To ship or store automotive parts, you need packaging that will handle the weight without buckling. When choosing how to package your automotive parts, two options stand out—wooden pallets and plastic pallets.
Which one is best? Here, we’ll look at the needs of the automotive industry and how wood and plastic pallets compare against each other.
Automotive Packaging Qualities
In the automotive industry, you need pallets with high weight limits, stability, and versatility. They should be able to withstand a wide range of climates and create as small a carbon footprint as possible.
High weight tolerance
Automotive parts can be extremely heavy. A vehicle might weigh a couple of tons, and if you’re shipping individual parts in bulk, that weight can add up. Even if a single part is relatively small, storing a bunch of them in a 4×4 foot cube will make for a heavy load.
Another need is stability. You want to make sure loads don’t shift or slip around after they’re palletized. While metal parts may not be all that fragile, they can result in significant damage to property and personnel who happen to be nearby if they slip.
Other parts involving glass components or multiple moving parts could easily be damaged if the stack falls, meaning you need something that will remain stacked if you want to protect your product on long hauls.
Capacity to handle climate changes
Automotive parts may be shipped to manufacturers or distributors across the nation, and in some cases, overseas. Therefore, the pallets you use will need to withstand a variety of climates without warping or becoming brittle.
Low carbon footprint
Finally, automotive manufacturing can leave a large carbon footprint. Many manufacturers (whether to incur favor with the public or simply to get some tax breaks) are striving to keep their carbon footprint to a minimum, and your choice of pallet can reduce environmental impact.
Differences Between Wood & Plastic Pallets For Automotive Packaging
With the above needs in mind, let’s look at how wood pallets compare with plastic when it comes to automotive packaging.
Surface and friction
In terms of the surface of the pallets themselves, plastic is smoother than wood, making it great for objects that are susceptible to scratching, puncturing, etc. However, that smoothness could jeopardize their ability to be stacked and may increase chances of slippage.
Most automotive parts aren’t susceptible to scratching, and if they are, they’re usually padded in such a way that splinters or nails from a wooden pallet would have little effect.
As such, wooden pallets would likely be best for automotive parts because they don’t slip as easily as plastic, so heavy loads are stabilized.
The durability of plastic versus wood is a topic of some debate, but overall, plastic pallets are technically more durable than wood—they don’t splinter or crack, and the material has enough flex to allow it to sustain heavy impacts.
That said, wooden pallets aren’t weak by any stretch, and they can last a long time before needing to be repaired or discarded.
The durability of plastic pallets doesn’t mean they can handle the same weight capacity as wooden pallets. In fact, the weight limit for most plastic pallets maxes out at around 1,500 pounds, which may not be enough for some automotive parts.
Wooden pallets tend to have higher weight capacities than plastic, along with the added advantage of being easily customizable—you can order wooden pallets for high levels of weight for less than custom plastic pallets. Because of this, wood is generally better than plastic for taking on the heavy loads produced by the automotive industry.
When focusing on investment, wooden pallets win hands down. Plastic pallets can cost up to three times as much as wood, and that’s not even for custom-built pallets. Wood is easier to customize, and it’s less expensive to do so.
Both wood and plastic pallets are reusable, but wood can last longer than plastic in some cases. Although plastic pallets don’t splinter, they can still break, and once they do, they cannot be repaired.
Alternatively, wooden pallets are easily fixed if they crack at any point.
Finally, plastic may appear weather-resistant, but that’s only true up to a certain point. In extreme temperatures, plastic pallets can change consistency, becoming more flexible in hot areas and more brittle in cold ones.
Wooden pallets, when heat treated, don’t have this problem, so they’re ideal for automotive packaging that’s going cross-country.
One major drawback of plastic pallets is that they require the use of petroleum to manufacture, meaning their production has a much higher carbon footprint than wood.
On the other hand, wooden pallets are completely recyclable. Once they’re no longer usable, they can be mulched or pulped. In addition, they’re typically made from leftover lumber from other manufacturing processes, such as furniture production.
Wood Or Plastic: Which Is Best For Automotive Packaging?
When looking at the ways plastic and wooden pallets compare in meeting automotive packaging requirements, wood comes out on top. It’s more sustainable, offers higher weight limits, and protects products from slippage.
As if that’s not enough of a reason, wood is cheaper than plastic, so there should be no question to choose wooden pallets for your automotive packaging needs.