A Market-Driven Investigation of Pallet Trends in Grocery Chains

This research project involved a review of literature, personal interviews, and first-hand observations to assess the current role and future trends for pallet usage in the grocery-distribution industry. It explores the grocery retailer's point of view. Interviews were conducted with eleven experts in the warehousing and material-handling industry and with thir­ teen high-level managers of grocery chain distribution centers (DCs) across the United States and overseas. Eight geographically diverse grocery DCs were visited for observation. We also visited an automobile manufacturing plant, two overseas distribution centers, and three pallet-manufacturing facilities. Economic conditions have an impact on the transportation economics of pallets. As fuel prices continue to rise, there is a trend toward maximizing the utilization of space within the trailer, and new regulations reducing a driver's "hours of service" favor the quick unloading afforded by pallets, reinforcing the flow in the supply chain. The humble wooden pallet plays a vital role in modem grocery distribution as a "sustainable" packaging form for United States and Canada. This research shows that plastic pallets are increasing and serve a clear need, even in a sys­ tem that is full of "free" wooden pallets. But to focus on wooden pallets alone is a marketing myopia. To serve future supply chains, the industry must redefine the business as material handling, movement, and flow.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Food Distribution Research, 38, 1
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-11-28

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