When it comes to pallets, wood and plastic are the typical choices of material for shippers and manufacturers. But between the two, wood remains the more ubiquitous. To give you an idea, there are ten times more wooden pallets in supply chains all over the world than plastic pallets.
There are many reasons why this is the case. If you ask any pallet supplier, they will point to the lower cost of wood, the repairability and reusability of wooden pallets, and the fact that they can hold more weight. Wooden pallets are further classified into two broad categories: hardwood and softwood. This article will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using either material.
Why You Should Use Softwood Pallets
Many industries use softwood like pine as pallet material. It is not as abundant as hardwood, but it accounts for up to 80% of the world’s timber. Aside from being easy to source, it is also easy to work with. It can be cut more easily by saws compared to hardwood. Between these two characteristics, pine pallets are most likely to be cheap and readily available.
Compared to hardwood materials, softwood materials like pine are lighter. This means that it will be easier for forklift operators to handle softwood pallets. In fast-paced industries that put much value on productivity and efficiency, using pine pallets is a great option.
Despite all the practical advantages, perhaps the biggest draw of using pine pallets is its positive impact on the environment. Softwood trees grow at a much faster rate than hardwood, which means that forests will be more protected. Using pine pallets fits perfectly in a world where sustainability is growing in importance as well as appreciation.
Softwood generally has a lower density than hardwood, but any reputable pallet supplier can provide durable softwood pallets by using better designs and more materials. Softwood pallets are also commonly treated and kiln-dried, so they can be used in applications such as food and pharmaceutical industries.
Why You Should Use Hardwood Pallets
Hardwood has a higher density than softwood. It is more commonly used to make furniture and other more profitable applications. Hardwood lumber that does not have enough grade for furniture is typically used for pallet production.
When used in pallets, hardwood makes for a more durable platform, which is ideal for rugged conditions. Because most hardwood species have a higher density, thinner and fewer boards can be used in pallet production. They are also capable of supporting higher loads, ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 lbs.
While hardwood pallets have key advantages over softwood pallets, using them comes with its own set of challenges. Among the first things you have to consider is that hardwood is more expensive than softwood. If you are looking to reduce costs, this could be an issue.
Another factor you have to consider is that supply can be inconsistent. Hardwood grows at a much slower rate than softwood, making it harder to replenish in forests. This means that it can be harder to source than softwood. In addition, most of the supply goes to furniture-making, construction, and other mainstream industries.
Finally, hardwood pallets are heavier and put more stress on warehouse machinery. Over time, this could lead to additional costs on maintenance and repair.
The choice between using softwood or hardwood pallet would ultimately boil down to the nature of your operation. But hopefully, the information above helps make your decision easier. You could also reach out to a local pallet supplier for more tips.