…And Speaking of Intelligent Pallets (and RTIs)…

Maybe you don’t think about pallets that often.  If you’re not in the logistics industry, the word “pallet” probably conjures up images of beaten up pieces of wood on a loading dock behind a store. But, if you’re into logistics, there’s a whole lot more going on.

A recent article on PalletEnterprise.comspeaks about trends in the logistics of the pallet industry. The author, Rick LeBlanc, discusses a number of logistics challenges and opportunities for 2012 including palletization in emerging nations, unit load tracking, supply chain optimization, sustainability, and sanitation concerns. One thing in particular, however, struck me: the increasing need for intelligent pallets – and I would add into that returnable transport items (RTIs) such as totes, bins and containers as well.

Will Wooden Pallets Go the Route of the Dinosaur?

LeBlanc writes: With global supply chains, the importance of accurately projecting demand, and coordinating it with supply continues to be of huge importance, as is flexibility. With respect to flexibility of managing inventory en route, tracking and monitoring technology will play an increasingly important role. [Italicized references are my added emphasis.] Whether or not such technology will be increasingly embedded in pallets or just attached or in the vicinity of unit loads, is yet to be determined.

Another point that LeBlanc raises relates to risks and costs associated with bioterrorism, cargo theft, and food safety. He cites a recent presentation by Dr. Paul Singh, professor emeritus of Michigan State University, and Michael McCartney, principal of QLM Consulting, at the United Fresh produce conference in Dallas about the Food Safety Act and the FDA’s ability to enforce the law. Referencing the United Fresh presentation LeBlanc writes: Depending upon how aggressive the enforcement, we should see an escalating emphasis on proper handling of pallets to keep them clean and dry, as well as more tracking technology to monitor not only the location of the load, but also tampering, load temperature, vibration and other information that could influence load condition. Whether this technology will be embedded in the pallet or somewhere else in the vicinity, Singh and McCartney are suggesting a future where a trailer load of fresh produce will be a high tech mobile warehouse.

LeBlanc then summarizes that the logistics industry will be looking for “safer pallets, greener pallets and possibly smarter pallets”.

I agree.  We’re seeing increasing demand for smarter, intelligent pallets and RTIs.  Producers, retailers and food service providers in particular are looking to intelligent RTIs that include the ability to locate where the RTI is as well as report on the condition of the cargo – specifically the temperature.  RTIs with embedded condition monitoring tags built in can significantly enhance food safety and quality by capturing and sharing both the temperature and waypoint information providing the ability to ensure the product has been handled correctly in the supply chain as well as providing an electronic traceability record. These capabilities, combined with advances in RTIs, could help to revolutionize logistics and enable a more intelligent supply chain.  You can learn about how XC3 Technology can help by clicking here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

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