Rackable plastic pallets, unlike nestable pallets and stackable pallets, have 2 primary attributes: intended racking type and rackable load capacity. Rackable load capacity is simply how much weight the pallet can hold when placed in a rack. The type of rack used can have a major impact on pallet performance.
Pallet Racks Briefly Explained
There are 3 main types of racks that are used in the material handling industry: open beam racks, push back or flow racks, and drive-through or edge racks. An open beam rack is by far the most common type of rack and can be seen in some big box stores like Lowes or Ikea. A rackable pallet in an open beam rack must be strong enough to carry its load while only being supported by the front and rear beams of the rack, which is typically a span of 48” or 40”. Sometimes these racks have wire mesh or plywood decking, which allows for the use of a stackable or nestable pallet since the application is really no different than it would be if it was simply floor loaded.
A flow rack or push-back rack is used in applications where product needs to move about the facility in a timely manner and usually does not sit in the racks for a very long period of time. Flow racks typically give more support than an open beam rack in the form of rollers or trays.
Finally, drive through racks, or edge racks, are the most demanding of all racking applications due to the fact that the pallet is supported by only a few inches on two of its outside edges. Typically, a rackable plastic pallet can only handle up to 2,200 lbs in a drive through rack. However, the addition of reinforcement rods into the body of the plastic pallet may allow edge racking up to 3,000 lbs.
Rackable plastic pallets are either injection molded, structural foam molded, or rotationally molded.
These manufacturing processes allow for internal reinforcement if needed, though many of them are constructed to handle an edge racked load without the need for reinforcement. That increase in strength is also a result of an increase in the amount of plastic used, which in turn results in higher costs.
Rackable plastic pallets cost more than stackable and nestable pallets and first time consumers of plastic rackables may see this as cost prohibitive, especially compared to wood.
However, ask anyone who has made the switch from wood pallets to plastic pallets and you will hear that the benefits of switching to plastic far outweigh the costs, and the ROI is often realized far sooner than anticipated.