Our expert on the safe transport of pallets
Unstable pallets are an accident waiting to happen. And accidents are precisely what we try to avoid in the cargo industry. Pallet stability is vital to preventing damage or accidents while transporting goods. Jürgen Kohl, based in Nürnberg, is an expert when it comes to pallet stability and safe transport of pallets.
“The first thing I do when I visit a customer is a visual check”, he says. “I look at the pallets, how they’re wrapped and how the products on the pallets are wrapped.” This gives him an idea of the state the pallets are in. Are the pallets safe for transport? But this is just the first impression. “Next, we take out our tools, the ‘holding force kit’, to measure the holding force of the stretch film and thus the stability. Because ‘meten is weten’ (measurement is knowledge), as they say in Dutch”, he laughs.
As a sales engineer, Kohl is quite experienced in the technical side of things. “My first job was as a car mechanic, so I’m used to working with my hands”, he explains. Kohl has been working at AFP since 2009. He has extensive knowledge of machinery and the sorts of stretch film that AFP produces. “Customers usually have their own machinery and do their own pallet wrapping”, Kohl tells us. But that’s not necessarily a good thing, he continues. “Film and wrappers are often seen as end-of-line products. From their point of view, the only thing the machine has to do is wrap the pallet and make it transportable. As long as nothing major happens and there is safe transport of their pallets, they’re not really interested in better wrapping.”
Higher safety standards for the safe transport of pallets
But things have changed. Laws and regulations on the subject of pallet stability are increasing. In May 2018, EUMOS came into effect. These regulations stand for higher safety standards for cargo security in Europe, aimed at reducing fatalities on the road. Kohl has followed training on EUMOS guidelines.
Since then, the sales engineer has noticed more companies are putting an effort into pallet stability. “You risk getting fined if something happens during transport”, he explains. “And it’s not just the truck driver that’s at risk of being fined, it’s also the loader, the dispatcher and the head of the company. Because of EUMOS, companies are now involved in the fine system.” Having a truck licence himself, Kohl knows at first hand that drivers aren’t always allowed into the back of the truck once it’s loaded, in which case the driver never has a chance to check if the pallet load is stacked properly. “Pallet stability is now a shared responsibility.”
More and more companies are feeling the need to comply with all the regulations. Prevention is the best way to guarantee safety on the road, Kohl says. “That’s where we can help. And they know that with our stretch film and our support, they’ll have a stable pallet.”
Critical factors in pallet stability
So which factors are important in creating pallet stability? Kohl sums up the five most critical factors.
- First, you have the product itself: how stable is that? “I’ll give you an example: Coca Cola is trying to reduce the material in their bottles. But the thickness of the bottles has consequences for its stability and the safe transport of the pallets”.
- Then there’s the way the product is packed. For instance, a six-pack held together by a well fitted shrink film will be stable. But a cheap film on the six-pack won’t. This can effect the whole pallet.
- Stack your pallet from a stable base. “It’s like with Lego: when you’re building a house, you put the Lego pieces closely together; you shouldn’t leave any gaps in-between.” It’s the same with pallets, Kohl says. Don’t build columns, and make sure you have a stable base.
- The packaging around the pallet. Choose the right film for the goods on the pallet. Are you transporting a heavy weight cargo or a light load? This information is vital in determining whether you need more pressure on the pallet, or whether to take care in case of possible corner crush.
- The last factor is the road on which the cargo will be transported and for what distance. Some roads are bumpier than others, so it’s important to know this beforehand. And will the pallets immediately go onto the truck after wrapping or will they be stacked in the warehouse? And on top of each other or on a shelf? With all this information we’re able to create a stable pallet.
What kind of things can cause damage? Here Kohl mentions two things. First, cheap material to pack the products. If the box can’t take the pressure of stacking, it will break down. Second, the wrong palletiser. You need to create a ‘positive fit’. This means the goods are stacked as closely as possible on the pallet, to ensure they won’t be able to move. “You can’t check this from the outside”, Kohl says, “and if the goods are able to move, you have a big problem that no amount of wrapping can put right. So make sure you have the palletiser well adjusted.”
The most important way to prevent damage is by using one simple rule, Kohl says: “Attach the goods to the pallet and then also wrap the pallet. That way you can make sure the goods won’t be able move.”
Fortunately, trucks are themselves improving. “They’re much more stable and use far better technology. And there’s better ways of securing the pallets, like with belts to lash them down.”
Money well spent
So, all in all, what does a company need to be aware of when it comes to load security? “That to save money, you have to spend money”, Kohl states. Investing in the right stretch film is crucial. “And for us that means you have to determine which film is right for the customer. Why should I have a film that stretches 300 percent, when my machine is only able to do 150? Recommending this would only mean a waste of money.”
Another thing, Kohl notes, is good training. “Companies need to train their people, especially in the warehouse. So they know how the goods are packaged, what the truck looks like. And train them to be able to load a truck in a secure manner. Training takes time, but it’s money well spent.”
“The most important thing for us is that its not only the film”, Kohl concludes. “It’s always a combination of everything. At the end of the day you want to provide your customer with a stable pallet.”
More information on pallet stability.