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'Safety Pallet' Designed and Built to Be Reusable, Rackable, Nestable
Safety Pallet: Packaging industry veteran comes up with idea for design and construction of a new kind of pallet that has advantage ove GMA and plastic pallets

By Staff
Date Posted: 12/1/2000

A Florida man has developed a design and construction for a 48x40 multiple-entry panel deck pallet that is reusable, rackable and nestable. The Safety Pallet is particularly suited for use in warehouses and distribution centers and in applications of reusable pallets in a closed loop, according to its developer, Tony Kohlhaas.

The Safety Pallet is made of two 1/4-inch plywood panels used to build a 2-inch thick deck. The panels are held together by a wood frame between them. The frame is made of 2x2 wood components, and the panels are glued to the frame. Various materials are used to fill the void between the panels.

The legs are of two-piece plastic assembly. The panels have precut holes for inserting plastic collars that are glued to the top panel. Plastic legs screw into the collars. The collars and legs are made of two different types of plastic.

The design and materials result in a tough, durable, rigid, yet lightweight, efficient, reusable pallet, according to Tony, whose company is known as Protective Pallets Inc. The Safety Pallet is protected by seven patents, he said.

Tony is interested in establishing business relationships with pallet manufacturers to market, sell, and manufacture the Safety Pallet and also is considering licensing arrangements. A pallet manufacturer in Florida has assembled samples and recently produced pallets to be used in a field trial for the dairy industry.

Tony spent his career in the packaging industry. He worked for several companies in the packaging industry in sales and management positions and retired from Stone Container. He developed four patented packages in his career.

Asked how he got interested in developing a new type of pallet, he said that he noticed the same type of pallets were being used when he left the packaging industry as when he first began working in it.

Tony has been developing the pallet design and construction for several years, and various versions of the Safety Pallet have been tested at the Virginia Tech pallet and container research laboratory. The pallet was most recently tested at the lab last summer, and Tony is planning additional tests.

Virginia Tech tests showed the pallet would average about 60 trips, according to Tony. The Safety Pallet would be moderately priced, said Tony, who estimates the per-trip cost of the Safety Pallet at 8 cents.

The design and construction is very durable, he said, particularly the wood components. "Nothing is indestructible," he said, "but itís close."

Tony has experimented with various filler materials, which is included simply to hold the two decks apart. Versions have been made with liner board, plastic foam, and wood strips as fillers.

The pallet will average about 60 trips before suffering a broken plastic leg, he indicated. The legs, however, are easily and inexpensively replaced ó the damaged one can be unscrewed and a new one screwed into place for about $1.

The laminating process requires compressing the panels for bonding. Tony has developed a way of semi-automating the assembly process and is exploring if technology for laminating other products could be adapted for the Safety Pallet.

The Safety Pallet has several advantages over the GMA pallet and various plastic pallets, according to Tony. It is designed to allow traditional four-way entry, but it also may be entered diagonally, making it an eight-way entry pallet. In addition to being nestable and rackable, the Safety Pallet is very rigid and virtually eliminates low frequency vibrations associated with goods transported under load via truck. The Safety Pallet "has extreme rigidity," said Tony. "Itís like a 2-inch solid piece of plywood." The Safety Pallet also weighs only 35 pounds, about half as much as a GMA pallet and some plastic pallets. The use of adhesive eliminates loose nails or other fasteners.

The low frequency vibrations associated with the Safety Pallet should be particularly beneficial in industries such as produce. It could potentially reduce damage to produce with thin skin ó like plums and tomatoes, Tony suggested. The Safety Pallet also would be particularly well suited for transporting electronic equipment, he said.

He also suggested that grocery manufacturers could reduce damage of product stored in warehouses and distribution centers and possibly the cost of expensive packaging associated with stacking multiple unit loads by using the Safety Pallet in rack storage systems.

"It should be ideal for use as a returnable pallet anywhere you have a customer that has control over their pallets in a closed loop," he added.

Instead of incorporating some of the best attributes of various materials into pallet design and construction, companies in the pallet industry have tended to focus on one material, Tony noted. For example, a manufacturer of plywood or panel deck pallets also will use plywood scraps to make blocks for the pallet. A wood pallet manufacturer will use the material that is available to make and assemble wood components. Plastic pallet makers essentially use all plastic (although sometimes components made of other materials are used for reinforcements, for example). "Theyíre trying to make a pallet that uses their material," said Tony. "Iím trying to make a pallet that works."

(Editorís Note: Tony Kohlhaas may be contacted at (904) 285-0793.)

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