Capping Pallets, Creating Capacity

When is a pallet more than a pallet?

When it’s used to create capacity, not just consume it. The lowly yet indispensible pallet is often taken for granted, but innovative design and use can still deliver savings and capacity to shippers.

Sonoco, a $4.1 billion packaging company, introduced a new recyclable pallet cap that protects shipments of bottles and cans by holding products in place during transit. That way, there’s no crying over spilt milk at the end of a run.

But the plastic or corrugated FirmaCap, designed to work with matching 44-inch by 56-inch pallets, also lightens the load compared with wood pallets, Sonoco says, allowing shippers to fit more pallets and more product into each trailer.

The company claims its Firma brand corrugated pallet protection systems offer an 87 percent reduction in weight in an average truckload. That means many more cans and bottles may be loaded before a tractor-trailer would “weigh out.”

And that, of course, effectively increases capacity without requiring a second trailer.

That’s the kind of thinking behind the drive to save billions of dollars by reducing or changing packaging, whether through square watermelons or boxed wine.

Companies from ConAgra to Wal-Mart are reducing costs and their carbon footprint by changing package design, and more efficiently using existing shipping capacity.

Sonoco’s pallets and caps should help beverage shippers follow suit.

“When we evaluated the market for palletizing bottles and cans, we realized that options were very limited for customers. For the most part, the only option available was the heavier and more costly wood pallet,” said James Harrell, a division vice president and general manager for industrial carriers at Sonoco.

The lighter-weight corrugated pallets for one-way shipping and plastic pallets for closed-loop shipping better fit shipper needs, he said, as well as their trailers.

Contact William B. Cassidy at Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc.

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