Anyone who’s never packed a pallet might assume it’s a pretty simple task — one just needs to place heavier things on the bottom and lighter items on the top. However, industry professionals know that’s not the whole picture. Pallet stability is essential.
A few points are essential to keep in mind to pack a pallet just right. Minor mistakes can cause things to go wrong in big ways, so having a set organizational strategy can help ensure pallets are stable and safe for transport.
Check out the following do’s and don’ts of pallet stacking and packing. Companies need to conduct these operations properly to ensure safety and efficiency.
Do Inspect the Pallet Before Loading
Even if a pallet is perfectly packed, one with cracks or other damage will not be stable and should not be used for packing. Before loading anything onto a pallet, inspect all sides to ensure there are no issues that would impact its structural integrity.
Another thing to watch out for is sharp protrusions. Large splinters or sharp edges are a safety concern because they can harm anyone involved in loading, transporting and unloading the pallet.
Do Fit the Load to the Pallet
The most important way to maintain pallet stability is to be intentional about the shape when workers are loading merchandise onto it. Conform the load to the pallet so all the merchandise fits within the four sides.
A good rule of thumb is to keep the load within 1.5 inches of the pallet’s edge on all sides. Containing everything within the confines of the pallet provides more stability, creating a center of gravity that does not exceed the sides.
Do Distribute Heavier Items on the Bottom
A pallet’s foundation ensures its stability. Gravity is an important factor in loading the pallet, so be sure to distribute heavier items on the bottom. This organization keeps the center of gravity low.
Pallets should have a low center of gravity because they need to remain stable during transportation, whether on a manual or electric jack or a forklift truck. Forces like gravity and inertia continually act on objects, which counteracts them and keeps the pallet from toppling over.
Do Keep Same-Size Boxes Together
Packing a pallet works best when the merchandise is all the same size. Ideally, each pallet would be perfectly symmetrical and identical, but that is not a realistic scenario. It’s best to pack items of the same size together, even if all the boxes don’t have equivalent dimensions.
The best way to pack a pallet is with the cube formation method. This means the pallet should resemble a cube with even sides all around, even on top. This technique is easy with similar or same-sized boxes but becomes more difficult with varying sizes.
More forethought and planning are required when there are various types and sizes of boxes or merchandise workers need to load on a single pallet. Set out all the boxes that need to be packed on the pallet to determine the right order.
For example, the larger boxes should generally go on the bottom to provide the best stability. However, if the smaller containers are much heavier than the bigger ones, placing those on the pallet first may be a good idea. That would provide the best weight distribution and avoid damaging items underneath.
Do Pack a Pallet With the Right Containment Force
The containment force helps keep the merchandise on the pallet together and contributes to overall stability. The snugness of the wrap film around the items accounts for this.
The tension of the wrap film and the force it applies is much more integral to stability than the amount used, the number of layers or its gauge. There could be 5 inches of wrap film, and items may still fall off the pallet if it’s not tight enough.
Don’t Let Merchandise Overhang When Pallet Stacking
One of the biggest contributors to unstable pallets is having merchandise overhanging the edges. When this happens, the pallets are liable to topple over or the items can fall off entirely while in transit, leading to damage or injuries.
Another negative consequence of boxes overhanging the sides of the pallet is that they are more difficult to store and move. Many warehouses stack them for storage and need to move them around quickly. Pallets with different widths make fitting them on top of each other a long — and heavy — puzzle.
Don’t Place Heavy Items on Top
Placing heavy items on the bottom is a strategic move for stability and safety. This prevents the pallet from becoming top-heavy. This may not be a problem for stationary storage, but it is likely to tip over if moved, posing a significant safety risk.
Heavier boxes and merchandise can damage underlying items if they are stored on top for long periods. Keeping weighty things on the bottom ensures everything above remains intact during storage and transit and keeps losses to a minimum.
Don’t Let Wrap Film Hang From the Pallet
After securing the pallet with a tight wrapping, it’s important to “cut the tail” so there is no wrap film hanging off. This could pose a significant hazard because it could get caught up in machinery or underneath other pallets, making it unstable.
Avoid a tail by tucking the remaining wrap film between the other layers or cutting off any portions that may become loose during transit. This is a simple yet vital safety step that ensures safety.
Pallet Stability Improves Efficiency
These pallet stacking dos and don’ts can help warehouses stay efficient and improve productivity. Other efficiency measures include leveraging real-time data to optimize processes and ensure equipment longevity. These practices combined can make facilities optimize their operations to the max.
Pack a pallet well to ensure efficiency in warehouse operations. Toppled pallets pose a significant safety risk to workers, reduce productivity and impede profits due to damaged merchandise. Improving pallet stability helps companies make the most of their time and resources, ensuring a robust bottom line.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world.