Pallets Vs Skids: What’s the Difference?

19 December 2019

Many individuals often use the term “pallet” and “skid” interchangeably. It even happens to people in the shipping industry, despite the fact that they work with both on a daily basis. However, not only are they not the same thing, but their use and utility also differ greatly.

In this article, we’ll explain how you can tell the two apart, as well as what you might be able to achieve with either. With this information, you’ll be able to optimize your warehouse in order to increase storage density, as well as ship heavy machinery cheaper and more efficiently.

What Is a Pallet?

A pallet is a flat structure intended for transporting goods. You probably already have the image of a typical, wooden pallet in your mind. These usually consist of three or four stringers on top of which manufacturers nail several deck boards. They are meant to transport and store merchandise as stably and as safely as possible, while also allowing companies to increase their overall goods density by taking full advantage of cubic space.

Although pallets are the single, most used unit load on a global scale, there are many variations in terms of size between industries and, indeed, between regions. The International Organization for Standardization recognizes six pallet types according to their dimensions. Usually, their size will be expressed in a width (stringer length) by length (deck board length) format.

To avoid air shipping, pallets are loaded into intermodal containers and expedited via maritime freight routes. This allows organizations to shave off immense amounts of transportation costs.

What Is a Skid?

Before there were any pallets, shipping and storage operations were done with skids. In fact, these date as far back as Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Unlike pallets, which have a top and a bottom deck, skids have no bottom deck at all. What this means is that there is less friction going on between the storage structure and whatever the latter is placed upon.

With less friction comes increased mobility. It might seem like a win-win situation, but it is not. The trade-off that takes place when switching from a pallet to a skid is related to how much weight the latter can carry. Its no-bottom-deck design has a noteworthy impact on the structural integrity of this storage option, which means you won’t be able to put as much weight on it as you would on a pallet.

This is a crucial feature for shipping and warehousing operations, which is the main reason why skids are yet to completely replace pallets. The global demand for pallets is overwhelming, whereas skids are rarely used this much, despite the fact that they are significantly cheaper to make and easier to store.

Why Would You Use a Skid?

Invariably, the question arises of whether there is a situation wherein skids are better than pallets. As it turns out, their increased mobility can be immensely helpful when storing heavy machinery. When you can’t place heavy equipment straight on the concrete and/or find that you have to move it frequently from one place to another, skids are a great solution. Moreover, they also tend to have greater stability than pallets.

Before the creation of the double-faced pallet in the 1930s, skids were the go-to storage structure for everybody. However, as newer forklifts were made to help warehouse managers store heavy equipment faster and easier, this design modification became necessary. An interesting fact is that, during the North Africa campaign of WW2, skids were actually preferred over pallets for hauling the immense amounts of supplies needed on the front.

Whenever goods had to be transported over great distances, being able to pull them through the sand was a unique advantage, which is why skids were used well into the 1940s despite pallets already being around.

At the end of the day, whether you’re a small business owner or a major retailer, knowing when to use pallets and when to switch to skids will save your company a great deal of money, resources, and effort. Particularly in those industries where profit margins are ever shrinking, such as in food retail, being able to maximize storage density will pay off tremendously.