American pallet: features, advantages and wrapping

Americans were the first to invent the pallet to bundle and ship goods worldwide, essentially creating universal rules for cargo transportation. The American pallet is the first pallet design to have emerged and is still widely used, especially in North America.

There are various sizes of American pallets, but the “standard” ones (for the so-called GMA American pallet) measure 48×40 inches, which translates to approximately 120×100 centimeters.

Therefore, an American pallet is larger compared to the Europallet, which measures 80×120 centimeters.

An American pallet is also distinguished by its unique structure, consisting of:

  • 7 top boards measuring 95×17 mm;
  • 3 cross boards measuring 90×43 mm;
  • 5 bottom boards measuring 95×17 mm (however, if it is a bilateral model, meaning with two reversible faces, the bottom deck is the same as the top deck, with 7 boards).
  • This arrangement of boards and cross boards allows the pallet to be forked from all 4 sides. Upon closer inspection, one can observe that an American pallet has two sides characterized by milled boards that allow forklift insertion.

All these features make American pallets extremely practical and versatile, as well as robust, stable, and tolerant of high loads. In fact, an American pallet that meets construction standards can support a weight of 1,000 kg or even 1,500 kg.

Another difference from the European pallet is the weight: while a Europallet weighs a maximum of 25 kg, an American pallet can weigh up to 30 kg or 40 kg, thanks to the types of high-quality wood used (the American standard requires pine, poplar, or alder wood).

Of course, in North American countries, the American pallet is used as the basic unit to organize space in warehouses, trucks, and containers, just like other standard pallets worldwide. Therefore, anyone shipping goods to North America will need to deal with this particular type of pallet to best organize transportation.

Shipping Pallets to America: Transport and Advantages

The American pallet, especially the GMA type, is very convenient for organizing goods shipments to the USA.

Actually, as long as we consider maritime containers, the issue of the type of pallet to use doesn’t arise. In fact, to fill a maritime container departing from Europe, both European pallets and American pallets could be used side by side, placing one pallet for the long side (100 cm or 120 cm) and one pallet for the short side (80 cm or 100 cm).

The problem arises after the goods, once in the USA, are removed from the container and distributed onto trucks to reach the final recipients.

By using American pallets, it is possible to transport 26 palletized units on a trailer, optimizing the space to the maximum extent.

The same convenience is found inside American warehouses, which are built and organized based on multiples of the dimensions of the GMA American pallet.

Advantages of Using Automatic Wrappers for Wrapping American Pallets

Using a standard unit like the American pallet (or any other type of pallet) not only optimizes space inside transport vehicles but also ensures the integrity of the transported goods and simplifies handling, leading to greater safety along the entire logistics chain, both for the transported items and for the operators working with them.

Using the American pallet as a base allows for various types of items to be placed on top, creating a single unit for handling. However, this relies on the condition that the items remain stable and compacted; otherwise, with even the slightest movement, everything could collapse.

This is where pallet wrappers come into play.

Pallet wrappers, especially automatic ones, are used to quickly wrap a palletized load with stretch film. Once stretched tightly around the items and the pallet, the film makes the entire load more compact, stable, and well-sealed for transportation.

A tightly compacted load on an American pallet streamlines handling activities, reducing loading and unloading times on vehicles.

The advantages of using stretch wrappers are significant in terms of time savings (a stretch wrapper is faster than the same packaging operation done manually) and resources, as fewer operators are needed. Additionally, if a fully automated wrapper is chosen, no external intervention by warehouse operators will be required, further saving on costs!

Moreover, the layers of film applied over the load create a protective barrier, preventing tears, impacts, and other damages that could harm the goods. Only an automatic stretch wrapper can ensure that the film is always applied in the best way possible and without any margin for error (manual packaging is a very tiring operation and can be subject to human error).

The best way to achieve the right mix of film layers, film tension, and packaging speed is to choose the right pallet wrapping machine for your logistics or end-of-line activities, whether it’s automatic or semi-automatic.

Each model, designed specifically for packaging different types of loads, allows the correct force to be applied to the stretch film, creating solid, compact, and secure palletized units for transportation in a short amount of time.

Tips for Wrapping American Pallets Safely and Efficiently

At this point, it’s important to reveal some tips for preparing and wrapping American pallets for smooth overseas shipments.

First and foremost, great attention must be paid to how the goods are placed on the American pallet. Considering that it is larger than the Europallet, it’s crucial not to leave empty spaces between the different items. Therefore, we recommend:

  • Placing items within the pallet outline to avoid issues during transportation;
  • Stacking items in columns, creating columns of boxes on the pallet, stacking them neatly, starting from corner to corner or side to side;
  • Alternatively, stack items in an interlocking manner, placing the items staggered, similar to bricks in houses;
  • Avoiding protrusions beyond the pallet perimeter;
  • If necessary, use accessories like bubble wrap, polyethylene, corner protectors, edge protectors, and cardboard interlayers to protect the goods and fill empty spaces.

