Investigation of Pallet Stacking Pattern on Unit Load Bridging

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Virginia Tech

The optimization of pallet design in today’s competitive supply chain is imperative to reduce costs and improve sustainability. With over two billion pallets in circulation in the United States, most packaged products are handled using unit loads and the interactions between the unit load components are not being considered in the pallet design process. This study aims to investigate the effect of the interlocking of layers and the pallet stacking patterns on pallet bending. This effect is part of a greater encompassing observed behavior known as load bridging, where a redistribution of the stresses on the pallet dependent on the characteristics of the load is generated.

The bending of the unit load was measured under four common support conditions, warehouse racked across the width and length, fork tine support across the width and floor stacking. Five different pallet stacking patterns were then analyzed, comparing different interlocking levels, from column stacking to fully interlocking.

It was identified that interlocking the layers causes a reduction in pallet deflection of up to 53% versus column stacking, and is more significant on lower stiffness pallets. The stacking patterns and interlocking levels also presented an effect on pallet deflection, albeit only for very low stiffness pallets when supported on its weakest components.

A relationship between the observed results and a ratio of load and pallet stiffness was conducted, suggesting that when the load on the pallet is not significantly high in relation to the stiffness, load bridging won’t be observed. These results provide a guideline on improving pallet design and help furthering the understanding of the load bridging effect.

pallets, stacking patterns, packaging, unit load, unit load interactions, transportation packaging