With inflationary forces pushing prices up around the world, most supply chain businesses have looked to drive efficiencies and reduce costs. In this article, we look at the role of pallets and explain how reliable independent auditing helps reduce wastage by guaranteeing quality and ensuring valuable products are protected from damage during transit.

During the past two years, inflationary pressures – including rising costs, a labour shortage, Brexit, and the war in Ukraine – have forced prices upwards across supply chains for products from fmcg and phamaceuticals to automotive and construction.

Savvy firms have adapted by becoming more flexible and responsive, and are working closer than ever with supply chain partners to foster new levels of collaboration.

Reducing costs is vital part to this process, with potential savings to be gained in areas including logistics. For companies using pallets to transport goods, this means weighing up the financial benefits of different systems, including open or closed pallet pooling (see boxed article), or purchasing pallets outright.

The world’s largest open pooling system is EPAL, founded in 1991 and now accounting for more than 650 million EPAL Euro pallets and two million EPAL box pallets in circulation. Between 2013 to 2022, production of EPAL Euro pallets grew from 65 million to more than 100m every year.

The EPAL business has at its heart a long-standing relationship with external auditor Bureau Veritas. It gives the open pallet pool a robust auditing process, underpinning the essential role its pallets and other load carriers have in supporting efficiencies and cost effectiveness in supply chains.

All EPAL-licensed production and repair operations are inspected to ensure 100 per cent compliance with strict construction and repair standards. Pallet inspections take place without notice, which guarantees maximum quality assurance.

According to EPAL, more than 25,000 inspections are carried out by Bureau Veritas every year – more than 100 every day and more than 250,000 in the ten years the two organisations have worked with each other since 2013. Beareau Veritas has 82,000 staff in offices across 140 countries, covering all the territories in which EPAL pallets are produced and repaired.

The auditing process provides a cornerstone for efficiency in supply chains by protecting the products carried by EPAL pallets, new and repaired. Repaired pallets are specified and audited ‘as new’, so a repaired, reused pallet guarantees the same strength as a new one on its first trip, safe for loads of up to 1.25 tonnes. This is essential, particularly to users in high value supply chains, such as pharmaceuticals or alcoholic drinks, and helps drive efficiencies by protecting products and preventing pallet failures. The collapse of a pallet can cause costly damage to the goods it is carrying or injury to members of staff.

EPAL states: “The reason for the internationally uniform quality of EPAL pallets is the constant and independent quality assurance, which is one of the core tasks of EPAL, in addition to the organisation of the exchange pool.”

Due to the success of their cooperation, EPAL and Bureau Veritas have agreed to continue the joint quality assurance of the EPAL open pallet pool for the coming years.


Quality assurance and sustainability

The EPAL pallet pool demonstrates well how comprehensive quality assurance can help businesses achieve their sustainability goals. As its international exchange system is underpinned by uniform quality and standardisation, both of which are assured by Bureau Veritas, it ensures EPAL pallets have the longest possible lifespan and usage window in their supply chains, helping minimise repair trips and protecting the environment.

In China, EPAL pallets are audited by China Certification & Inspection Group (CCIC).