A smaller pallet can help you get through narrow doors, reduce order picking and replenishment touch labor, reduce forklift movements, and more. However, it will take more pallets to handle the same amount of goods.
When it comes to pallet sizes, bigger is often better. Think of the 1000×1200 mm pallet footprint vs. the 800×1200, for example. The larger one potentially offers a 25% greater payload than the smaller one. That’s 25% fewer pallets to load, 25% fewer pallets to transport, 25% fewer pallets to unload, 25% fewer pallets to move through your facility, and not to mention 25% fewer pallets to purchase or accumulate for return when it comes to unit load handling efficiency, size matters.
The biggest isn’t always necessarily the best, however. As systems mature, including pallet systems, extra efficiency gains can sometimes be achieved through adding complexity – such as an additional pallet size, such as half pallets, quarter pallets, or custom pallet sizes. In some applications, the tactical deployment of smaller pallets can be advantageous. Here are eight reasons why smaller pallet sizes can be better:
When a Smaller Pallet Footprint Might Be Better
1 Where the size of the device being shipped only requires a smaller footprint, such as specific devices, retail cash equipment, large parts, electronics, etc.
2 When pallets need to go through doors in small retail formats instead of large overhead doors found at large stores and DCs. I once covered a paint company. It used narrow pallets to squeeze palletized products through the door opening.
3 When there isn’t enough room at the back of the trailer to fit standard footprint pallets. Smaller footprint pallets can fill up partial pallet positions left on the back of a trailer. I saw this at some automotive Tier 1 plants.
4 When a smaller amount of inventory is needed versus the amount that would be held on a standard pallet. If one full-size unit load provides stock that would last many months or possibly years, why tie up the inventory and space required for a whole pallet?
5 When a warehouse needs a narrower pallet width to allow more product facings in the same length of the aisle. This can increase SKU capacity. It also can reduce warehouse travel time between pick locations.
6 When the retail supply chain is looking to eliminate case picking by utilizing a more significant proportion of full pallet picks (either single SKU or pre-set multiple SKU), but a standard-sized pallet quantity is larger than the desired amount of product. For example, with a half pallet, a retail outlet needs only to order half as much product to enjoy the benefits of a pallet pick of a half pallet. A pallet shipment is a significant benefit for distribution. Fewer product touches can result in less frequent damages, fewer picking errors, and lower costs.
Reduced product touches also mean less manual labor cost for picking at the warehouse and stocking at the retail. Full pallet picks can also help reduce the need for transport packaging where packaging designers anticipate that the product will not have to be case picked (think Costco).
7 When floor “point of sale” displays at retail are desired to boost sales and make more of a promotional statement. As retail becomes increasingly competitive, these “point of sale” displays have become a strategic weapon for many retailers.
8 When small pallets are used to replenish in-aisle SKUs. When companies use half pallets, for example, to directly replenish the floor level of aisles, touch labor for picking and stocking is dramatically reduced. And just as in the case of full pallet picks, there may be opportunities to eliminate secondary packaging and minimize damage.
When Smaller Pallets Are Less
There are also reasons, however, why smaller pallets might not be a good fit for your operation:
- Smaller payload. As mentioned above, a 1000 x 1200 pallet potentially holds 25% more product than an 800 x 1200.
- Pallet handling equipment compatibility and load instability. Small footprint unit loads can also pose challenges for material handlers and for engagement with particular material handling equipment. Some configurations may be more unstable than full pallets, requiring attention to mobile equipment selection and operator training.
- Empty pallet return. Once emptied, small pallets must be sorted for reuse or return, or otherwise recycled. Small pallets, especially non-fractional sizes, are often less desirable to pallet recyclers and will result in wood waste generation if not part of a pallet reuse solution.
- You don’t need them. The deployment of smaller pallets may not be advantageous for many supply chains.
In the final analysis, larger pallet footprints may be more efficient, but sometimes, less can be more, depending on the challenge at hand. Is there an opportunity in your supply chain for the tactical deployment of smaller pallets?