What You Need to Know About Pallet Manufacture

Pallet production is not quite as cut and dry as it seems. As a matter of fact, you should be sure that you choose a trusted pallet manufacture, or you could wind up on the losing end of the deal.

Pallet construction can vary greatly from one manufacturer to another. You want to be sure that you choose the wood pallet manufacturers that you can trust for quality.

Learning as much as you can about pallet production and manufacturing can help you to make an informed choices about where your pallet comes from.

Before We Get Started There are a Few Things You Should Know

Not all the wooden pallet manufacturers can be trusted to deliver the high-quality pallets that you want for your business. There are a few ways that you can be “cheated” when it comes to your pallet order including:

  1. Custom pallet is not as custom as you think. Let’s say you order a pallet that is longer or wider than the standard size pallet. Your expectations are likely that the pallet will be built to order, but what you get may just be a standard size pallet with extra blocks and stringers added on. It can be the right size, but the more important question is whether it will hold up.
  2. Your first order is great but than things take a dive. A lot of manufacturers out there want your business and to get that business they will say and do whatever it takes but once they have you locked in, the quality quickly starts going down.
  3. “Used” can mean “used without repairs”. Be careful when you opt to buy used pallets. Unfortunately, some manufacturers sell “used pallets” that give buyers the impression that used is just as good as new, but the manufacturer has done nothing to refurbish the pallet. Sometimes “used” can mean broken and unrepairable.
  4. Rental pallets that are sold as used pallets. There is a large rental pallet industry. Some manufacturers sell rental pallets as used pallets even when they are clearly marked as property of a certain company. You can do your part by refusing to buy pallets that are marked as property of other firms.

Learning more about pallet production can help you to understand the right way pallets should be manufactured to help you avoid winding up with a manufacturer that is less than a quality manufacturer.

The Process

For the purpose of this article, everything that we cover will be about wooden pallets. Plastic pallets are constructed differently.

The first step in the production of pallets is to secure the raw materials. The primary raw material for wooden pallets is wood. Wood is typically secured from a lumber yard in mass quantity. Depending on the manufacturer the wood may be a soft wood variety or a hard wood variety or a combination of them both.

Pallet lumber

Most manufacturers cannot identify the type of wood that is contained in their pallets with 100% certainty.  In many cases, the type of wood that is used is the type of wood that is greatly available in their region.

For example, oak is used in the manufacture of furniture and homes so there is often a surplus left over of this type of wood in the US. Softwoods are also usually widely available globally and have the added value of a more even weight distribution.

Once the wood is secured from the lumber yard the work begins. Wooden pallet manufacturers typically have automated machinery to cut the large boards into specific sized stringers, blocks and deck boards. The boards can be cut into size manually or using automation.

The stringers and other parts can be heated treated either before construction of after, in most cases the parts are heat treated instead of dealing with treating the whole which is cumbersome. After the pats are treated (in some cases they are not) than everything is put together.

The actual construction can be done by hand with a pneumatic nail gun or it can be done with automation machinery. Typically, the size of the operation delegates whether labor is putting the pallets together or machinery is.

One of the most important steps is Q&A. Quality and assurance is an inspection process that all the best wood pallet manufacturers take seriously. Each pallet is inspected for quality and for construction during this phase. Pallets that have certain attributes are rejected by the Q&A team, some of those defects right off the assembly line can include:

  • “Shiners” – shiners is an industry term to describe nails that have been driven completely through one board with part of the nail sticking out or up. This usually happens when a pneumatic nail gun is used, and the operator miscalculates where the nail should be placed. The nail never quite makes it through the stringer and is left exposed.
  • “Stubble” – stubble is industry language to describe pieces of the nail or fastening device that is exposed. Pallets should never have raised heads or broken off fasteners that you can feel.

Some manufacturers will let the above slip through, trusted manufacturers do not. The reason it is imperative not to have Shiners or Stubble on a pallet is because they can cause damage to goods and of course personal injury. Nails that missed their mark mean that something is not fastened correctly, and it could compromise the stability of the pallet.

Used Pallets

There is also an arm of pallet production that focuses on recycling pallets by selling used pallets. There is a right way and a wrong way to produce re-sellable used pallets.

Some manufacturers (as mentioned in the opening of this article) do absolutely nothing to the pallet before they resell it. Basically, what you get is a pallet in an “as is” condition. That means that stringers can be cracked, broken, chipped and even missing.

Most people when they are buying pallets are not looking for pallets that are damaged, used is fine, but damaged is not okay.

