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Buying pallets? Here are some tips for buying stringer vs block, and ISPM-15 treatment vs mold treatment.

1. Pallet Purchase

Pallet size, weight and style variations have become commonly employed, particularly in the fast-moving consumer products sector, although many supply chain decision-makers still prize 48×40 whitewood pallets. Here are some of the respective benefits of each offer.

Benefits of Buying Pallets

Custom design options. One key benefit of buying pallets is that they can be custom-ordered to the required specification, rather than being forced to utilize the limited options offered by rental companies – such as 48×40″ pallets or half pallets.

Cost reduction opportunity in closed loops: It is possible to reduce pallet costs through effectively managed closed-loop pallet programs involving high-quality pallets.

Supply flexibility. Remember last year when shock waves rippled across the supply chain when providers could not supply some of their customers? Because buyers can purchase pallets from multiple suppliers, it is easy to set up multiple vendors to reduce the risk of a single supplier service failure.

Usage and revenue opportunities for the receiver. When shipping purchased pallets one-way, the receiver is free to reuse them once they are emptied, or, if they are a popular size, they have the potential to sell them.

2. 2-way vs 4-way, block vs stringer

Simply speaking, 2-way and 4-way pallets refer to the pallet’s functionality for material handling direction of entry by material handling equipment. Block and stringer pallet types, however, refer to fundamental differences in structural design.

A 2-way pallet, for example, will have solid stringers and will only be accessible from the two-end openings. A partial 4-way entry pallet has notches in the stringers to allow forklift entry from the stringer side, but which can only facilitate pallet jack entry from the ends. A full 4-way entry pallet allows pallet jack and forklift entry from all four sides. Full 4-way entry pallets are typically (but not always) block pallets.

As the names suggest, the top and bottom deck of a stringer pallet are separated by stringers. In the case of the block pallet, a combination of blocks and stringer boards creates the opening between top and bottom deck. Both stringer and block pallets can be designed for critical performance and durability applications.

Block pallets are typically more expensive relative to stringer pallets due to a more complex manufacturing process. However, the ease of pallet entry and handling makes 4-way entry block pallets prized in a variety of supply chain settings. They are a requirement for Costco, for example.

3. ISPM-15 pallet treatments vs. mold treatment

When pallet vendors refer to pallet treatment, they commonly refer to treatments to make pallets compliant with ISPM-15. The ISPM-15 stamp is required for pallets shipped from the U.S. to countries other than Canada. ISPM-15 was designed to prevent the further spread of wood-borne pests that can colonize and damage forests abroad. For this reason, ISPM-15 compliance is required by many countries internationally. Failure to comply can lead to fumigation costs or denial of entry to the destination country.

In the United States and Canada, ISPM-15 compliance is achieved through heat treatment of pallet components before pallet assembly or the completed pallet. You can receive compliant pallets built from compliant kiln-dried lumber. Green, untreated material can also be used to produce pallets, which are then placed in a heat treatment chamber until the heat requirements are met. It is essential to source ISPM-15 pallets only from approved facilities to avoid potential issues at foreign ports of entry.

Some pallet buyers make the mistake of thinking that heat-treated pallets will be less subject to mold development. This perspective is not necessarily accurate. Pallets manufactured from kiln-dried material will be less susceptible to mold because they have a low moisture content. On the other hand, green pallets treated in an HT chamber may be more vulnerable to mold because the heating process wicks more moisture to the surface of the wood. Mold growth depends on moisture content and heat as well as oxygen and a food source (the wood).

There are, however, a variety of wood treatments available to inhibit mold growth. There are both FDA and non-FDA-approved treatments offered commercially, depending upon the application’s requirements. Ask your pallet vendor to find out more.

When it comes to buying pallets, there are many things to consider in addition to considering block vs stringer, and ISPM-15 treatment vs mold treatment.

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