Warehouse crew generally don't think about an order's journey hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles as it goes down the road in the back of a truck hitting bump after bump. If the order they are building is stable while sitting on the dock, the belief is that the freight will stay that way for the entire trip.
Not so. For products to consistently reach their destination in good condition, follow these 3 tips.
Start with a proper pallet in good condition rated for the load's weight. Second, and it may seem obvious, but always put heavier cases on the bottom. This lowers the pallet's overall center of gravity reducing the risk it will start to lean and possibly tip over. Heavy cases also work to crush anything underneath it during the entire transit. Nobody likes damaged goods but crushed cases on the bottom also weaken the pallets 'foundation' dramatically increasing tip risk. But what if all my cases are heavy? It's OK if all cases are heavy, just pay close attention to tip #2.
Staggering cases (commonly called 'brick joint') is always better than column stacking. Staggering acts like lots of little tie-downs throughout the entire pallet where each case helps to hold back its neighbors from leaning. In addition, it will reduce the risk that cumulative weight from cases in several stacks can be focused on any single point below; especially important when all cases are heavy.
Proper pallet layout also takes height into consideration, aka layers. The heavier your cases are the shorter your pallet needs to be. A little rule of thumb, keep 1,000 pounds or more below 5 foot high.
Finally, don't forget about layer pads (or 'load boards') when creating your layers. They play an important role to keep product protected especially when the products' weight increases.
Load boards come in two varieties: lightweight and heavy duty. Many refer to these as 'slip sheets' which they are not; slip sheets are a pallet alternative. The products' weight does not necessarily determine which load board to use. Heavy square cases can benefit from lightweight load boards where moderately heavy products which are irregularly shaped may need heavy duty to prevent puncture or tearing in the load board. Blocking freight layers with any load board spreads the load out evenly which helps a tremendous amount. Lastly, load boards prevent the pallet stringers from pressing into the bottom layer. If the cases are heavy, then a heavy duty load board on the bottom may be required to prevent stringer intrusion.
Wrap, strap and corner. Depending on the situation, only one of these may be necessary. Sometimes two, and sometimes all of them. Industrial equipment like rail-car components generally only need to be strapped but never wrapped or cornered. A tall stack of very lightweight cases even though staggered in layers, still may need to be strapped in both directions to keep it from sliding off the pallet. Corners are the most commonly damaged area. Adding corners to all 8 edges (or the most susceptible edges) is an easy way to offer a great deal of protection to cases that have low crush strength or simply need to remain cosmetically in good shape. Finally, the most common final step of any pallet is wrapping it. There are several types of wrap: cast vs. blown, light gauge vs. heavy gauge, colored vs. clear and stretch vs. pre-stretch. Check with your local supplier to determine which is best but completing an order with pallet wrap will keep it clean and snug during its journey.