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Pallets vs. Skids: What’s the Difference?

December 15, 2023


Whether as a cargo recipient or shipper in Melbourne, you’re probably curious about how various merchandise is kept safe and intact while being stored, transported, and shipped to different parts of the world. Otherwise, you’ve likely heard about pallets and skids, among a few terms used in the logistics industry. They’re two of the most overlooked staples in the supply chain. While they may look the same to most, specific features and functions distinguish them and their uses.

If you plan to buy timber pallets in Melbourne and other areas in Victoria, it pays to explore your options and understand their pros and cons. So, what’s the difference between a pallet and a skid? Let’s find out in this blog.

What are plastic or metal skids?

Skids are one of the oldest storage platforms and are believed to have existed since ancient times. Comparatively, their “newer” counterparts, the pallets, were created in the 20th century to accommodate machines better.

Unlike their counterpart, skids don’t have bottom boards. They only have a top deck to place the goods on. This minimalist design means that the top board and legs absorb the merchandise’s weight. Skids are often made from timber but can also be manufactured using plastic.

With the bottom slats missing, skids require less space when stacked and are easier to drag to relocate manually when empty. On the other hand, they’re great for holding bulky and heavy items that don’t need to be moved often. These platforms are cheaper than their boxy counterparts because less materials are used in creating them.

Distinguishing features of skids

Exploring the difference between a skid and the other types of platforms requires an understanding of a skid’s overall shape, distinguishing features, benefits and downsides, and best uses.

As mentioned, what differentiates a skid is missing the bottom deck. Depending on which products you want to store or transport, they’re the better option for the following reasons:

  • Skids are generally cheaper because they require less materials
  • They’re easier to drag
  • Skids are typically smaller
  • They take up less space when stacked together
  • They’re better for storage

While generally smaller than their counterparts, skids can hold a bulky and heavy load, making them a perfect choice for a piece of equipment that doesn’t need to be moved often.

The benefits of using skids from trusted skid suppliers

Depending on multiple factors, such as the type of goods they need to store or transport and their company and warehouse building setup, some Australian businesses may benefit more from using these platforms. Here’s how using skids can be beneficial:

  • Time-saving: An empty skid is easier to drag and transfer, even by just one person, because it generates less friction and is lighter. Smaller companies that rely heavily on human resources can save time in using them to prepare the warehouse or factory for storing merchandise.
  • Space optimisation: Because skids require less storage space when stacked, warehouse managers can optimise storage areas and, therefore, stack more items.
  • Cost-effectiveness: These top-decked platforms are cheaper and are perfect for smaller businesses that wish to save on costs.

Despite the many benefits, Melbourne businesses should note that skids may not last as long as other types of platforms because of their less secure structure.

The downsides of using skids

Skids may be considered an ancient invention. So, it’s unsurprising that their simple structure sets limits to their uses. In fact, they’re:

  • Less stable: The missing slats at the bottom make skids less robust and more prone to damage when moved around a building excessively.
  • Harder to move with machines:The missing bottom deck makes it more challenging for a forklift to move stacks or merchandise from one point to another.
  • Carry less weight: These bottomless platforms can support less weight than other platform types.
  • Less effective when moving stacks of goods: While possible, skids require special precautions to move in and out of a building using forklifts. That’s because they aren’t as great as other platform types when it comes to effective weight distribution.

When to use skids for Melbourne logistics

Skids may be better for certain processes in the supply chain. These include:

  • Long-term storage: Skids can hold heavy items that need long-term storage and less to zero mobility in the warehouse.
  • Distribution: Their shape and overall structure make these platforms easier to load and unload if there are no available lifting machines onsite. 
  • Shipping: Skids work well when transporting bulky and oddly shaped items. Because they’re slightly lower in height, skids can be used when shipping large items to destinations within Victoria with strict height requirements.

What are plastic, metal, or timber pallets?

Pallets are an evolution of skids and have become one of the most in-demand staples in the supply chain sector. They’re known for their efficiency, strength, and longevity.

The added bottom deck distinguishes it from a skid. Because of this added feature, these modern platforms have more efficient weight distribution capacities, making loading and unloading by machines like hand pallets easier. Besides timber, they can be made from metal, plastic, and cardboard.

These supporting platforms are everywhere, whether it be plastic, metal, or timber pallets. From Melbourne warehouses to distribution centres, freight service providers, and cargo transport companies, they’re heavily utilised in the Australian freight and logistics industry. Their popularity is attributed to the pervasive use of forklift trucks and other machines for loading and unloading goods throughout Australia.

Distinguishing features of pallets

This platform type is better than its predecessors because of the following added features:

  • Besides having a bottom deck, they have up to four stringer boards
  • They’re more stable and secure than skids
  • They can carry heavier loads
  • They’re easier to work with using forklifts or hand pallets
  • They’re more suited for transporting high volumes of goods
  • They have more customisation options

Standard pallet sizes in Melbourne

Standard sizes differ from country to country. In Australia, however, the average measurement is 1165 x 1165mm (45.87 × 45.87 inches), while the standard height is 150mm (5.9 inches).

However, this platform type can be made in different designs and sizes. Trusted pallet suppliers can also customise the shape to address the customer’s evolving requirements. For instance, some may have two-way or four-way access for loading and unloading machines. Others may have a single-board top deck instead of several planks.

