When it comes to ocean freight containers, there has long been a debate as to whether floor loading or palletization is best. So, it is floor loading versus palletization. Thanks to researchers at Virginia Tech, we could now have an answer to this very question as they’ve developed a tool that will optimize all aspects of transport packing decisions. From the outside, this sounds nothing short of a miracle but let’s take a deeper look!

Over the years, containerization has made ocean travel more efficient than ever before and even 17 times more efficient than air in terms of fuel. In addition to this, manufacturing costs can be reduced for companies alongside labor costs so the introduction has been a successful one for the shipping industry. Just like containers, pallets perform a similar role in transporting products from A to B. With the ability to move pallets in seconds with forklifts, it speeds the whole process up and reduces costs yet again.

Floor Loading – Currently, this is the accepted method for loading products onto a shipping container and it looks to stack from bottom to top, one wall to the other. Typically, the shipper will decide how to load and there are some important considerations to make when choosing floor loading. Not only do the boxes need to be strong enough to support one another, the containers need to be dry and clean. Since pallets add weight, floor loading is the more popular of the two.

This being said, there is one major downside to floor loading; the loading and unloading process takes significantly longer. In order for this technique to be successful, the freight savings need to outweigh the increased labor costs of loading and unloading the boxes.

Pallets – With pallets loaded onto the container, they can be loaded and unloaded in a much quicker time since forklifts and pallets are both standardized around the world. However, the negative for using pallets is they take up more space and will, therefore, require more containers. For this technique to work, the savings in labor needs to outweigh the cost of additional containers.

Important Factors – Every day, facilities move closer to their maximum capacity which makes time one of the most important factors to consider. Not only do they need to keep up with the ever-growing demand, they also need to keep labor costs low to be efficient. When products are floor loaded, unloading times are increased and bottlenecks appear at the receiving docks.

Virginia Tech – In truth, the solution to the issue above will vary depending on location and product. However, one research student at Virginia Tech has developed a way of determining the optimal loading method. After assessing the many variables, the solution will be shown by special software and the company can be as efficient as possible. For example, the software will consider the number of boxes, pallet purchase cost, boxed product weight, box dimensions, pallets per container, boxes per container, unload times, shipping and handling costs, and more.

Essentially, the software calculates the pros and cons of choosing each option before then making a decision as to which is more beneficial. Since all these variables can change from one day to the next, floor loading might be right one day but a poor decision later in the same week. With this software, the debate is removed and manufacturers can optimize this process at all times!

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