Pallet management: which software to reduce costs? – Transportissimo

The management of load carriers is going digital with a view to simplifying the process and limiting empty returns in order to reduce costs and the carbon footprint
A file produced by Renaud Chasle in issue 10 of TRM le Guide

In Europe 600 million pallets were in circulation in 2021 according to EPAL France. If the load support is essential for transport, its management is also very restrictive. The carriers to whom the pallets are entrusted are responsible for them and must ensure their return to the principals. Pallet management then becomes time-consuming. It can generate tensions with customers or partners and additional costs for empty or at least unpaid transport. Charging support is becoming a precious commodity whose costs are rarely borne by shippers, especially mass retailers. This is all the more true since pallet prices have risen sharply due to the shortage of wood and rising costs (+40% in 2021). Manufacturers such as companies specializing in the rental or shared management of pallets have understood this and are now taking advantage of technologies to digitize processes in order to reduce costs and the carbon footprint. Based on IoT sensors, tracking software applications and dematerialized pallet vouchers, carriers have access to management and relocation services.

Software to manage pallets…

Depending on the size of the business, pallet management may require one or more full-time employees. Including fuel costs, driving hours, wear and tear on the truck and administrative costs, publisher MagicPallet estimates that managing pallet returns represents between 7% and 12% of the company’s budget. At all times, shippers and carriers must know the stock levels of pallets, where they are, how much they are creditors or debtors and when they must return them. Without a computer system or on the sole basis of Excel files, this follow-up quickly becomes a headache. Management software then aims to automate processes by processing pallet data and pushing alerts to users. They can interface with the company’s information system and allow data to be shared between distributors, carriers and recipients. The tool thus offers visibility of movements and stocks in real time. It generates automatic alerts in case of breakage or pallet debts.

… and platforms for and relocate

In addition to load carrier management software, publishers are setting up digital relocation platforms that no longer allow the exchange of physical pallets but rather virtual vouchers that can be exchanged later. Carriers who deposit goods recover these vouchers corresponding to the value of the Europe pallets that they left with the shipper or the recipient and then exchange them with other carriers or on dedicated storage sites. The challenge is to save time during deliveries and avoid returns loaded only with pallets. By accessing a network of collection points or by exchanging vouchers between colleagues, carriers can better adapt pallet returns to truck routes. The software platforms facilitate the management of dematerialized pallet vouchers and inform users about the availability of stocks within the network. It is possible to carry out a search by specifying the number of supports required, their desired position in relation to an established route or the expected quality (new pallets, used 1st choice, used 2nd choice, etc.).

Historical players in full digitalization

On the market for pallet management systems, there are manufacturers, rental companies and pooling service providers as well as publishers or specialized start-ups. LPR (La Palette Rouge) has partnered with Shippeo to add to its offer the “Track & Trace” solution for real-time tracking of pallet movements via an interactive map. The app provides notifications at delivery milestones, with estimated arrival times and a history of time spent at sites. In addition to improving service to carriers thanks to Big Data, the rental company aims to reduce its carbon footprint by 20% per pallet rotation by 2025. Its competitor Chep, which supplies e-commerce giants in particular, has launched 7 years ago the “transport collaboration” program which uses Big Data and artificial intelligence technologies internally to monitor the millions of movements of its pallets and offer pooling solutions to carriers. For its part, IPP, which ships 14 million pallets to France each year on behalf of manufacturers and distributors, has entered into a partnership with Global Tracks, a specialist in IoT solutions. Using a radio-frequency beacon placed on the media, positioning and content data are collected at each stage of transport and accessible to all actors in the chain. At Paki, the e-Voucher solution for digital pallet vouchers launched in 2018 has been supplemented since 2020 by the Drop & Drive web application. It allows you to geolocate the drop-off points of the Paki Spot network and to notify carriers of a return via your pallet account. At the time of collection, the collection is validated via an electronic signature or SMS authentication and the customer account is automatically updated.

