When you consider digital technology's impact on the pallet industry, it's stunning how much pallet production has improved in a short time. Advances in software, automation, communication devices, recycling processes, and more have made pallet production and usage much more efficient. Here are answers to the question: where can I buy pallets, and how have they improved due to modern technology?
Inventory Software Creates More Organized Warehousing
Warehouse management software (WMS) allows warehouses to keep better inventory, not just of products but of pallets as well. These systems help you track items with RFID tags embedded so that they're easy to locate instantly in a large warehouse. Time is of the essence in the logistics world. A WMS platform that integrates GPS saves time and contributes to a domino effect of more efficient loading, unloading, and delivery.
Since warehouses have become much more organized due to warehouse management software, pallets last longer because they aren't thrown in piles and degraded quickly. Manufacturers used to trash pallets when too many piled up, but now there's a conscious effort to recycle. A Peerless Research Group (PRG) study found in 2019 that 58 percent of pallet users in its sample have embraced stringer class recycled wooden pallets.
Interconnected Suppliers Via Networking Extend Pallet Lifespan
The lifespan of a pallet has extended through networking. When a distribution center gets a buildup of too many pallets, it can network with other distributors to see who needs extra pallets. In that sense, email, social media, and other forms of digital communication have paved the way toward more interconnected organizations and networks.
Pallets can be moved around to where they're needed instead of contributing to environmental waste. In many cases, pallets are easy to repurpose into other work tools. Wooden and plastic pallets can be recycled once they become highly worn. Conserving available storage space is valuable in a large manufacturing plant or warehouse. The pallet market size is expected to grow from $79 million in 2019 to over $110 million by 2027. Part of the industry's optimistic growth forecast stems from the rise of eCommerce, which has streamlined the ordering process.
Logistics firms face new challenges presented by new technology by becoming more digitized. The biggest challenges involve investing in the appropriate people and technology, using big data effectively, and staying updated with the latest cybersecurity software. Pallet users can look at innovative logistics firms that have found modern solutions to logistics challenges.
Pallet Design And Production Streamlining
Another example of technology's impact on the pallet industry has been how AutoCAD software programs have made it easier for engineers to design physical items like pallets. A wooden pallet and electric saws that make pallets can be designed more efficiently with software tools that reduce production waste.
Design software has helped the pallet industry become more streamlined, allowing pallet makers to sell products at a more affordable rate to logistics firms. Earlier this century, manufacturers began adopting Industry 4.0 technology, including IoT devices, automated processes, and artificial intelligence.
Robots equipped with sensors have also contributed to improved pallet production. A study by McKinsey & Company found that the average cost of making a robot has fallen in half the past three decades while human labor costs have escalated. The convergence of these advancements through cloud computing has made production more cost-effective while speeding up ordering and distribution processes.
Exploring Alternatives To Wooden Pallets
Part of the rising demand for pallets among a wide range of industries is attributed to the advent of plastic pallets through injection molding, allowing more accessible transport of goods. Plastic pallets can be easily cleaned and sanitized, making them useful for transporting food, beverage, pharma, and chemical products. Furthermore, plastic pallets provide an alternative to wooden pallets, which are affected by rising lumber prices.
Plastic pallets have grown in demand because plastic is cleaner and more resistant to environmental issues such as weather and contamination. Wood absorbs moisture, causing it to rot over time and potentially dangerous pathogens. Not only is plastic more durable than wood, but it’s also more lightweight, making it easier to transport. The 2020 Modern Materials Handling report revealed that 37 percent of pallet users utilized plastic pallets.
One of the problems with wood is that it expands with heat and contracts with coldness. This natural occurrence can cause pallet sizes and shapes to change slightly, making it challenging to use precision-sensitive automation equipment for stacking items. The ideal pallet material for these advanced machines is pultruded glass fiber covered in polyurethane resin, which generates fiber-reinforced plastic. This heat-resistant material, unlike wood, doesn't crack, bend, or splinter, making it less likely to jam up automated machines.
How IoT Revolutionized Pallet Manufacturers
One of the essential uses of IoT sensors has been in manufacturing factories that produce hundreds or thousands of products per day. These data-collecting sensors can provide facility analysts with a high volume of valuable data about operational functions. It's far too much data for one person to collect independently. Still, machine learning programs can sort through the data in seconds to identify system vulnerabilities and potential solutions.
Real-time data helps decision-makers resolve production problems significantly faster than last century's producers. What used to take months to fix can now be adjusted the same day production inefficiencies are discovered. At the core of this revolution has been IoT-enabled scanning devices to monitor processes that have helped pallet manufacturers create more space-efficient physical layouts for their facilities.
Another significant IoT development that combines with AI has been autonomous vehicles. In the future, these automated guided machines may eliminate the need for forklift operators, leading to further savings. Additionally, self-driving vehicles create safer factory conditions, reducing the chances of worker injuries.
The trend toward digital transformation among manufacturers has increased in recent years, even before the pandemic. In 2019 Gartner's Digital Business Impact on the Supply Chain Survey found that about 60 percent of suppliers had either partially or wholly installed IoT devices across their operations.
Digital technology's impact on the pallet industry has been enormous in just the past decade. Due to digital innovations, supply chains now have multiple choices to refine their operations. This fantastic development leads to the fundamental question: where can I buy pallets?