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60 years of Euro Pallet, 30 years of EPAL

An anniversary for two success stories

1961 and 1991 were two years that would significantly change the European goods and transport system. The invention of the standard Euro Pallet and the introduction of the open EPAL exchange system revolutionised the logistics industry in terms of efficiency. The use of the renewable raw material wood and a reduction in carbon-intensive transport routes are good reasons to celebrate this double anniversary with confidence for the future.

Thanks to Covid-19, large celebrations are a no-go in 2021. Nevertheless, the pandemic has not managed to economically stifle the pallet industry. Although pallet sales are traditionally regarded as an indication of economic activity, a major slump has not materialised despite an interim recession on the global markets. Losses among automotive suppliers were balanced by increased demands on the food, hygiene and DIY sectors, allowing the timber packaging industry to underline its status as a systemically relevant industry during the crisis.

A special wooden load carrier whose success story started six decades ago remains a popular means of transport across all sectors...

The Euro Pallet is born

What do truck/trailer beds, industrial packaging machines, shelves in logistics centres and many products have in common? That’s right: They are all aligned to the 800 x 1200 mm dimensions of the Euro Pallet.

This is due to the transport sector's desire to optimally utilise space and reach maximum efficiency through standard sizes. A desire that developed back in the 1950s when pure chaos ruled the beds of European railway cars. Bags and crates stacked in wild fashion resulted in massive space loss and enormous loading and unloading efforts. In 1961 the most renowned European railway operators signed a contract on the creation of a standardised, exchangeable pallet called Euro Pallet aimed at achieving time savings of up to 90 percent in the logistics sector. However, the benefits of the Euro Pallet go beyond that: They boast a positive carbon footprint, can be repaired and recycled and used in sensitive areas thanks to the anti-bacterial properties of wood.

EPAL: Industry pioneer for open exchange system

If you want to reduce all the characteristics of a Euro pallet to a common denominator, it must be "high, tested quality". This is guaranteed by the European Pallet Association e.V. (EPAL). Founded in 1991 as the umbrella organisation of licensed manufacturers and repairers of EPAL/EUR pallets and pallet cages, EPAL is responsible around the world for standardisation, quality assurance and legal prosecution of pallet counterfeiters. EPAL owes its success above all to the open exchange pool it set up in the early 1990s. Here, the pallet exchange works according to the principle of circular economy:

If, for example, a load is delivered on 50 Euro pallets, the recipient of the goods provides 50 empty Euro pallets in exchange, which can be repacked or exchanged. This procedure reduces empty kilometres and thus the volume of traffic, CO2 emissions and transport costs.

With currently around 600 million Euro pallets and 20 million pallet cages in the world's largest open exchange pool, EPAL guarantees the flow of goods in the logistics world. As a registered association, it does not pursue any commercial interests and is exclusively oriented towards the needs of industry, trade and logistics partners. EPAL is represented in over 30 countries by 14 national committees, which are committed to the national implementation of EPAL's objectives. Since 1 August 2013, EPAL has had Euro Pallets produced and repaired under exclusive licence with the branding "EPAL im Oval" (EPAL in the oval) on four corner blocks.

EUROBLOCK supplies high-quality components

EPAL's long-standing partner and fellow campaigner is EUROBLOCK Verpackungsholz GmbH, a sales company for packaging wood and pressboard pallet blocks founded in 1998. As a market-leading supplier to the European pallet industry, EUROBLOCK meets the highest quality criteria (Link to blog about quality management), which are monitored internally and externally. Due to the convincing product and application advantages, EUROBLOCK pallet blocks have the approval of EPAL, other rental pools as well as many large end users.

At the locations Unterbernbach, Lauterbach, Uelzen (Germany) and Ermelo (Netherlands) EUROBLOCK blocks are produced for pallet manufacturers who affix their own branding stamp with the licence number on the centre block. This makes it possible to identify the company that manufactured the Euro Pallet. In Unterbernbach and Ermelo, EUROBLOCK also produces the "repair blocks with a dot" for licensed EPAL repair companies. The dot marks only repaired pallets and makes them distinguishable from new pallets at a glance. By the way, all markings are essential for a Euro Pallet of the EPAL system - even an absolutely dimensionally identical pallet without branding is considered a one-way pallet and cannot be exchanged.

The iPal pallet as a digital cornerstone for the future

The mega-trend of digitisation is leaving its mark on the pallet industry. In recent years, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML have developed the classic Euro Pallet into the intelligent iPAL pallet with a QR code on the blocks on behalf of EPAL. This 2D code serves as proof of authenticity for EPAL load carriers (e.g. Euro Pallets) and replaces labelling by linking the pallet ID to the goods or consignment. The vision for the future includes a simple track-and-trace system in combination with the iPAL app and iPAL platform. The aim of this development is to digitise the open pallet pool in order to create intelligent logistics networks and offer customers sustainable added value. Equipped for the future in this way, the Euro Pallet and EPAL are set to celebrate many more round birthdays.

What are Euro Pallets made of?

The most well-known Euro Pallet called EUR 1 consists of exactly 11 panels, 9 particle board blocks and 78 nails. Its dimensions are 1200 mm x 800 mm x 144 mm (length x width x height) and it covers 0.96 square metres (0.4 loading metres). The permitted types of wood, board thicknesses and moisture specifications are also standardised. Depending on wood humidity, a Euro Pallet weighs between 20 and 25 kilograms and can carry loads of up to 1,500 kg. On average, Euro Pallets remain in service for 6 years.