By following these simple guidelines, it will be relatively easy to create a stable and secure palletized unit, which must then be wrapped with an automatic pallet wrapper. However, this wrapper must be specifically designed for wrapping an American pallet.

All Pieri machines, whether they are rotating ring automatic wrappers, rotary arm wrappers, or turntable pallet wrappers, can also be used for packaging loads of American pallet dimensions, providing a precise and highly technological solution for those needing to package and ship goods to the USA using GMA pallets.

Placement of goods on Europallets

Once it has been verified that the Europallet is intact and clean, it can be used to place the goods to be transported on top.

This step is called palletising, and consists of placing packages, boxes and crates so that they are stable on the pallet, creating a ‘palletised load‘ ready for wrapping and subsequent shipment.

For the correct positioning of goods on the pallet, it is recommended:

  • Use cartons and boxes suited to the dimensions of the Europallet, so that they do not protrude or create gaps;
  • Distribute the weight of the goods evenly, placing the packages in the centre of the pallet and placing the heaviest boxes or crates at the bottom;
  • Stack the packages in columns, one next to the other, or interlocking stacking, with boxes and crates staggered;
  • Create as cubic a structure as possible with a smooth, even surface;
  • If necessary, secure the rows of packages with special straps at the base of the Europallet.

To complete palletisation, there is only one thing left to do: wrap the entire load with stretch film, preferably with the use of automatic wrapping machines.

The advantages of using automatic wrapping machines to wrap Europallets

Wrapping Europallets with stretch film is the best way to hold palletised goods together and allow easier transport to their final destination.
Thanks to its elastic tension, the film can compact the load, simplifying handling and, at the same time, protecting the goods from impacts and possible damage, as well as dirt and moisture.

Wrapping the pallet with film can be done either manually or by using special machinery: pallet wrappers.

These tools, especially if semi-automatic or fully automated, ensure a series of advantages that hand wrapping would not be able to guarantee, both from the point of view of protecting goods and for warehouse operators.

If you want to learn more about all the main advantages of automatic Pallet Wrappers for packing Europallets, we recommend you read our guide analysing the differences between automatic pallet wrappers and manual pallet wrappers. To summarise, we also list them below:

  • Increased operator safety: the automatic winder does the wrapping work autonomously, requiring little operator intervention. By minimising operations, the possibility of accidents to personnel is also reduced. In addition, it must be remembered that manual wrapping causes wear and tear in the long run: therefore, the automatic pallet wrapper preserves the health of the operators;
  • Saving time and optimising work: the automatic pallet wrapper works faster than human labour, speeding up packaging operations; moreover, as the machine takes care of the whole operation, labour costs are reduced. In addition, operators can be allocated to other, more productive tasks;
  • More effective product wrapping: manual pallet wrapping creates greater uniformity in packaging, making the palletised load safer and better preserving the goods;
  • Cost containment: many automatic pallet wrappers (such as Pieri’s) are equipped with a pre-stretch function, which allows the wrapping film to be pre-stretched, using less film and thus helping to contain waste and costs.

Obviously, in order to wrap a Europallet in the best possible way, it is important to choose the right type of automatic wrapping machine also according to the packaging requirements and the type of goods load.

There are different types, ranging from ring pallet wrappers to arm pallet wrappers, and turntable models, each with different characteristics and therefore more suitable, for example, for wrapping only the bottom or the top of a palletised load, or for wrapping two pallets on top of each other, and so on.

Tips for wrapping Europallets safely and efficiently

In addition to the use of automatic pallet wrappers and the correct positioning of goods on the Europallet, loading can be made safer by using pallet accessories.

For example, it may be useful to cover packages with protective material such as polystyrene, bubble wrap or foam rubber, especially at corners and edges. But the list of accessories is much longer, and includes:

  • straps: these are used to stabilise boxes and crates, ensuring their attachment to the pallet;
  • cardboard profiles: protect goods from damage that may be caused by overstretching the strapping;
  • angles: protect corners from possible impacts during handling;
  • interlayers: reinforce the packaging, creating greater stability for the load;
  • polyethylene caps: these are strong bags to cover the pallets and protect them from dust, moisture and atmospheric agents.

Once properly wrapped with all these accessories (and by following our advice), the palletised load on Europallet will be ready to be shipped smoothly throughout Europe, continuing to guarantee all its advantages and a streamlined and optimised logistics process.

Contact us to find out how you can best manage your palletising processes.