Choosing a company to supply wooden pallets is easy, right?
On the surface it seems easy. The industry standard for a wooden pallet is 48 inches by 40 inches so it stands to reason when you order pallets from a company, whether a local supplier, a brokerage or a national company, you’ll get what you specified.
The reality is that wooden pallets and suppliers vary widely. Choosing the right supplier can make a significant difference in your supply chain and your bottom line. For national companies that need high volumes of pallets on a consistent, often time sensitive basis, securing the right pallets – and supplier – is particularly important.
[The right supplier is based on your needs and how well the supplier's capabilities align. Get the full guide on how to select the right supplier here.]
To help you through the selection process, we've put together five questions you should ask to ensure you get the right pallets and the right partner for the job.
1) Can the pallet supplier provide each of your locations with consistent specs?
There are dozens of terms used to describe the grades of recycled pallets, varying by region, industry, and often by specific customers. The spec that one supplier calls a Premium A often varies significantly from another supplier’s Premium A spec. This can lead to your facilities receiving different pallets with the same name. As a customer, you want to be confident that the A you get in Memphis is the same spec as the one you get in Dallas.
[Not sure how to evaluate pallet specs? Learn more about making sure a supplier's specs will meet your needs here.]
Look for a company with published pallet grades and a rigorous quality program so that you get what you spec, regardless of the location that supplies it.
2) Can the supplier provide you with consolidated billing and reporting?
Billing and reporting is complex enough without having to handle invoices from multiple suppliers under one pallet contract. Working with a larger company, with a national network, can simplify the billing and reporting process because locations use the same systems and processes. That said, company size does not guarantee simplicity.
Ask your supplier if you will receive one invoice, one set of reports, and one single point of contact. The answer might surprise you.
(We can't leave out here that we provide all of our customers with access to PalTrax™, our online account management system. It offers 24/7 access to invoices, bills of lading, order placing and pallet retrievals, and past activity.)
3) How does the supplier respond to last minute requests?
When you need pallets delivered or picked up, you need them now. Consider the implications if your pallet supplier or broker relies on third party freight companies. A last minute delivery could take 24 hours or more to execute. Evaluate if the company has the resources to get you want you need, when you need it. Do they own their own tractors and trailers? Is the fleet large enough? Does it take more than one call to get you the immediate service you need? These are all important factors.
4) Do the pallet supplier’s business practices align with yours?
While every local pallet company operates differently, it's the people, processes, and culture behind the scenes that make an organization. Assess if the pallet supplier has invested in their personnel and streamlined their operations. Do they people you talk to seem happy to work there? Make sure that the company values safe operations and safe workplaces, follows Good Manufacturing Processes, and is accountable for their work. Do they perform regular audits and risk assessments to ensure high standards? The ideal partner is a pallet supplier that is ethical and prizes transparency; the type of supplier you can trust.
5) Do you know who you’re dealing with?
Regardless of the size of the contract, business is still personal. Whether you're working with a pallet supplier's leadership team, national sales managers or local plant mangers, ensure that all levels operate with the same set of rules. This consistency of purpose and consistency of results is a true measure of an attractive pallet supplier.
It's worth repeating that choosing the right supplier can make a significant difference in your supply chain and your bottom line. Don't forget to ask these questions during your selection process so you get the right pallets and the right partner for the job.
[It's important to have a clear understanding of your pallet needs. There's a lot to consider before making any substantive changes. Get the full guide on how to improve your pallet performance here.]