Pallet Loading: Four common mistakes to avoid

By |2018-02-28T08:46:02+00:00February 28th, 2018|Packaging Strategy|0 Comments

Shipping with pallets requires understanding common pallet loading mistakes and how to avoid them. With 80% of U.S. commerce being transported on pallets, it’s easy to see why it’s important to get it right. Shipment damage is quite common when the proper techniques, and the proper damage prevention methods, are not used during transit.

Getting it right means having the correct pallets, loading them correctly, securing them properly, and getting them to their destination safely.

Choosing the correct pallet

Your product safety rests solely on solid choices of pallet size and strength. Shippers commonly use four-way 48″ x 40″ pallets, which support up to 4,600 lbs.

Remember: purchasing cheap pallets can result in damaged and/or broken pallets during transit.  How much would a broken pallet cost you?  In the case of that occurrence, how much money would you really be saving?  On the other side, choosing a pallet correctly tailored to your application decreases unexpected costs, delays, and/or product damage.

Pallet size versus product size

When loading pallets, the size of your product should match the size of your pallet.  Keep in mind, if your product overhangs the pallet, your risk is much higher of damage.  If it is smaller than your pallet, you may be spending additional money on that unused space. 

Did you know?  Overhang can diminish up to 30% of the top to bottom compression resistance potential!

Is your stretch wrapping process causing damages?

Another common pallet loading mistake is not using a proper stretch wrapping process. Stretch film is often matched to the load weight and the type of application used to apply it. This is a common area that often results in damage due to improper application and using the wrong gauge for the load.

Does your operation use the steps below as a general rule when applying the stretch film to pallet loads?  

  • Anchor the stretch film by tieing one end around the pallet corner.
  • Start walking around the load securing the wrap tightly around the load as well as the pallet corners and base of the load. For added security, edge protectors can be used in conjunction with  It is good practice to wrap the base of the load three or more times for stability.
  • As a good measure of thumb, each new layer of stretch film wrapping the load should overlap the last layer by approximately 50%.  
  • At the top of the load, begin to layer the stretch film so that it creates a pull down on the product.  This process reducing the chance of your load shifting during transit.  
  • On the way back down your load, again overlap each layer by approximately 50%.
  • Before cutting the stretch film from the roll, apply a couple more passes of stretch film around the pallet and the product for added stability.

Always ensure that your product is secured to the pallet so that you prevent product “walk-offs”.  Additional strapping and/or banding materials can be used to secure the products to the pallet.  The correct way to strap your pallet is to wrap the straps all the way around the pallet and through the forks.  

Boxing up the advantages

To ensure the greatest safety of your products in transit, use these general rules:

  • Make sure cartons are new and of proper strength to withstand stacking. Over 70% of the compressive box strength is located at the box’s corners.
  • Stack heavier items on the bottom, with lighter boxes on top.

Types of Stacking:

  • Columnar stacking:  when the corners of the box align with the corner of the box below it.  With this type of stacking, watch how high the boxes arestacked.  Too high, and you risk the load toppling over.
  • Interlocked stacking:  sometimes referred to as brick stacking is when the footprint is switched every layer so that the cartons interlock.

Did you know? Interlocked stacking of boxes reduces their compressive strength by up to 50%. Column stacking is preferable for good stacking performance.

  • Make sure to stack the cartons corner to corner so that they shape a square.
  • Note:  Liner paper can be used both under the load and in between every third layer.  The liner paper helps to decrease friction and helps to evenly distribute the weight.

Did you know?  Misalignment of boxes in a column stack reduces stacking strength. As little as a 1/2 inch misalignment could reduce strength by 30%. 

Pallet Loading

The pinwheeled strategy provides the best unitization and stability,

One final word regarding loading mistakes.  Placement within the mode of transportation you are using is very important to the safety of your product.  There are several methods applicable to this process, but the best fit solution is known as the pinwheel strategy, which combines the loading of the pallet in both straight and turned formation.  This strategy provides the best unitization and stability and requires less labor than if you were to straighten each load.  In addition, the pinwheel method is a great strategy for tall stacks of mixed cartons.

Whether you decide to use the pinwheel strategy or another strategy, proper pallet bracing is of foremost importance.

What about you? Are you experiencing some difficulties in this area? Unreliable pallets, toppling pallet loads, insufficient bracing/blocking in transit?

As members of the #NWPCA, we have in-house pallet and crate specialists that can guide you every step of the way. Learn more about our pallet and crate offerings and give us a call at 877-410-5564 to get started down the path of awesomeness with your pallet program.

We help companies reduce damage and find cost savings every day when it comes to stock and custom pallets. Let us do the same for you.




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