The Australian Pallet Survey 2017 was conducted in May-June 2017 as an online survey. It was supplemented by industry consultations that provided additional insights to the survey questions. 81 Australian businesses responded to this survey, which was deployed through several industry peak bodies.
The pallet is viewed as a necessary piece of equipment with little intrinsic value in relation to the product supply chain. Despite the indication that companies have incurred significant costs through their inability to control and manage pallet usage, they view the device as ‘a necessary evil’ rather than part of the value chain of the product.
This view may be challenged if the trends in pallets identified in this report continue. Key influences will be the cost of the pallet, the whole-of-supply-chain planning for the product, increasing automation in distribution and the insertion of technology to track and trace assets as well as product.
Cost is the prevailing concern of pallet users who rent or buy pallets. The ability to meet customer requirements, strength of the pallets, durability and rack-ability were the further ranked considerations.
Pallet pooling dominates in Australia, globally the most mature pallet market, with two thirds of survey respondents using rental pallets, enjoying flexibility and avoiding the responsibility associated with ownership of the assets. 80 percent of pallets represented in the survey are used in open distribution systems, with product sourced from and supplied to multiple parties.
The survey featured a section on the usage, benefits and issues related to plastic pallets in Australia. Hygiene and avoidance of contamination were primary factors influencing this choice of pallet. Rack-ability and strength were concerns expressed in relation to the use of plastic. 22 per cent of surveyed businesses expected to increase their use of plastic pallets in the ensuing two years, driven by customer requirements and regulatory mandates related to the product and workplace safety.
Diversity in pallet sizes is a trend identified. Logistics service providers are finding handling of this variety of sizes a challenge in transport and storage. This issue will need to be addressed as the growth of import pallets, retailer-configured pallets and warehouse automation create a wider array of pallet types.
It is evident from this research that pallet control is a significant challenge for the pallet owner, renter and supplier. Despite considerable cost and effort, the lack of control is resulting in further cost and frustration. It is also evident that companies that have no account with the leasing pools are benefitting from a supply of pallets that are accruing daily rental fees for the supplier and/or transporter of the pallet. While there are technologies available to track and trace the pallet, these have proven too expensive to date to implement. It is unclear whether this is a false economy, given the costs associated with lost pallet inventory and as the technologies become more common.
The Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics appreciates the time given by respondents to support this research.