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Are cardboard pallets the key to transportation success? Ikea dares to find out.

Filed under: Materials Handling

ikea building

Furniture retail giant Ikea recently announced they will no longer be using wooden pallets to transport goods, instead moving to the less widely used corrugated cardboard pallets. Ikea’s Sustainability Chief, Jeanette Skjelmose, states that the main goal of switching to cardboard pallets was to create a smarter transportation system, while also reducing transport costs. Ikea estimates this change will save them approximately $193 million per year.

So has Ikea made the right decision by switching to cardboard pallets? In this post, we will compare cardboard pallets to wood and plastic pallets, so that we can better understand the reasoning behind Ikea’s major change.

cardboard pallet

What are Cardboard Pallets?

Invented in 1992, cardboard pallets are formed from a structure of corrugated cardboard sheets which are designed to carry a load of up to 750kg. These pallets include an under layer where spaces are inserted for forklift blades to enter, then two more layers of cardboard form the upper layer. 

Advantages and disadvantages of Cardboard Pallets.

Cardboard Pallets seem like the ideal solution to fulfil Ikea’s specific needs for transporting their lighter products such as cushions and candles.  In cases where reusable wooden pallets are not essential cardboard pallets come out on top due to a number of advantages.

Handling cardboard pallets is safer, with less risk of damage or injury due to nails or splinter. Cardboard pallets are also lighter than wood or plastic pallets; with each pallet weighing less than 10kg each.  Being lighter makes cardboard pallets easier to handle and reduces shipping costs.  They can also be easily constructed to specific custom sizes to reduce wastage, transportation and storage space; saving a huge amount in freight costs. 

Cardboard pallets are also less expensive to replace compared to wooden or plastic pallets.  Another key advantage is that due to the ‘single use’ nature of cardboard pallets each pallet will be cleaner and more hygienic, removing the requirement for maintenance and cleaning of each pallet, as is the case when using plastic pallets.

It is not all good news for cardboard pallets. Wood and Plastic pallets are industry proven to be stronger, able to handle loads up to 1,600kg; ensuring safe handling of heavy loads. They also reduce the likelihood of product damage as they are more operator friendly due to their ridged structure.

Brambles spokesman James Hall raises a good point, “Paper pallets are not suitable for pooling”.  Cardboard pallets cannot withstand certain weather conditions; and are easily damaged by handling and loads. Therefore they can generally only be used for a single journey before being recycled and hence not suited to every organisation.  Producing new and recycled cardboard pallets for every journey may be seen as an inconvenience seeing as these pallets may not be repaired. 

Another issue to be considered when looking at cardboard pallets is the additional special-purpose forklift attachment you will need in order to correctly handle cardboard pallets with minimal difficulty and damage.  As cardboard pallets are not as stable as other materials they have a tendency to sag with heavier loads placed on them which can interfere when unloading products if regular forks are used.

It will be interesting to see how Ikeas strategy works out for them in the long run; and whether other companies will follow suit by switching to cardboard pallets.  Full credit to Ikea though for taking a chance and continually striving to improve workplace processes and save costs. 

What do you think about Ikea’s decision to move to cardboard pallets?

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