Daily, millions of tons of goods are loaded, handled, transported and unloaded via the use of pallets throughout the global supply chain. The 2 most common types are the well known euro pallet as well as the industrial pallet and these come in wooden and plastic material. Whilst the most cheap and common are the wooden type, it pays, for the internal supply chain and local distribution to consider the switch to plastic, especially in the areas of food and beverage. There are distinct advantages of plastic over wood such as:
Much higher durability and life
Resistant to chemicals
Usable in all climate conditions and temperatures
No need to fumigate during transport
Non porous nature of plastic ensures no build up of bacteria
Can be hot / pressure washed
No splinters from handling so more safe for human contact
HACCP approved on certain pallets
Safe for direct food contact (Virgin plastic only)
Much lighter thereby reducing transport costs
Can embed RFID tag in the manufacturing process allowing for integration to WMS software and location tracking
Wooden pallets have the benefit of being low cost and easy to repair, especially if your organisation uses the well known blue chep pallet, where for a small rental fee the pallets are pooled back into chep, fixed and returned to the circulation again. If you are mainly exporting without the expectation of pallets returning to you then the wooden pallet makes sense.
Plastic pallets on the other hand have these distinct advantages over wooden ones and in the EU now most of the food and beverage industry use plastic. In such industries where washing is a requirement and hygiene a concern then plastic pallets are more suitable. Furthermore with the optional embedding of RFID tags and hence the integration into the company's WMS system, plastic pallets will certainly start streamlining the logistics process and start to pay dividends.
The switch to plastic is of course dependent on your operation and may sure need a significant investment upfront. But thereafter it will be considered a company asset that can also be depreciated over time.