Ikea tries cardboard pallets

Ikea has announced a new cardboard shipping pallet, which uses fiendishly clever folding to give a loading capacity of 1,650 lbs: "As Ikea uses some 10 million pallets a year, if the experiment is a success it's a good bet that other retail giants will take notice. But the thing that has analysts skeptical is that the pallets can only be used once."


    1. A lot of times. At my last job we used them and re-used them until they were nearly broken, and even then they were given one final job as we stacked scrap onto them to be loaded onto a salvage yard’s flatbed truck for pickup.

      1. I imagine it depends on the user. I’d bet Ikea uses theirs once in receiving at the store, and then ships them off to be recycled/reused.

        1. I work in shipping & receiving at a large store.  We don’t bother to ship the pallets, we either give them back to shipping companies if they want them, or we put them outside and random people in pickups or with trailers gather them and sell them on to pallet pooling companies, and then other people that need them buy them and the reuse continues, it’s actually rather elegant.

          I can see Ikea cutting shipping costs by having a lighter and thinner pallet, it’s really the fuel and time costs of FedEx Freight or Yellow or whoever that are most significant.

    2. As S2redux says below, a good wooden pallet can be reused hundreds of times, and given that they go right from people mainly doing receiving to people mainly doing shipping, they tend to get around quite well.

  1. “only used once”

    Stopped reading right there. Considering the sad state of many pallets I’ve seen still in use while working in a grocery store, this seems like an absurd waste of resources. Hopefully they can figure a way to make them more than single use.

    1. “Stopped reading right there.”

      That was the end of the article. So everyone stopped reading right there.

    2. I bet they don’t handle moisture too well, either. I guess it matters less in a furniture store, but in the life of every pallet they seem to always encounter a puddle or thirty.

  2. while in theory this sounds like a good idea, I dont see it becoming any kind of industry standard. I work in a whse and shipping pallets are reused over and over and over again. Pieces come in, are broken down and made into kits and then restocked on pallets to ship out to clients. I guess in a retail type of environment this would be ok though since you would just break your skid down and stock your items out for sale. 

  3. It looks like they are doing this as a cost cutting measure, not an environment saving measure. They are recyclable, however, even if they aren’t reusable.

  4. You can already get composite and aluminum pallets. But it’s not about pallets.

    Because the cardboard pallets are single-use only, that means you don’t have to hire all the people and resources needed to keep track of your pallets and have them sent back to you. With throw-away pallets, you just dump your dunnage on whomever is receiving goods from you. They can recycle the stuff, burn it, whatever. The cost of the cardboard is included in the shipping cost (which should be lower than backhaul cost), the pallets are out of your hands and you’re saving a bundle on backhaul overhead.

    It’s not a bad idea to consider, really. It might impact the transportation industry somewhat, but it shouldn’t be too major in most cases. If your company relies THAT much on backhaul to survive, then you’re hanging on by a thread as it is. You’d do better to just lease your services to one of the big outfits.

    1. “Who do they hire to keep track of pallets or send them back?”
      I work shipping and receiving for a big box store that will remain nameless.  We receive pallets of product and materials, and if we don’t have an immediate in house use for the pallet itself, we either give it back to the shipping company, or we place it outside our loading dock.  Because other shippers have a demand for pallets, and used ones are cheaper than new ones, a whole world of middlemen exists – guys with pickups or trailers, who gather the pallets and sell them on for $2-$5/each to the companies doing the shipping.

      So for us, they’re purchased new and used at our central warehouses and on our end they’re taken away by people who profit from them.  There’s really no keeping track or sending back of empty pallets, unless there’s actually product or materials on those pallets.   Many of our cardboard boxes (maybe 25%-35%) on the other hand are specialized and are sent back, tracked, and reused, simply because it is less expensive than buying more of that specialized cardboard.

      1. Home Depot charged me per pallet when they delivered some compost and bark. Maybe $5 per pallet? It was refundable if I returned them to the store.

        1. That sounds about right.  You can drive around to big store loading docks and probably score some pallets for free, although we definitely have a crowd who drives by at least daily to gather them.

      1. Seems the site has since gone down the domain squatter hole…

        (the article itself is from 2005)

  5. Yowzers — new forklifts, too? Sounds great for KION or Manitou or Anhui or whoever supplies them, but here’s hoping the old hi-los find happy new homes. The quoted Core77 article quotes a Bloomberg piece with much more info. This looks to be more about saving 10% net shipping costs than anything else (less weight, shorter height, no need to integrate with a wide area pallet-pooler or local refurbisher).

    Hope it works out for everybody, but I’m thinking the wooden pallet biz isn’t shaking in its boots. A good oak pallet can last hundreds of trips, and there’s plenty of refurbishers/poolers around (the Bloomberg article will p’bly have ads for such in your area). For loading non-containerized boats you still want “winged” wooden pallets for dockside lifting with slings. Or for wet, or abusive, or fast-turnaround environments, etc.

    1. This makes more sense, a net shipping cost savings when even including the pallet costs.  Shipping costs far exceed the cost of the pallets themselves, and only stand to increase.

  6. We’ve been using cardboard pallets for years. Many international shipments require them. They are normally reuseable but don’t hold up to much abuse or stacking. IKEA probably just doesn’t want to have two different inventories of pallets.

  7. I sent this link to my dad (wholesale appliance parts guy), and he said:  
    “we have been getting line sets in cardboard pallets for years and they SUCK!  Ikea will learn that cardboard can and will and does COMPRESS, then when you stack it high, the stacks lean and get dangerous to work around!”  So… watch this space, I guess.  Ikea is usually pretty good at thinking through the details and streamlining their value chain.  I wonder if they’ve solved the compression/moisture problems.  And the  new forklifts… ouch, that wil be an expensive experiment.

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