For almost 10 years, Chep USA has managed the shipment of plastic pallets from a variety of manufacturers.
Now, the firm — a major global player in the management of pallets and containers for customers — wants to make one of its own.
Chep is completing the design of its first returnable plastic pallet and plans to run trials on it next spring, said Brian Beattie, vice president of new business development and marketing for the Orlando, Fla.-based company.
It could be in the hands of a manufacturer soon after that, Beattie said.
The plastics industry has been awaiting Chep's pallet since 1994, when the firm first announced its plans. The pallet-management company handles more than 65 million pallets worldwide for the food and grocery industry, the automotive industry and home-improvement warehouses, among others.
A goal is to produce one standardized pallet that can be used across the board, Beattie said. As many as 20 different styles and sizes of pallets now clutter the marketplace, he said.
``Our objective with customers is to reduce overall supply chain costs,'' Beattie said. ``That's the total ballgame for a lot of our customers. We need to look at damage rates, effective production and handling issues.''
Initially, the company is targeting food-related industries to sell its pallet. That industry already has started to embrace returnable pallets but are just beginning to use plastic-based products, Beattie said.
Chep's rectangular pallet will be 48 by 40 inches long, a common size in the industry, and includes handles for ease of lifting. The pallet will be injection molded from high density polyethylene.
Other details are remaining a secret until the design work is completed, he said.
The company will work with an outside manufacturer to produce the pallets, Beattie said. Chep USA has no production facilities of its own, although the company has designed various wood-based pallets and containers.
Chep, a joint venture between Brambles Industries Ltd. of Sydney, Australia, and GKN plc of Redditch, England, first came to North America in 1989.
Beattie said the pallet will be a premium product. ``It will be on the high end in price,'' he said. ``But it will work well on an automated system. Plants won't have to contend with nails or splintered boards from wood pallets.''