Without realising, we see pallets nearly everywhere we go now. But how have they become as popular as they are today?
They are widely used in supermarkets, corner shops, clothes retail, grocers and the list just gets longer every day.
We see pallets in virtually every place that relies on safe product delivery and storage, at least to some extent.
But looking beyond the here and now, wouldn't it be nice to delve into how pallets became what they are today?
Luckily, we know everything there is to know about pallets and how their evolution through time!
We have plenty to tell you about pallets that will blow your mind!
So, let's dive straight in...
From Skids To Pallets
Back before pallets were a thing, people used all sorts of different materials to transport their items, for example, wooden crates, barrels, kegs, boxes and lastly, skids!
But in the early 20's when the modern forklift was invented, the concept of the skid soon evolved into the pallets we know today.
The idea behind pallets was to have an area for products to sit on and an area underneath the pallet that could work well with forklifts.
To come up with the perfect solution, boards were attached to stringers and finally, a product platform that could be moved easily by forklifts was produced.
A couple of years had passed and by 1925, bottom planks were added to pallets to allow safe stacking.
Inevitably, this meant that loaded or empty pallets could be stacked and moved with more speed and versatility.
Who Invented The Pallet?
When pallets were first invented, they were never referred to as 'pallets'.
Instead, their inventor, Howard T. Hallowell, called them 'lift truck platforms' as their sole purpose was to prevent items from getting damaged by forklifts.
He made certain that all items to be moved by forklifts had a platform to sit on, advising people to make sure everything was secured to them first to avoid damage.
Hallowell also wanted to make sure there was an area underneath the pallet to accommodate the use of a forklift, which made for easier transport of heavier goods.
Pallets During The War
The War era contributed massively to how pallets have evolved through time, but how?
Our British Army needed a way of transporting ammunition, ration packs and medical supplies fast. And what better way than by pallets, right?
Without pallets during the War, the British Military would have struggled to keep their soliders fed and armed, but more importantly, many thousands more of them would have lost their lives due to a lack of medical supplies.
So, it's safe to say that without pallets back then, the outcome of the War may very well have been different, as would our lives today.
On a slightly different note, 4-way entry pallets were developed to increase forklift accessibility during the early 40's. At this point, things changed massively and even more people started to use pallets to ship items.
At the same time, people were keen to experiment with alternative material pallets. Still, 4-way pallets proved to be the best option out there.
Then, as expected, the demand for pallets increased during the Second World War.
Again, pallets were very quickly mass produced to deliver the necessary supplies to the battlefields.
This demand also brought the need for a standard sized pallet which was agreed between allied countries.
This made it much easier to ship and transport pallets between countries at the time.
But pallets and forklifts did not become popular just because of demand during the War.
Apparently, pallets were used by thousands of small to medium-sized businesses around the same time.
This, of course, would have sparked an even higher demand for pallets as people were determined to continue running their businesses as normal.
A Pallet World Through The Changes
As early as 1954, a British company named Lansing Bagnall developed what is currently known aas the first narrow aisle electric reach truck.
Being narrow and easy to navigate, warehouses across the country were able to change their internal layout to feature narrow aisles and higher load stacking, thus increasing storage capacity.
Along with this change, standard pallet size was then switched to 48'' x 40'' to optimise the conversion from rail to truck transport.
Shortly after, in 1968, a meeting between the distribution managers of several Canadian grocery companies took place, resulting in the birth of the GPMC pallet.
As expected, this was a 48'' x 40'' 4-way entry wood pallet (a standard pallet). This move changed the pallet world as many people knew it!
How's The Pallet Indsutry Doing Today?
Now that we have talked about pallet history, we know who invented the pallet and how our country has relied on pallet distribution through time, it's only right that we talk about what the pallet industry is like today.
On average, around 250 million pallets are shipped throughout the UK each year. Plus, an additional 55 million pallets are manufactured right here in the UK annually.
At one point in your life, if not already, you will likely find yourself trusting a pallet courier to ship something.
Or you can think of it like this: if you have never or think you will never use a pallet courier in your life, a business you buy something from is likely to use one to get your items to you.
For example, some pallet couriers are behind getting goods into Amazon Fulfilment Centres and millions of people shop on Amazon every single day.
Without a pallet courier, those items would have no means of getting to Amazon and therefore, you wouldn't be able to buy something at the press of a button and get same-day delivery.
Also, the UK is even believed to produce and use more pallet types than any other European country.
So, if one thing is for certain it's that a pallet courier will never be short on pallets!
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