In the beginning, things were stored in (and moved around on) wooden crates, boxes, barrels, and the basic wooden skid. To the unfamiliar, skids and pallets are the same thing with different names. They look alike and have similar functions yet skids and pallets are different.
Skids and pallets are platforms designed for assembling, storing, and handing materials. Skids are typically assembled with three parallel boards, called “stringers” that attach to and support the top platform – aka deck boards. This design works fine for simple applications. However, without any bottom deck boards, skids are limited to horizontal (floor) movement and may not be stacked.
The rise of forklifts necessitated the development of pallets.
The earliest forklifts, like Yale, Clark and Hyster, were introduced one hundred years ago, and designs quickly progressed from low-lift machines to units capable of high-lift and tilt. Forklift adoption began to increase during the 1920s and by the end of the 1930s, the first U.S. patent for a pallet was granted.
What makes a pallet more useful than a skid?
Simply put, pallets, unlike skids, are designed with bottom deck boards that create a flat and stable surface, allowing palletized product to be stacked and racked. Many pallet designs provide four-way access for forklifts and pallet jacks, which increases productivity. More about that in our next blog post.
WWII and a materials handling revolution.
The 1940s ushered in incredible change for the world, including the materials handling industry. Manufacturers and other industries relied on forklifts as they worked feverishly to produce and move the necessary componentry and products to support the war effort. As forklift usage skyrocketed, so did the adoption of pallets.
The ability to “go vertical” and stack palletized products vastly improved utilization of valuable warehouse floorspace. In later years, the standardization of common pallet sizes led to the standardization of pallet racking and more purposeful warehouse design. All of these changes helped quicken the pace of product movement in and out of warehouse doors. It is not a stretch to consider the common pallet a revolutionary invention that forever changed the way the world does business.
In our next blog, we’ll review the two basic type of pallets.