The right way to refurbish used pallets is to:

  • Replace missing stringers
  • Repair broken stringers (typically by replacing)
  • Check pallet for loose fasteners
  • Replace loose or broken fasteners
  • Replace missing blocks
  • Check the overall structure for any missing, broken parts and replace

Some manufacturers go the extra mile when it comes to recycling used pallets and make them as good as new before they ship them out. Other manufacturers do not. Used pallets can save you a great deal of money and can help you to support the environment if you are getting the right value.

Of course, to get the best value from your pallets whether used or new, choosing the right pallet manufacturer is vital. Pallets that are “used” but not refurbished have the opposite results of what you are looking for.

Broken free pallets

When used pallets are not refurbished correctly you wind up with a stack of wood that you cannot rely on, it quickly becomes a waste of money. It is critical to choose a manufacturer that takes pride in everything that they sell including used pallet options.

A trusted manufacture will use a pallet grading system for their used pallets to make it easier for their customers to make informed decisions. The grading system is as follows:

  1. Premium – premium pallets show very little evidence of use, they have likely only been used a couple of times. If there have been any repairs, there have only been a small number of repairs, but they are not the type of repairs that have not affected the integrity of the pallet.
  2. A Grade or Grade 1 pallets – these type of graded pallets are structurally sound. There have been repairs made. The repairs can include replacement of damaged stringers or boards. The pallet is in good shape and has been restored to like new condition.
  3. B Grade or Grade 2 pallets – these pallets are not as aesthetically appealing as A Grade pallets. Repairs have been made but the repairs may be a little more obvious however the repairs do not affect the integrity of the pallet, it just is not as “pretty” as a A Grade pallet.
  4. C Grade or Grade 3 pallets – these pallets are overall the bottom of the barrel when it comes to pallets. There have been multiple repairs, which leaves the pallet not in the best condition. C Grade pallets are often a mishmash of different size stringers and boards. They usually are not accepted by businesses.

Obviously when buying used pallets, the goal is to stay within the premium to B Grade realm, but if you are not dealing with a trusted manufacturer, you may wind up with C Grade.

The right source will share information with you about their used pallets and be honest so you do not wind up with a load of C Grade pallets that you cannot use or do not want to use for your business.

While C Grade is not a good choice for most businesses, they can be a great choice for anyone that has the intention of repurposing pallets into furniture or other crafts. While C Grade may not be the best value for a business, they can be a great value for anyone that wants cheap pallets to repurpose.

Of course, again, getting the value starts with that trusted source.

How Do You Choose?

Of course, now that you know how pallets are manufactured and understand that process to producing a great pallet is straight forward, the next question is how do you know which manufacturer to choose?

We discussed quality assurance above and briefly went over how important it is to choose a manufacturer that has a dedicated Q&A team in place. One of the key things to look for when you are considering which manufacturer is going to deliver the high-quality pallets that you deserve is to ask the manufacturer if they have a quality assurance plan in place and how they address that plan.

Quality assurance practices are one way to know that you are dealing with a trusted manufacturer that makes customer satisfaction a priority. Consider the following information about why choosing quality pallets from a trusted manufacturer is so important:

  • Quality pallets last longer
  • Quality pallets are safer
  • They can be trusted to transport and store your goods

Longer lasting pallets are pallets that are constructed the right way. When you choose a quality manufacturer you are making the choice for pallets that will serve your enterprise for years to come worry free. Of course, you also can realize savings by choosing quality from the beginning. The longer pallets are in service the less pallets you must purchase.

Safety must always be a priority. Wood pallets that are not constructed to withstand the rigors of carrying heavy weights, being moved by a forklift or a pallet jack can cause not only product damage but can also cause serious injury. Pallets that are not inspected for quality before they leave the manufacturer can cost you plenty!

As a business owner you have a lot to worry about, whether your pallets are going to keep your goods safe while they are being transported, should not be one of your worries. Choose a quality manufacturer and avoid the worries!

Last Words

If you do business locally and internationally your best option is to choose a manufacturer that produces heat treated pallets. Heat treated pallets are required for international trade by many receiving countries.

You can identify how the pallet has been treated by the following codes:

  • HT] = Heat treatment
  • [MB] = Methyl Bromide
  • [DB] = Debarked
  • [KD] = Kiln Dried

There will also be an IPPC code located on the pallet as well. Understanding the codes and how they affect the integrity and acceptance of the pallet will make your job easier. This is another point where having a trusted manufacturer is important.

After reading this guide you should understand how pallets are manufactured and know what to look for in a quality pallet.