The offer of digital startups

After rental companies or suppliers, companies such as Opalean, MagicPallet or PFM Palbank have specialized in digital pallet management tools. Opalean’s Opatrace collaborative platform interfaces, for example, with market TMSs and connects market players who share information related to the flow of pallets in real time. According to the publisher, the optimization generated reduces administrative time by 30 to 40% for users. In 2020 Opalean launched the Pallet Analytics analysis and reporting module presented as a control tower for detecting possible hazards and resolving problems. ” Thanks to the analysis of all logistics data, customers can anticipate activity by adjusting their flows and their stocks of Europe pallets explains Gabriel Pierini, CEO and founder of the company. The start-up MagicPallet offers two solutions, one for media management and the other for relocation. Connected to carriers’ TMS and shippers’ WMS, they display real-time monitoring of stocks and movements of pallets with reports and automatic alerts as well as a search engine for available pallets. MagicPallet’s customers include Delanchy, XPO, Kuehne+Nagel, Transports Breger, Transports Chabas, Grimonprez and Lahaye.

Finally PFM Solutions, a subsidiary of B2P, offers Palbank, which allows carriers to exchange their pallet vouchers. They locate or deposit on an online map the stocks and pallet vouchers that they can exchange between themselves or collect within the network of 350 service points spread across France and Benelux. To illustrate how Palbank works and its benefits, PFM takes the example of a carrier from Lille who owes pallets to a carrier from Montpellier. The Lille carrier deposits these pallets at a Palbank service point according to its availability. The Lille carrier then makes a transfer to the Palbank account of the Montpellier carrier. The latter can then pick up the pallets according to his needs at a Palbank service point. They thus avoid crossing France from North to South, with empty pallets. The solution is used today by 1,000 customers, i.e. 7 million pallet movements recorded in 2021. This is 35% more than in 2020.

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Shippers and carriers take the plunge

Many carriers and groups already use digital solutions to manage their pallets. Since November 2021, FLO Palettes has been using the Palbank solution which allows its members, in particular Picq and Charbonnier, to exchange a Euro pallet for €1 instead of returning it for an average cost of €12. The Messageries Laitières shipper, which has interfaced with its TMS with the OpaTrace solution, provides its chartered carriers connected to the solution with a daily and detailed view of the volumes loaded from the factories and delivered to the warehouse, but also of the quantities owed by the recipient customers. Messageries Laitières monitors all European pallets in real time in its six warehouses in order to identify its available EPAL deposits and ensure weekly shipments. In Brittany STG has rolled out Paki e-voucher vouchers with its client Lidl. ” More and more supermarket chains impose the perfect exchange. For example, for 60 pallets delivered, the driver must leave with the 60 empty supports the same day, otherwise they are lost. comments David Roger, Packaging Manager for the STG Group. With the e-voucher the carrier is not obliged to leave with empty pallets. Lidl issues an e-voucher that will be credited directly to their Paki account. ” This pallet bank avoids errors or omissions and especially the loss of pallets The solution simplifies the exchange with the carriers while Paki organizes the collection of the pallets and thus frees us from the constraints of the exchange 1 for 1 “. The e-voucher is also used by Stef, Etoile Routière and Guidez transport, which also benefit from the MagicPallet application.

“smart pallet”, the connected support

A smart pallet, also called iPAL, is a logistics support equipped with IoT sensors and a locator allowing it to be tracked through the various links in the supply chain. Thanks to the integrated sensors, the logistics manager can thus know in real time where the goods are or under what conditions they are stored (humidity, temperature for example). The introduction of these pallets is particularly useful in the food, chemical and pharmaceutical industries, where hygiene conditions have a direct impact on product quality and safety. Changes in pallet temperature or humidity can be detected, allowing the manager to transfer goods before they are damaged. According to storage system manufacturer Mecalux, smart pallets are still in the experimental phase but are expected to grow at an estimated 4.2% per year by 2027 according to consultancy Coherent Market Insights.

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Pallet management: which software to reduce costs? – Transportissimo


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