Cutting Costs with Corrugated Cardboard Pallets
Wood is by far the most favoured material for pallets. Wooden pallets are strong, easy to stack and have been reliably assisting the transportation of goods since the 1920s. Why would a large retailer like Ikea make the decision to switch from wood to corrugated cardboard pallets?
Challenging the Packaging Engineers
Packaging has always been an important consideration for all Ikea products. The company employs a team of Packaging Engineers, who work in collaboration with the Product Designers. Efficient packaging is seen as a fundamental element in the development of every new product range.
With Ikea using in excess of 10 million wooden pallets a year, these came under scrutiny by the packaging engineers. In line with Ikea’s commitment to sustainability, the company was looking at alternatives that could cut costs, improve efficiency and minimise the environmental impact associated with store deliveries.
Corrugated cardboard was the handling material of choice and the team developed a strong, thick and resilient design. The corrugated cardboard pallets had to reliably withstand compression, stiffness, moisture absorbing and crush-testing in order to be fit for purpose.
The new folded pallet design included feet and could hold 1,650lb in weight, but was 90% lighter and a third thinner than the wooden alternatives. Corrugated cardboard also offered greater flexibility in the dimensions, so a range of sizes from 1.5ft through to 8ft pallets were created for use with different products.
In 2012, Ikea’s shelving and lifting equipment was changed in order for the introduction of the new corrugated cardboard pallets.
Benefits of Corrugated Cardboard Pallets
Several years since their introduction and Ikea the corrugated cardboard pallets are still favoured. Over the last 6 years, the benefits of switching to a new material are clearly recorded. Ikea reports that the switch has resulted in around 25% fewer trucks being sent out on the road. In turn, this has aided a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions, in addition to reducing transport costs.
Another benefit has been easier handling for employees. Empty corrugated cardboard pallets weigh 3lb, making them considerably lighter to lift and manoeuvre than the 50lb wooden pallets. The result has been less back-related health complaints from members of Ikea’s warehouse and logistics team.
The corrugated cardboard pallets are single-use items. They are pulped at the store after each factory delivery and recycled into new pallets. This has proven to be more efficient and cost-effective than collecting, cleaning, repairing and returning the wooden pallets to the factory.
The only notable disadvantage of corrugated cardboard for material handling is that it is compromised when water is absorbed. As Ikea actively avoids storing furniture in moist conditions and the pallets are single use, this hasn’t proved problematic.
Ikea’s packaging engineers invested considerable time in the development of the corrugated cardboard pallets, but they are willing to share their innovation. According to the 2017 Modern Materials Handling Pallet Survey, only around 8% of pallets are currently made from corrugated cardboard. Other brands are now showing interested in the potential cost savings and environmental benefits and Ikea is actively sharing their knowledge and experience.
Robust Cardboard Boxes
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