Looking at an unloved pallet lost in the corner of a warehouse or factory yard, it might be hard to appreciate that at the beginning of its journey real care was taken to use it efficiently.
There is a mathematical science behind the perfect use of a pallet. It is referred to as ‘pallet cube optimisation’ and a lot of people, time and research is dedicated to this unsung science.
Put very simply, ‘pallet cube optimisation’ means getting as many products on a pallet as possible. The more products you can get on to a single pallet, the more you can reduce your shipping costs and carbon footprint. Of course, this has to be done using the laws of physics. Any manipulation of the time and space continuum would be cheating.
The most quoted example is the Ikea ‘Bang’ mug. In Colin White’s book ‘Strategic Management’ he describes how the mug was redesigned a number of times to specifically fit more on to a pallet. Instead of 864 mugs, Ikea managed to squeezed 2,204 on to a pallet and cut 60% off its shipping costs. It just goes to show that the boffins at Ikea are no mugs… (We’d recommend their Swedish meatballs too.)
There are even 3D computer software solutions dedicated to helping manufacturers and distributors pile more products onto a pallet. At the very basic level the software allows you to type in the dimensions of your product or its packaging and it will show you the best way to stack the pallet. Most software solutions can do a lot more than that but you get the picture.
The point is that right from the start a lot of effort and care goes into using a pallet to the absolute max. So, it is a crying shame to then simple discard the wooden wonder into a corner once the product reaches its destination. The least we can do is make sure that the pallet continues to be cared for, recycled and reused to the absolute max again and again.