For new warehouses and warehouse outfitters, the process of choosing pallets vs. skids is relatively straightforward, but important. Some workers (and a few managers) use the terms interchangeably, but pallets and skids have distinct benefits and drawbacks, which become particularly important when choosing material handling equipment.
Here’s the basic difference: Skids have stringers and a top deck, but no bottom boards (or bottom deck). As such, they’re easier to move manually than pallets, but inherently less dependable. This is because the bottom boards of a pallet have a stabilizing effect.
Pallets have several stringers supporting deck boards, and they’re generally more common in material handling. They’re stackable and movable, ideal for product transportation and storage. Skids, on the other hand, are more appropriate as the foundations for large machinery, as they allow large objects to be moved when necessary. In recent decades, several manufacturers have introduced stackable skids, and some operations use skids for storage.
Still, when you’re stacking products for storage, loading, or unloading, you’ll generally want to use pallets, unless you’ve got a great reason to do otherwise. Other key points to note when choosing between pallets vs. skids:
Skids were once the more common choice for product storage. The reason that the terms “pallet” and “skid” are somewhat interchangeable probably has something to do with the platforms’ history. Skids were once commonly used for both shipping and storage, but that changed with the introduction of the double-faced pallet in the 1930s.
As forklifts became commonplace, most warehouses used pallets exclusively — yet some workers still used the “skid” terminology, despite the fact that they were using platforms with a top and bottom deck. Pallets don’t “skid,” of course, but established terms can be difficult to change.
Workers should understand the differences. While the terminology can get confusing, employees should know that modern skids and pallets serve very different purposes. Material handling equipment is often specifically designed to work with one type of platform or the other; unless equipment is engineered to handle both platforms (for instance, the BHS Pallet Carousel & Skid Positioner, which we’ll discuss in detail later in this article), inappropriate handling should be avoided. Otherwise, machinery can create a safety hazard or cause damage to pallets, skids, or products.
Likewise, workers should understand the limitations of the platforms they’re working with and observe proper handling techniques. Pallet & skid performance ratings vary greatly, even among similarly sized models with roughly identical construction. Workers should understand OSHA’s limitations for vertical stacking (we’ve also written a guide to help managers create a plan to stack pallets safely).
Skids don’t necessarily take up less floor space than pallets. Some modern pallets are nestable thanks to a non-solid bottom, designed so that they can be stacked easily when not in use while optimizing floorspace. However, nestable pallets might not be appropriate for certain applications; generally, they can’t be used with conveyors, for example. Evaluate different types of pallets carefully to find a solution that works for your industry.
Regardless of whether your operation uses pallets, skids, or some combination of the two, invest in proper material handling equipment to get the most out of your equipment and to improve throughput. As we mentioned earlier, the BHS Pallet Carousel & Skid Positioner (BHS-PCP) is one excellent option for operations that use either platform extensively for loading and unloading. By automatically raising or lowering pallets & skids to an ergonomically friendly height, the BHS-PCP provides an efficient solution for palletizing, protecting workers by eliminating unnecessary bending and straining.
While pallets and skids aren’t interchangeable, both serve important functions in a well-operated storage facility. By evaluating your operation’s unique requirements (and training workers on appropriate material handling procedures), you can find options that protect products, optimize floorspace, and keep your facility moving forward.