Seamless pallet exchange. How do you best achieve it?

Euro pallets – the world of logistics would be unthinkable, unworkable, without them. They are employed to convey numerous items from A to B every day. But it is not just goods that change geographical location. The pallets are on the move, too. And to ensure every participant always has the same quantity at their disposal, a very simple exchange system was introduced.

As reported by the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML*, some 550 million euro pallets are in circulation on the continent, with 100 million in Germany alone. They are a vital component of practically all logistics processes. They resemble a “currency” that is constantly changing hands – based on a very simple principle: when a freight forwarder delivers a certain number of loaded pallets to a customer, he expects the same quantity in return – and preferably of the same quality.

But how does this exchange work in practice? The German Association of the Freight Forwarding and Logistics Industry (DSLV)* describes two possible models.

The Cologne model

This entails a double exchange – where the freight forwarder brings a corresponding number of empty pallets with them when picking up the goods, and then receives a replacement set of empties upon delivery to the customer. This is particularly suited to players who must travel to a variety of frequently changing locations.

The Bonn model

In this instance, there is an obligation to return the originals. In other words, the freight forwarder brings the pallets on which the goods were delivered back to the original departure point at a later date. This model is ideal for companies who regularly pick up goods from one and the same place.

All participants must contractually agree the system to be applied, Cologne or Bonn. But even when the terms are put down in black and white, the process can entail substantial effort and expense, and does not always work smoothly. Often, there is a considerable amount of paperwork. And there are sometimes disagreements over the quality of the replacement pallets. How this often laborious chore can be streamlined by means of a digital solution is described here.

*German only