FMCG Pallet & Container Seasonal Hot Spots

When it comes to pallets and containers, is your peak season supply chain sizzling, or is it scorched?

So, how is your high season execution unfolding so far? While this is the season of craziness for retail supply chains, it is worth your while to take a few moments to note the highs and the lows of your reusable pallet and container programs during the rush. I liken it to when your insurance provider or maintenance team uses an infrared thermal imaging tool to identify machinery that is running too hot in your plant. Hot bearings in machinery can increase the risk of fire and breakdown. Whether you are talking about reusables or machinery, failures in either area can play havoc with meeting customer expectations.

Seasonal pallet management

Making a note of pallet and container problems during the peak season can help you plan for a more successful campaign next year.

I was reminded that more reusables go missing in the holiday season in this recent commentary by Bakers Basco, the UK bakery tray pool. During the seasonal peak, it is all too tempting for people on the front line to “borrow” equipment for an unintended purpose. Delays in tray return, however, especially for fast turning categories such as bakery, can impede holiday deliveries. On the flip side, the Christmas season is also a time of year where empty reusables can stack up. Stored outside in unsecured locations, assets are more vulnerable to theft and contamination.

For many supply chains, the high season can be a time of too few or too many. It is all too frequent to find yourself with not enough pallets or not enough crates for picking and shipping, yet at retail, rapidly accumulating empty pallets and containers can leave stores and warehouses cramped for space when there are not enough trucks available to keep the store back room or the distribution center loading dock buildups of empties under control.

Over the years I’ve seen my share of bandaid solutions, like sending trucks store to store just to retrieve dairy crates to keep the milk plant going, or switching to emergency corrugated packaging reserves. Then of course, there are the storage trailers of excess empty pallets or containers that can become misplaced or forgotten in your trailer yard in the absence of a robust tracking system.

Savvy pool operators plan for more frequent pickups during the high season to keep their pooled assets moving. Keeping a record of equipment throughput can help in future planning. In my experience, fast-moving proprietary assets are more likely to be an issue – items such as plastic distribution pallets, dairy crates, bakery trays, HBC and pharma totes, etc. At a minimum, it is useful to keep stock frequently of equipment accumulations.

Communicating regularly with other stakeholders is also a good idea:

  • transport service providers to enable timely pickup or to provide extra storage trailers
  • sensitive production plants such as bakery and dairy regarding their production schedule requirements for reusables
  • distribution centers, retail stores and home delivery services to ensure expedient return, while avoiding unauthorized use or poorly managed storage tactics

By taking the time to scope your packaging hot spots this season, you will be better prepared to plan for next year’s perfect holiday execution.