Widely used, practical and easy to manufacture: The Euro pallet. This year, the Europool pallet (or shortly Euro-pallet) celebrates its 60th birthday. To mark the occasion, we would like to take a closer look at what at first appears to be an inconspicuous wooden construction. The idea was born 60 years ago when the demands for a uniform shape became louder and louder. This was because previously there were countless packaging sizes, which resulted in a loss of valuable storage and transport capacities.
For this reason, the Union of International Railways (UIC – Union internationale des chemins de fer) decided to introduce a standardized transport platform for Europe in early 1961. Since then, the wooden pallet has greatly influenced the logistics industry and optimized sequences in the movement of goods. First, a few facts: A Euro-pallet has the following dimensions: 120 cm long, 80 cm wide and 14.4 cm high. The standard wooden Euro pallet is made of a very specific CO2-neutral wood, that must meet precise quality requirements. In addition, it consists of exactly nine blocks, 78 nails and eleven boards. In this construction, the pallet with a dead weight of 20 kilograms can carry up to 1,000 kilograms at one point and up to 2,000 kilograms distributed over the entire pallet. Interestingly, in an episode of the German version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” a contestant could answer the question of how many boards make up a Euro pallet, correctly.
Pallet with a unique exchange system
A lot has happened since the beginnings of the Euro-pallet. There are now 440 manufacturers of Euro-pallets in Germany alone. The quality of production and repair is monitored by the European Pallet Association e.V., founded in 1991. (EPAL). EPAL is the umbrella organization for manufacturers and repairers of EPAL load carriers. It now includes more than 1500 companies in over 30 countries. Besides, it is estimated that a total of around 450 to 500 million Euro pallets are in circulation worldwide.
The Euro-pallet not only saves space, but also time. Not only transporters, but also warehouses are now well adapted to the Euro-pallet, allowing faster and more efficient loading and unloading processes. It is now even hard to imagine transport without pallets. Additionally, there is a unique exchange system in which loaded pallets are exchanged for empty pallets. This means that you deliver a fully loaded pallet and receive an empty pallet in return. However, it must be ensured that the pallets meet the quality criteria, contain standardized branding and are not damaged. Moreover, the exchange system is not yet widespread throughout the EU. Nevertheless, it saves enormous amounts time and material, since the goods can remain on the pallets and the pallet can be used directly.
Euro-pallets are optimally adapted for trucks and freight trains in European freight traffic. For international maritime transport, on the other hand, the dimensions of standard containers are based on American dimensions to which the Euro-pallet is not adapted. Besides, the pallet wide container, also known as inland container, which is available in the European logistics market, has an interior that is only a few centimeters wider than the standard ISO container with identical external dimensions. Nevertheless, this makes a significant difference and offers space for more pallets.
The intelligent Euro-pallet
In a joint Enterprise Lab, EPAL and the Fraunhofer Institute are developing intelligent Euro-pallets (iPAL) with the aim of creating an intelligent pallet network. Equipped with a GPS tracker and QR code, the pallet is then no longer just a load carrier, but also takes on the role of information carrier. Not only the location, but also information such as condition and temperature can be transmitted through the intelligent system. Additionally, further interfaces are being developed so that it will soon be possible, for example, to count pallets with a smartphone via image recognition and to connect the system with artificial intelligence.