Loading and transporting packages
When you buy something online or from a retail store, you probably don’t give a great deal of thought to the number of stages it has had to go through or the amount of planning required to make the whole thing happen safely and effectively.
Most manufacturers will usually sell via a third party, such as a high street shop, an online retailer like Amazon or some kind of wholesaler. That means that, quite apart from the packaging required to protect the individual products, a great deal of consideration is needed to ensure they can be safely transported in bulk.
That will normally require the goods in question to be stacked on a pallet and loaded onto a truck, before being transported to the seller. There are plenty of guides available on how to package your product, but what should you be thinking about when it comes to this second stage, which is just as important, but generally not discussed as frequently?
Loading a pallet
Standard pallets come in the following sizes: 1200 x 1000mm, 1200 x 800mm and 800 x 600mm. The first thing to consider, then, is how you’re going to load the pallet to make best use of the space available. After all, you’re usually going to be paying any courier per pallet, so it makes sense that the more packages you can safely get onto the pallet, the less you’ll be paying for each one. And even if you’re managing the transportation yourself, it will still pay you to use as few pallets as possible.
Some packaging suppliers have special pallet optimised boxes, which have been selected to fit onto standard pallets. They will allow you to fill close to the full available space on the pallet, without going over the edge. That last point is one of the most important of all – if any of your boxes do encroach over the edge of the pallet, then no matter how skilled your fork lift driver, they’re far more likely to get damaged.
As well as planning the loading of your pallet to make best use of the pallet footprint, it’s also worth taking the time to make yourself aware of how high you can stack. Any limitations will be dictated either by your courier’s terms and conditions or by the size of the container in which your pallet is to be shipped.
The final thing to bear in mind when loading a pallet is that you want to stack your cartons as closely together as possible to stop them shifting about when in transit.
Securing a pallet
Once you’ve loaded a pallet, you’ll need to secure it ready for transportation. The two most common solutions for this are pallet wrap and strapping.
Pallet wrap – also known as stretch film – is thin polythene on a roll that can be wrapped round a loaded pallet to hold everything in place. It’s very flexible, so that you can stretch it and create a tight, secure hold. When applying stretch film, try to cover the pallet’s feet as well, to reduce the risk of boxes falling off should the pallet be tilted when being loaded and unloaded.
Another good idea is to occasionally rotate the roll through 180o during the wrapping process; this is another good way of adding extra supportive strength.
It was previously mentioned that it is important to stack cartons together closely on a pallet; if you leave gaps between them, they are likely to shift in transit, pushing against the pallet wrap which is likely to eventually yield under the pressure. The result is to be even more space for them to shift around in. For this reason, for irregular and/or heavy loads, it is not advisable to use pallet wrap on its own.
Strapping provides a far stronger option and is the best choice for those heavy and irregular items. It is available made out of polypropylene, polyester and steel, and at its strongest is capable of supporting a load of several hundred kilogrammes. It is applied using special tools, one of which tensions it so that the load is held as securely as possible. If you are using it to hold cardboard boxes, it can damage the boxes on the top of the pallet when being tensioned, by cutting into the cardboard. This can be prevented by using specially designed plastic edge protectors, easily available from most packaging suppliers.
To cover the whole length of the cartons at the top of the pallet, there are also cardboard edge and corner protectors that will equally prevent damage should the pallet be accidentally bumped during loading or unloading.
Moving a pallet
With your pallet loaded and secured, it is ready to be placed onto a truck ready for transportation. This is the part of the operation where any damage is most likely to occur, but if everything has been done properly, you should have no cause to worry.