Pallet survey trends offer some surprises as well as affirmations.
Each year, Modern Materials Handling Magazine undertakes a survey of pallet users. This year marks the 13th annual study, once again undertaken by Peerless Research Group. It examines pallet preferences, the evolution of pallet usage, and international trends in pallet buying and utilization.
In interpreting the pallet survey results, note that numbers for a particular response can add up to more than 100% as respondents indicate products and services they use rather than proportionately what they employ. For example, they might use wood and plastic pallets, and respond affirmatively to using both.
For the 2023 pallet survey, 160 Modern Materials Handling readers participated in its annual pallet usage survey. Respondents were predominantly employed in manufacturing (53%), wholesale trade (13%) or retail (9%). They work in a variety of industries, including food, beverage and tobacco; automotive and transportation equipment; industrial machinery; and chemicals/pharmaceuticals.
Here are some of the major takeaways from the MMH pallet survey:
Pallet Material and Size Trends
- 94% of respondents use wood pallets, maintaining consistent popularity.
- Usage of plastic pallets is at 38%, up from 31% last year.
- The traditional 48 x 40-inch pallet usage dropped to 70% from 77%, while the 48 x 48-inch pallet usage surged to 40%, up from 27% in 2022. (Keep in mind that this is the percentage of respondents saying that they use 48 x 48-inch pallets of any amount rather than the percentage of pallets they use.)
New vs. Used Pallets
- 56% buy new wood pallets, but 71% acquire used or core wood pallets.
- 35% note a decline in available used pallets, while 45% find them costlier.
- 44% increased their use of used pallets over the past year.
Plastic Pallets in Demand
- 14% of companies are using more plastic pallets compared to the previous year.
- Factors driving this shift include compliance (27%), sustainability over wood (19%), durability (17%), better control (13%), and customer requests (12%).
Pallet Rental & Retrieval
The majority of respondents (76%) don’t rent pallets or have intentions in that regard. However, 27% are considering pallet retrieval or third-party rental in the coming year.
- 58% anticipate an increase in internationally shipped pallets over the next two years.
- 45% treat pallets when shipping internationally, and 26% prefer non-wood options for international shipments.
Additional Pallet Services
- Pallet providers are offering more than just pallets. Some of these services include onsite recycling (34%), vendor-managed inventory (28%), and backhauls (22%).
- 10% of suppliers provide data related to supply chain networks.
- 29% face challenges with unit load stability.
- Solutions to this include stretch film (65%), shrink film (46%), and strapping (40%).
- Automation in stretch wrapping is increasing, with 23% using semi- or fully automated wrappers, a growth from 17% in the previous year.
Comments on Modern’s Pallet Survey
For me, one of the surprising takeaways was to find out that almost 30% of respondents have issues with unit load stability. That sounds like an opportunity! It was also curious to see respondents reporting higher pallet prices in 2023 than in 2022, even as prices have softened this year, and likewise, tighter supply of recycled pallets, which seems to fly in the face of other reports. Perhaps it is an information lag. I have no explanation for the jump in 48 x 48-inch pallet usage. That is a size commonly used for drums. The use of half pallets showed a modest increase from 7% to 9%. To me, the half pallet remains an underutilized solution.
Some of the results affirm common assumptions, such as the predominance of wood pallets and then by plastic pallets in second position. In the survey, these were followed in popularity by wood composite, metal and cardboard or corrugated.
You can read the full article at Modern Materials Handling.