Loading your freight onto pallets for ocean, rail and road transport offers you several advantages along your supply chain. In addition to allowing you to move larger quantities of goods more efficiently, standardized pallets also make shipping and storage of your goods simpler for you and your carrier. Finally, because palletized goods can be moved easily by all the links that make up your supply chain, pallets give your freight greater protection—but only when they’re packed and secured properly.
Damaged freight creates significant challenges for your business. Crushed boxes, dented or scratched inventory or, worse, broken parts, can impact your bottom line considerably. They can also upset your customers. Additionally, if these issues are happening with any regularity, they can erode trust between you and your business partners.
At Approved, we inspect every shipment that comes through our warehouse to ensure that it’s packed right for the next leg of its journey. (That’s tens of thousands of shipments a year!) As a result, we’ve seen both the best practices—and the worst mistakes—when it comes to palletized freight.
To help you palletize your goods right and avoid creating challenges within your supply chain, we’ve put together a list of four best practices. By following these four guidelines, you’ll give your goods maximum protection against any damage as they make their journey all the way from origin to final destination.
Best Practice #1: Inspect Your Pallets for Any Damage Before Re-Use
Your palletized freight shipment is only as strong as the pallet that supports it. Before you re-use a wooden pallet, make sure to inspect it for any structural damage.
Even one cracked board could break under the weight of your freight, allowing a case to fall into the crack, which could make picking up and moving that pallet challenging. Alternatively, if a forklift operator doesn’t notice that the case has shifted, that case could get damaged when it gets moved.
So before you even start to load your pallet, make sure it’s strong enough for its next journey.
Reminder: If your shipment is going international, don’t forget to use heat-treated pallets that are approved for international shipments.
Best Practice #2: Use Corner Boards for Extra Support
Especially when you’re dealing with heavier freight, you probably already know that you should stack your pallet with heavier items on the bottom. This will not only keep you from crushing lighter items but it will also make for a much more stable, well-balanced pallet.
If you’ve got an especially heavy load, you may want to use corner boards. As the name implies, corner boards reinforce the four corners of your palletized shipment to give the edges of your shipment extra protection. They can also help make your stacks structurally stronger, and they’ll prevent straps and shrink wrap from crushing your boxes. (More on that in a moment!)
Corner boards come in a variety of materials. You may also see them referred to as “edge protectors.” By utilizing them on your palletized freight, you’ll give your shipment an extra layer of strength and protection that can go a long way toward a flawless arrival.
Best Practice #3: Wrap Your Shipment Right
Whether you do it by hand or machine, stretch-wrapping your goods to your pallet can secure your load against slipping, damage or loss. However, we often see shippers make two common mistakes with stretch wrap:
Mistake #1: Not Securing the Load to the Pallet
If you don’t secure the load tightly to your pallet, if there’s any shifting inside the truck or container, the pallet may stay in place but the freight itself is going to move. Not only does this mean potential damage in transit, it also means it could be difficult to get your freight out of the truck or container, which could result in even further damage.
Pro Tip from Rick Raygoza, Operations Manager, Approved Freight: Whether you’re doing it by hand or with a machine, do three turns on the bottom with stretch wrap to secure the freight to the pallet itself before wrapping the rest of the shipment. That way, if there’s any movement inside the trailer or container, if pallet doesn’t move, the freight won’t go anywhere.
Mistake #2: Wrapping the Load Too Tight
Shippers who use a machine sometimes wrap the shipment too tightly and crush their boxes. This affects the structural integrity of the entire load before it even leaves your warehouse.
Pro Tip from Rick Raygoza, Operations Manager, Approved Freight: This is where corner boards come in. When you use them on all four corners of your load, you’re putting the pressure from the stretch wrap on the corner boards and not on the freight itself.
By using corner boards on your machine-wrapped loads, you’re giving your freight yet another level of structural protection to ensure that your goods arrive with zero damage.
Best Practice #4: Know When Your Freight Needs a Crate
Not all freight is right for a pallet. Normally, palletized shipments can be stacked on top of each other within trailers or containers. However, when it comes to something like a small machine or an air conditioning unit that’s loaded on to a pallet, your shipper can’t stack anything on top of it. Additionally, if it’s heavy, it likely can’t be stacked on top of another shipment. Because it can’t be treated like other, stackable palletized freight, your carrier might levy extra charges for your shipment.
But perhaps more importantly, a pallet may also not provide enough protection for these types of shipments. If you’re shipping a small machine, an air conditioning unit, a motor or something like it, a crate will be your safer option, especially when it comes to ocean freight.
If you’re not sure whether your shipment needs to be crated, call your carrier or freight forwarder. Not only can they give you expert advice, but they also may be able to crate it for you and invoice you for the service.
Proper Protection for Safe Transit
At the end of the day, it’s more than worth it to take a little extra time and care when packing palletized shipments. After all, goods that arrive in perfect condition keep your customers and vendors happy—and they help you avoid the extra expenses associated with replacement or repair.
Finally, proper palletization also helps you establish a level of trust with the companies receiving your shipments. When they know you’re a partner who cares about their business, one on whom they can rely for on-time, undamaged shipments, you’ll get the edge in securing a long-term relationship that’s lucrative for all parties.
Have some questions about palletized freight? We’d be happy to help. Just reach out to us, and we’ll walk you through the options that are right for your shipments—and your business.