Different designs

Australian companies can choose from any of the following options, depending on the type and volume of cargo they need to store, transport, or distribute:

Decked or Stringer

Stringers refer to the boards found in between the top and bottom decks. These offer additional support and reinforcement. A four-way stringer is a good option if you want to export pallets because it often has notches to make it easier for a forklift to load and unload cargo.

Wing pallets

Single or double-wing platforms feature an overhanging deck-board from the edges of the stringer-board. A single-wing pallet has top boards that extend beyond the stringers, while double-wing platforms have wider top and bottom decks.

Reversible or Non-Reversible

Those with the same top-board and bottom-deck measurements and layout are called reversible pallets. Conversely, those with different bottom and top configurations are the non-reversible ones.

Solid deck

If your pallet uses one board without spaces between them, it’s a solid deck type. This platform is ideal for transporting smaller products.

Block pallets

Companies loading and unloading heavier cargo would benefit from this type of platform. It has solid lumber blocks along the platform’s four corners, making them more durable and stronger than other lumber pallets.

Plastic pallets

These alternatives are made from polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HPDE) and processed through rotational or injection moulding. They’re easy to clean and durable, although they cost as much as three times more in Melbourne than their recycled timber counterparts.

Metal Pallets

The ones made from metal are the costliest among all variants in almost all pallet suppliers. Because of that, they’re almost exclusively used in the automotive and metal manufacturing industries.

Wooden pallets vs. plastic vs. metal

The ones made from wood are strong and durable, lasting at least five years. If broken, they can be repaired or reassembled to make a new platform, so long as the wood planks and boards remain sturdy. On the other hand, the plastic ones can only carry half the weight their wooden counterparts can hold. The metal types are the costliest among the three options because of their longevity and resilience.

The benefits of using pallets from Australian trusted pallet suppliers

These ubiquitous supporting frames provide several advantages among companies engaged in different supply chain processes. Factories, warehouses, couriers, and freight companies, for instance, consider them a must-have for the following reasons:

  • Allows bulk storage, transport, and shipping: This type of platform works great with forklifts and hand pallets. These two are crucial in storing, transporting, or shipping items in large volumes. The bottom deck helps prevent the platform from collapsing under excessive loads.
  • Cost-effective: This platform type reduces the need for manual labour. As such, organisations can save time and operational costs, optimising staff productivity and business resources.
  • Increased operational efficiency: Factories and warehouses often deal with multiple products and operate in fast-moving environments. This type of platform is crucial in organising inventories and optimising all production and pre-distribution spaces.

The downsides of using pallets

While more durable and secure than skids, this platform type is:

  • Costlier than skids because their construction requires more materials
  • Harder to manually relocate than skids because of the added resistance and weight from the bottom deck, making pallet removal challenging
  • Takes more space when stacked and stored as it’s typically larger than skids

When to use pallets in Melbourne shipping and logistics

This type of platform can be used in the same manner as skids. However, they’re comparatively better for items that require more strength and stability. These platforms are ideal for bigger businesses that rely less on human labour. Moreover, this platform can carry diverse products that must be stored and transported in and out of a building more frequently.

Skids vs. pallets: which is cheaper in Melbourne?

Prices vary widely, depending on the material used and the design as well. The wooden ones, for instance, can be made from recycled timber and types of hardwood, and the latter is more expensive than the former. Thick and double-deck designs and heat-treated types also command higher prices than their regular counterparts.

Wooden skids, on the other hand, have more flexible measurements and are generally cheaper. Plastic platforms, regardless of type, are generally three times more expensive than their wooden counterparts. That’s because plastic pallets require less maintenance, last twice as long, and require more manufacturing resources.

Skids vs. pallets: which is better?

There’s no easy answer to this one. A good rule of thumb is to consider the following aspects to decide which can fulfil your requirements better:

  1. Your business purpose

    Skids may be a good option if your business prioritises long-term storage over mobility. Conversely, if your organisation regularly moves high quantities of merchandise, wooden pallets may be a better choice.

  2. Consider the product(s) you’re storing and shipping

    Skids work well for a large product that requires long-term storage and less mobility. Additionally, they can support smaller items that must be transported or shipped in fewer quantities. On the other hand, pallets work well if your business needs a more secure platform for transporting and distributing large volumes of commodities in and out of a building or from one city to another within Victoria frequently.

  3. Domestic and international standards and regulations

    The configuration, design, and measurement of your platform must comply with domestic and international commercial transport rules, especially if you plan to export timber pallets or skids. If you’re shipping internationally, ensure your platform complies with the standards in your destination. Otherwise, your merchandise may be denied and sent back to its country of origin, translating to delays and revenue losses.

Concluding thoughts

Even if they possess almost similar features, pallets and skids are used for slightly different purposes within the logistics sector. However, both play critical roles in the Australian supply chain, enabling enterprises to keep and transport a diverse range of products safe while meeting customer demands.

Regardless of the business size and niche, every organisation must learn the differences between these types of platforms. In doing so, they can effectively lower transport, distribution, and delivery costs. The discussion above offers valuable insights to help them make an informed decision.