6 Steps for the Successful Adoption of Corrugated Cardboard Pallets

Posted by Austin Duncan on October 25,2019

So you’re considering a switch from wood pallets to corrugated pallets and you don’t know where to begin? We’ve helped make this improvement many times. We’ve seen success and sometimes failure and we have learned a lot about what influences a positive outcome. As you are planning your change to corrugated pallets, here are some key factors to consider and ways to promote a successful transition from wood pallets to corrugated.

1. Do you have the right culture?

cardboard palletsIf your company supports continuous improvement initiatives and tends to be forward thinking with an emphasis on sustainability, lowering total cost, improving efficiencies or undertaking green initiatives, your organizational culture should be well-suited to understand, promote and realize the benefits of making a switch from wood pallets to cardboard pallets

Conversely, if your organization handles change with reluctance and aversion and if it tends to have difficulty seeing beyond simple price differences, you may have a challenge.  Corrugated pallets are price competitive to heat treated pallets and custom sized pallets, but if you are buying used or refurbished wood pallets, corrugated pallets will likely be a more expensive short term investment.  That’s why understanding and communicating the long-term benefits of cardboard pallet use is critical but only if those benefits are valued by your organization. Which brings us back to culture.

For example, in a case study published by ChangethePallet.org, IKEA wanted to reduce carbon emissions by 20% and transportation costs by 10% so they switched to corrugated pallets throughout their global supply chain, including their suppliers. They made investments to adapt their infrastructure - pallet shelves, forklift trucks, new handling and storage solutions for store racking, packaging lines, and training personnel to correctly handle cardboard pallets - all in an effort to guarantee the success of this initiative. Your operation may or may not require all of these efforts but every operation requires some of them. Will your organization’s culture allow for change?

Okay, let’s assume that your culture is supportive of change.  What’s next?


2. Will Management Support You?

Cardboard PalletsYou’ve graphed and charted, calculated and presented all the many benefits of making the switch to corrugated pallets and your management team is on board. Fantastic! Now, as you communicate these benefits to other key players in the organization, will management be willing to step in and communicate the benefits to members of the company who may be your peer group/level or who “need to hear it from management?” Will they continue to support the switch with the long term goals in mind?

This ties in with your corporate culture somewhat, but you can help educate your management team up front and set their expectations for the long term benefits.

In the same case study mentioned previously, IKEA reduced their transportation movements between 50,000 - 100,000 in one year and they had reduced carbon emissions by 10.5% putting them on track to reach their goal of a 20% reduction within the next 3 years.

By measuring and tracking their progress, they were able to demonstrate value and set realistic expectations for the time-frame in which they would reach optimal outcomes.

Ok, so management is all in and you’re ready to look for a vendor and begin the sampling process. What internal challenges should you be ready to face?


3. Will Your Warehouse Staff Buy-in?

Cardboard Pallets for Warehouse Managers

Your Warehouse Manager can make or break this entire initiative so it is critical that he or she is on board with the plan. We can’t stress enough the importance of the Warehouse Manager’s role. We have witnessed scenarios where the warehouse manager was never explained the goals and benefits for switching to cardboard pallets and were simply told to use the pallet. Needless to say, those “test runs” often ended in high resistance or outright sabotage.

Corrugated pallets have to be packed out and handled differently than a wood pallet. So your Warehouse Manager has to be educated on the reason for the difference in use and handling, which brings us to the next point.


4. Train Staff How to Properly Pack and Handle Corrugated Pallets Before Your Trial Run!

Cardboard Pallet liftA corrugated pallet’s strength comes from the placement of the runners in relation to the product being packed onto the pallet. The goal is to evenly distribute the weight of the load across the runners. Your staff needs to understand the intended design of corrugated pallets and how to pack out the pallet to ensure stability.

A cardboard pallet is not intended for rough handling, slewing, sliding, or frequent “touches” during storing or shipping. Staff should be trained to reduce the amount of movements of the shipment, to handle the pallet with care and to ensure that the pallet is always placed on a supported structure such as supported racking or on the floor. If your product allows for stacking, your corrugated pallet manufacturer will have recommendations for maximum stacking height as well as dynamic load capacity.

With proper training, our customers often report an increase in efficiency and a reduction in the number of damaged shipments as the number of “touches” decrease while handling becomes more cautious and purposeful.


5. Will you need to make investments in infrastructure or other adaptations?

cardboard pallet jackCardboard pallets will not work on open racking or open conveyor systems. You can do what IKEA did and add support grids to open racks or you can use wood pallets as a base for internal storage before shipping your pallets out. For open conveyors, you can use plywood or wood pallets in your internal processes to add support.

In rare cases, a new user may have to invest in new pallet jacks but the change of most importance is the training of your staff to properly handle the pallets. This requires time and associated costs of training your workforce.



6. Can you track the benefits of the switch and tie in financial impact?

Not only are there total cost benefits for the use of corrugated pallets, but there are also many added costs for using wood pallets that you may not have considered in the past. When you compound these factors, you have a strong case supporting the switch to cardboard pallets and the long-term total cost reduction for your operations, so keep a running calculation of the financial impact to your organization. Below is a handy infographic that uncovers some of these costs:

corrugated pallet costs compared to wood

The successful adoption of cardboard pallets requires preparation, education and proper training. The long-term success requires a clear understanding of and a commitment to the benefits of corrugated pallets and can be reinforced by tracking the total cost savings on an annual or quarterly basis.


For more information on the benefits of corrugated pallets over wood pallets, watch our 4 part video blog series:

wood vs cardboard pallets

Wood vs. Corrugated Pallets:

How much can paper pallets save you?


Tags: Pallets

Austin Duncan

Austin Duncan

Austin Duncan is North American Sales Representative for Conitex Sonoco's Converted Products. Austin holds a Bachelor's degree from Wingate University and was formerly Production Supervisor and eCommerce Product Manager, Sales for a bedding and furniture manufacturer in North Carolina. Austin is responsible for Conitex Sonoco's Textile Carrier, Corrugated Pallets and Sliver Can sales from our North American Headquarters in Gastonia, NC USA.