How is a shipping crate similar to both your home and your most intimate relationship? Each one is only as strong as the foundation upon which it is built.

Just like you wouldn’t expect a partnership to thrive without shared values and mutual trust, you can’t expect a crate built on a sub-standard base to survive the ups and downs of international travel.

So it pays to consider what’s underneath the crating the next time you’re planning a shipment. Every home inspection includes a thorough review of the foundation. Every shipping crate deserves the same treatment.

Know Your Vocabulary

The first step in ensuring that your shipment has a strong foundation is educating yourself about the various bases that can be used to move products around the globe. Some products are moved on skids, but the vast majority of products are moved and stored on pallets.

Although the words “skid” and “pallet” are used interchangeably by many, but they are actually quite different. Both styles of platform are constructed around a set of “runners,” lengths of lumber running parallel to one another. A pallet features a series of slats nailed or stapled to the runners. A skid has a single, solid piece of plywood or lumber, called a “deck,” nailed on top of the runners. Sometimes, a “bottom board” adds further stability to a skid. Basically, a pallet’s structure is more like Swiss cheese, while a skid’s structure is a thick slice of cheddar.

A pallet is an incredibly versatile, relatively low-cost, portable platform onto which products can be stacked. Most often the entire pallet, stacked high with consumer goods, is shrink-wrapped in plastic to prevent the products from shifting during transit. (But don’t be fooled into thinking the plastic wrap will prevent damage from moisture. It’s chief purpose is restraining the load; rain water and condensation are still serious concerns.)

The shape of the pallet is likely very familiar to you, whether you’ve shopped for a year’s worth of paper towels at a warehouse club stacked floor to ceiling with pallets or browsed online to find clever ways to re-use the ubiquitous platforms as DIY home furnishings of decoration.

But the very same slatted design that makes pallets easy to disassemble for craft projects, compromises its sturdiness for transport. The solid deck of the skid, on the other hand, helps lock in its shape. The right-angled corners of a skid remain at 90 degrees, even when the platform is torqued during shipping.

And the skid’s consistently flat top surface offers the option of adding bracing, cushioning, or other extras to further benefit your product.

Choosing the Right Foundation

Some products can travel safely by pallet. Lightweight, inexpensive consumer goods are the perfect example. If everything goes according to plan, the pallet of shrink-wrapped goods will be transferred without incident from factory to loading dock, from loading dock to truck, from truck to distribution center, from distribution center to larger truck, from larger truck to shipping container, all the way through to its final destination.

Even in a worst-case scenario, such as an accidental puncture by a forklift or a soaking from a rainstorm while waiting on a airport runway, the cost to replace an entire pallet full of the product is relatively low. So the low cost of a the pallet is likely to be worth the risk.

If your product checks any of these boxes, however, you should include a skid in your budget:

  • Large
  • Heavy
  • Irregularly-shaped
  • Expensive to manufacture
  • Sensitive to shock or vibration

Choosing a skid instead of a pallet is similar to the difference between paper and plastic plates at a barbecue. The crosshatch of slats on the top and bottom of the pallet simply aren’t as sturdy as the solid top (and sometimes bottom) boards of a skid.

Plus, if you plan to add in cushioning or bracing, you will need a solid base on which to attach the extra protection. A pallet won’t provide the foundation onto which you can attach the crate sides and roof to protect your shipment from the weather and rough handling.

CDC Packaging Builds Better Crates from the Ground Up

Pallets are inexpensive and ubiquitous, but they might not be right for your product. If you have done the “cost vs. loss” analysis and decided that your shipment deserves a skid instead, you can trust CDC to build you the right foundation. Contact us today to learn more about our custom-made heavy-duty skids.