Europallet: characteristics, advantages and wrapping techniques
The Europallet (or EUR pallet) is a pallet made according to the European standards defined by the first pallet standardisation convention in 1960.
Prior to this date, there was no unambiguous standard shared by all European Union countries for making pallets. The measurements were at the complete discretion of the users, and this not only complicated the transport of goods, but also meant that the pallet had to be returned to the sender once it had been used during transport.
This is why it was decided to define uniform dimensions and specific, shared construction criteria to allow EU countries to use pallets interchangeably. This led to the creation of the UNI-EN 13698-1 standard, which still today sets out the measurements and methods for the construction of Europallets.
The adoption of the Europallet simplified the transport and storage of goods and was responsible for an increase in trade relations on a European scale.
What’s more, it made it possible to standardise not only the dimensions and performance of pallets, but even those of means of transport, handling equipment and warehouses, so that today the EUR pallet can be used in any storage system, with any means and equipment.
A Europallet therefore allows goods to be easily shipped throughout Europe: without exaggeration, we can almost say that it is the fundamental element of logistics.
But what are the characteristics of the Europallet? How best to prepare an EUR pallet for goods shipment (or storage)? Let’s find out together, covering everything there is to know about the Europallet, from its peculiarities to wrapping systems.
Europallet preparation: characteristics, cleaning, control and positioning of goods
We have seen that Europallet is the most widespread pallet standard in Europe. Let us now look in detail at its main features and, above all, how best to use it in goods transport operations.
First, however, let us make one last “digression”.
Speaking of Europallet, it is easy to come across the term EPAL pallet. What is this about?
First of all, EPAL stands for European Pallet Association, which is the association of Europallet manufacturers in Europe. EPAL is responsible for verifying compliance with the structural and functional characteristics of pallets and for issuing user licences to Europallet manufacturers and repairers.
So, in reality, there is no difference between Europallets and EPAL pallets: simply, EPAL pallets are EUR pallets that have undergone checks by the European Pallet Association and are marked with its seal of quality.
Europallet main features
The Europallet is a four-way flat wooden pallet with standard dimensions of 1200 x 800 mm.
This dimension is used as the European standard for the construction of each individual Europallet, as well as for the construction of warehouses, transport equipment, storage systems and shelving. By constructing multiple spaces of 1200 x 800 mm, it is in fact possible to make the most of the surface area of the vehicles and warehouses that will have to accommodate palletised goods loads on Europallets.
The standard measurements of the Europallet have been obtained by studying the position of the support axles and the ratio between width and depth, in order to obtain the maximum strength of the pallet with the minimum use of material.
Size is not the only standard for Europallets. The weight is also a constant, and is around 25 kg.
In this way, the Europallet can withstand loads
- up to 1,500 kg (dynamic load capacity)
- up to 4,000 kg (static load capacity)
This is not the only advantage of the Europallet: in particular, the base, which is made of alternating wooden planks, allows it to be forked from any side.
Another important feature of Europallets is the presence of rounded corners and edges, designed to further facilitate picking by forklifts and transpallets.
In addition to facilitating transport, the Europallet brings another advantage to the logistics chain: the same EUR pallet can be reused for other shipments.
While this optimises operations and triggers a virtuous mechanism of circular economy, it also entails a necessary cleaning and control phase of the Europallet before it is put back into circulation.
Europallet cleaning and control
Precisely because they are reusable, Europallets must meet special sanitary requirements in order to circulate freely between different European countries.
This is why, since 2010, EPAL has chosen to fumigate its pallets with chemicals to eliminate pests, insects and pests in the wood, thus meeting the standards for free movement across national borders.
This, however, is not enough to guarantee the safe transport of goods.
In fact, the wood from which Europallets are made may be damaged over time (cracks and splits) and even become infested with mould, which, in addition to compromising the safety of the goods, could endanger the health of the operators handling them.
A Europallet in poor condition cannot be reused. This is stated by EPAL itself, which specifies the requirements for the reuse and interchangeability of Europallets in its Epal Quality Classification.
In particular, the classification obliges users to pay attention to the state of the structure of EUR pallets, advising against their use for international transport in the presence of:
- missing or broken boards
- broken or damaged corners and edges;
- feet, planks and blocks are not in their natural position or are leaning outwards;
- the EPAL mark is missing.
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.