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Plastic pallets and the ‘next generation’ supply chain

Warehouse automation is on an upward trend largely due to the rise in e-commerce and omni-channel retail. Jim Hardisty, Managing Director for examines growth predictions for the warehouse automation market and the important role that plastic pallets play in the ‘next generation’ supply chain.

According to ABI Research, by 2025, 28% of warehouses will be automated with robots compared to just 3% in 2018. This is driven largely by the e-commerce revolution – increased consumer demand for rapid, accurate and cheap deliveries of online orders.

In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic has also spurred a surge in warehouse automation. It has allowed supply chain managers to maintain and increase production levels, without compromising the safety of their workers. A survey by Interact Analysis reported that warehouse automation vendors have seen an increase in grocery warehouse automation project tenders in the past two months, as a direct result of Covid-19.

The same survey that interviewed over 40 of the leading warehouse automation system integrators, suppliers and end-users, predicted a 98.7% Compound Annual Growth Rate for piece-picking warehouse robots – a rise made possible by continuing advances in machine vision, gripping systems and mobile navigation technology.

Increased adoption of automation in warehouses presents a strong argument for using plastic pallets; ones that offer 100% size and strength consistency and do not have nails or loose component parts that risk jamming and stalling automated handling systems.

The next generation supply chain

It is not just automation that companies are looking to invest in moving forwards; the digitization of the supply chain has huge growth potential.

In a report by market research firm, LogisticsIQ, it predicted that the ‘next generation’ supply chain will be worth over £59 billion by 2030. This encompasses everything from robotics and automation to artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), drones and other digital technology.

Take IoT for example, by the time 2021 arrives it is predicted that 35 billion IoT devices will be installed worldwide; that is a phenomenal number of ‘things’ connected to the Internet – everything from home appliances and voice assistance to vehicle-to-vehicle communication and robots for surveillance.

According to Swedish IoT market research firm, Berg Insight, sensor-equipped pallets are predicted to become increasingly crucial in IoT enabled supply chains; they have even gone as far as ranking them as the most promising greenfield IoT opportunity!

Pallet selection is key!

With any form of new technology comes an initial investment, which means that pallet selection is key. The strength and durability of a plastic pallet is unrivalled when compared to wood. In normal handling and loading scenarios a plastic pallet can last up to 10 years, and sometimes longer.

For those businesses investing in their own pool of plastic pallets, one concern that often comes up is the location and dwell time of pallet stock; where slow returns post-delivery suggest that the pool needs to be far larger than it actually does.

Of course, closer monitoring of your pallet pool – for instance using RFID technology – can reduce your pool size by as much as 20%, demonstrating a real reduction in your initial investment.

For advice on using pallets in automated systems, call our team of plastic pallet experts on +44 (0)1323 744057, email or use the online chat.