Moving materials efficiently often requires the use of a forklift and a stacking device known as a pallet or skid. Traditionally, pallets are constructed from wooden planks and spacers, creating a dual platform for stacking products and inserting the blades of a tow motor or forklift. There are some drawbacks associated with the use of wooden pallets or skids, however. Wood is expensive, heavy, and potentially damaging to the floor or the stacked products. One worker cannot carry many traditional wooden pallets, and a stack of wooden skids can become a fire hazard.
Enter the cardboard pallet. A cardboard pallet is constructed out of corrugated cardboard sheets bonded with strong paper. A bottom layer is constructed from flat cardboard sheets, then spacers are created to allow for forklift blades. Two layers of cardboard form the top layer, upon which lightweight cargo may be stacked. Currently, the cardboard pallet is considered to be a disposable commodity with limited capacities.
Cardboard do pallets offer a few advantages over their bulkier wooden counterparts, however. Since no nails are used in the construction of a cardboard pallet, there is less potential for damage to the storage area or the products stacked on it. Workers can carry several cardboard skids back to a disposal or storage area, as opposed to using a forklift to stack and store heavy wooden pallets. Replacing a worn cardboard pallet is much less expensive than reordering wooden pallets from a manufacturer.
There are still some technical issues which must be worked out before cardboard pallets can replace other forms. Corrugated cardboard is relatively strong compared to other paper products, but it has definite weight-bearing limitations. The act of handling a fully loaded cardboard pallet alone damages the material. Pallets and skids must be designed to allow for forklift access, which makes some traditional engineering methods unworkable. Bracing for a cardboard pallet cannot intrude into the space reserved for the forklift blades. This means the pallet design can only include bracing going in one direction between the platform layers, or using spacers to allow for forklift access from both directions. Wooden pallets are inherently strong enough to withstand the stress of an unsupported top layer, but a cardboard pallets will often fail structurally when heavier loads are stacked on it.