, tomorrow’s logistics solutions are being constantly sought out in the EPAL Innovation Lab, the EPAL workshop of the future. EPAL is already preparing itself for the coming decades of the Euro pallet through direct dialogue with EPAL Euro pallet users and the many EPAL exchange pool service providers.
If you could reinvent the pallet today, what would you do differently?
Bernd Dörre: The Euro pallet has existed for more than 60 years, and the EPAL Euro pallet for more than 30 years. Over this period of time, very little has changed in the design and appearance of the Euro pallet. This is true of only a handful of successful products for several good reasons: Producing EPAL Euro pallets from wood provides perfect stability and safety, and sustainability for the logistics sector.
At the same time, the dimensions of the EPAL Euro pallet are one of the most important industry standards today. They are the starting point for the dimensions of lorries, warehouses and storage systems, conveyor belts, boxes, and many other products. It is not for nothing that the Euro pallet is frequently what everything else is measured against. Any change in or redevelopment of the EPAL Euro pallet would turn the world of logistics upside down.
However, if we look back at the invention of the Euro pallet knowing what we know today, we would immediately ‘invent’ the international exchange of Euro pallets as an indispensable accompaniment to the Euro pallet. The open and free exchange of Euro pallets was a happy accident initially. It is only through the commitment of EPAL and its national associations over many years that a culture of pallet exchange has developed in many European countries, which is currently an indispensable component of sustainable logistics.
Establishing this culture of open pallet exchange and the Euro pallet as a standard for logistics in every country in the world would be something that we would invent together with the Euro pallet. At EPAL, we are working on this every single day.
As an international association, the European Pallet Association e.V. (EPAL) organizes the EPAL Euro pallet exchange pool. EPAL Euro pallets are the cornerstone of industrial and retail supply chains in Europe. There are currently approximately 625 million EPAL Euro pallets and approximately 20 million EPAL Box pallets in circulation, making the EPAL Euro pallet exchange pool the largest open pallet exchange pool in the world.
More than 1,500 EPAL licensees produce and repair EPAL Euro pallets and other EPAL load carriers globally. As a non-profit organization, EPAL does not pursue any commercial interests. Founded in 1991 as the international association for exchangeable Euro pallets, EPAL is active in over 30 countries through national associations and representatives. The central focus of EPAL’s activity is the organization of the international EPAL Euro pallet exchange pool and the quality assurance of the production and repair of EPAL Euro pallets, EPAL Box pallets, and other EPAL load carriers.
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