Plastic pallet trends continue to be amplified by recent events. Applications impacted by the impact of COVID-19, disrupted supply chains, automation, hygiene requirements, sustainability, ocean plastic, retailer requirements, and much more. We recently caught up with Alison Zitzke, Senior Product Manager at ORBIS Corporation, who shared some brief thoughts about plastic pallet trends with us.
RPN: Has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the conversation around plastic pallets for customers or potential customers? If so, in what way?
AZ: COVID has been a catalyst for change in the world of plastic pallets due to supply chain disruptions (wood pallets being expensive and not available), high desire for hygienics and cleanliness in food and pharma customers, and increased automation because of labor shortages due to COVID.
RPN: We have seen a lot of interest in warehouse automation, further boosted by COVID. What should customers be thinking about when sourcing pallets for automated systems?
AZ: Plastic pallets are tailor-made for automation. Unlike wood pallets that can have broken boards or popped-out nails causing disruptions in an automated system, plastic pallets are dimensionally consistent and have smooth designs for seamless integration. ORBIS offers multiple different options for anti-slip elements in pallets to ensure that load stability in automated systems is maintained.
RPN: How about sourcing pallets for cleanroom or hygienic applications as a plastic pallet trend? Is this an area of growing interest? What products/features does ORBIS offer in this area that customers should be aware of?
AZ: ORBIS offers numerous pallets that are hygienic and have flow-through designs for cleanroom applications. The newest addition, the 40×48 Odyssey pallet, offers a variety of deck options depending on the application and desire for washing or wiping down. Many reusable plastic packaging solutions also use FDA-compliant materials, adding to their food safety benefits.
RPN: Regarding the beverage industry and FMCG distribution pallets, is there anything new in this area regarding challenges or products?
AZ: The beverage can industry is booming right now with high levels of demand for 44×56 pallets, top frames, and sheets. ORBIS offers a full suite of products for the inbound market, as well as numerous finished goods options for outbound deliveries. Having plastic throughout the entire supply chain alleviates issues with consistency, product damage, and handling.
RPN: What about large retailers deciding to mandate plastic pallets. Do you have any thoughts on what this might mean for the broader acceptance of plastic pallets?
Large retailers announcing plastic pallet mandates will open up countless opportunities moving forward. Their consideration for cleanliness, sustainability, and safety for their employees and their customers is a trendsetting decision in the retail world. Customers who have not considered plastic pallets previously are now open to the massive benefits that are falling together due to COVID and the shift in the entire supply chain network. Once the broader CPGs realize how much easier a plastic pallet is to use and reuse – I would anticipate broad acceptance throughout North America.
RPN: Material prices have skyrocketed – for wood, steel, plastic, etc. How has wood pallet pricing/availability impacted interest in plastic pallets?
AZ: The prices of wood pallets have opened up many opportunities for plastic that may have been harder to justify before. Conversions that used to take years to justify are coming to life more quickly. ORBIS offers full conversion services from the product, pallet management, and recycling at the end of the pallet’s life. Additionally, many of ORBIS’ pallets are made with recycled material which helps to control costs as well as support sustainability initiatives.
RPN: Have you developed a plastic pallet using ocean-bound plastic, and if so, why was it important to do so?
AZ: ORBIS manufactures plastic pallets using ocean-bound plastic and 100% recycled material. Regardless of the packaging solution, using ocean-bound plastic is important as it reduces waste, conserves natural coastlines, and supports economies in developing coastline communities where waste (accumulates). With more than 17 billion pounds of single-use plastic waste entering our oceans each year, ORBIS is proud to lead the way in repurposing coastline plastic waste and helping our customers create a more sustainable supply chain.
In fact, ORBIS is diverting roughly 1 million lbs. of single-use plastic from our oceans and waterways this year. That’s equivalent to 50M shampoo bottles.
RPN: Anything else that is relatively new and interesting in the world of plastic pallets?
AZ: Plastic pallet durability continues to improve. In FasTrack testing completed at Virginia Tech, the ORBIS Odyssey® rackable pallet completed 400 turns before significant damage or failure, versus 11 trips by a standard wood pallet.