Best Pallet™ and Best Load™ Software Tools Improve Supply Chain Efficiencies

Dr. Mark White
Dr. Mark White

Until now, packaging professionals, pallet users, and pallet suppliers had few tools to rely on to optimize pallets for cost efficiency. But with last year’s release of Best Pallet™, a stringer pallet design and analysis software program, optimizing the supply chain is now within reach. Conceived by Dr. Mark White, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech’s Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, this new software helps logistics professionals better control costs and efficiencies associated with optimal pallet design. The program is a simplified, streamlined version of the industry standard Pallet Design System (PDS).

According to Dr. White, “Optimizing pallet design requires detailed knowledge of the demands of each unique system from production line through distribution, storage, and retail display. Best Pallet™ gives packaging professionals, buyers, end users and pallet manufacturers the ability to participate in the optimization process.”

The new software analyzes application and handling data to predict pallet strength and deformation.  The end result, an optimized pallet design, reduces product damage in transit, improves workplace safety, and in some instances, allows logistics professionals to specify lighter (read less expensive) pallets.  Although Best Pallet lacks some of the advanced features of PDS, including the ability to analyze certain types of pallets (block pallets, presswood) or calculate anticipated service life, an aggressively priced annual licensing fee that is five times less than other similar commercial pallet design and analysis programs is sure to capture the attention of logistics professionals seeking to improve supply chain efficiencies.

White’s Best Pallet is a component within a more robust systems-based design tool titled Best Load™.   As the name suggests, this proprietary software analyzes pallet design, packaging requirements, including strength, weight, and dimensions of corrugated boxes, plastic bottles, pails, and load securement materials such as stretch film to optimize unit load. By taking a holistic approach to each component comprising an optimal unit load, the software can minimize product damage, reduce packaging costs, and help companies achieve sustainability goals.

During an exclusive interview with Dr. White, we had an opportunity to learn more about the challenges facing pallet manufacturers and the opportunities that Best Load creates for logistics professionals.  According to Dr. White, pallet manufacturers and their customers need to have a better understanding of deck stiffness.  During the conversation, Dr. White explained that the narrow focus on pallet strength during the specification stage misses the bigger picture.  Going beyond a simple weight capacity specification has a tremendous impact on unit load design—and cost.  For example, a pallet with 2,000 pounds per inch of deflection places a 20 PSI compression stress on packaging.  By using a thicker deck with 3,000 pounds of deflection per inch, the compression stress on the packaging is reduced to 10 PSI.  In short, specifying a stiffer deck can allow packaging designers to use less expensive bottles and boxes.  The chart below attempts to put potential packaging savings into perspective.

Component Based Design

ComponentUnit Load Spend
Stretch Wrap$1.80
Pallet (1 @ $8.50)$8.50
3.5 Gallon Pails (36 @ $6.94)$250.00
Total Spend Per Load$260.30
 X 50,000 Loads / Year$13,015,000

Best Load™ Based Design

ComponentUnit Load Spend
Stretch Wrap$1.80
Pallet (1 @ $9.50)$9.50
3.5 Gallon Pails (36 @ $6.69)$240.84
Total Spend Per Load$252.14
 X 50,000 Loads / Year$12.607,000
Annual Savings$408,000

The pallet actually represents a small percentage of the overall unit load spend in this scenario.  By using Best Load to model the interaction between the pallet and the packaging materials, an annual savings of $408,000 was realized.  The game changer here isn’t the pallet’s weight capacity, but deck stiffness.  If you are looking to see how Best Load can help your company reduce packaging costs, there is good news:  the software will be available to the general public in late February or early March, 2013.

For Litco International customers, the news is even better.  Because our pallets are engineered for strength and stiffness, Inca pallets have lower deflection rates than conventional wooden pallets of comparable price, size and load carry capacity.  This in turn allows our customers to reduce overall packaging costs without compromising the safety of their products.  If you are interested in learning more about how using molded presswood pallets can reduce your unit load spends, contact the experts at Litco International for more information.

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Best Pallet™ and Best Load™ Software Tools Improve Supply Chain Efficiencies