Next Year to be Fantastic for Plastic says Pallet Maker
15 May 2017
Next year to be fantastic for plastic says pallet maker
Wooden pallets first began to be used in the 1920s, and they have changed little since. At the time they were a great step forward, because they greatly speeded up the task of unloading and loading the old freight wagons, which could take about three days sometimes.
The plastic pallet probably represents the first major advance since the invention of the wooden pallet. And like the original pallets, plastic ones have been widely adopted because of the business benefits they can offer over their wooden counterparts.
For example, companies are leaning towards revolutionary engineered composite-material pallets that beat wood on most grounds that can be envisaged: it’s more hygienic, lighter, lasts longer, is easier to handle, fire-resistant and made from sustainable materials.
Internet of Things
One reason that people are looking at the plastic industry is that plastic pallets are the ideal product to hook into the Internet of Things (IoT). This is about to produce the second wave of automation that will revolutionise logistics and other industries.
How this works in terms of plastic pallets is that each pallet has a processing unit and transponder embedded in it which is capable of transmitting and receiving information via the internet. This enables the pallet to store all kinds of information about its current load, journey, date limits and so on. It can tell its host system where it is at any given time. The receiving system can then collate the information from thousands, or millions, of pallets to provide an accurate time-stamped picture of where goods are, when they need to be moved, what conditions are required, and dozens of other pieces of logistics information, including the ambient temperature and the weight of the pallet and its goods.
Revolutionising Logistics, Warehousing and Asset Management
The key thing about this information is that it can be collected, transmitted, analysed and acted upon with hardly any human intervention. Each pallet effectively contains its own instructions for handling and transport. There is very little infrastructure requirement. And handling can take place day and night, since there is no need for human warehouse operatives.
These possibilities have a huge effect on the profitability and cost-effectiveness of warehouses operated by businesses. The completely automated warehouse is now within reach, not only for the Amazons of the world but also for medium-sized and even small businesses.
Asset management is also being revolutionised because of the inclusion of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in a chip inside the plastic pallet. This can tell the controller the exact position and state of the asset – providing numerous benefits, including more accurate communication to customers on when goods will be delivered and greatly improved security, since every pallet can signal where it is at any time.
It’s rare to get a transformative development in logistics, but the plastic pallet is just that.