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While most of us busy ourselves with the day-to-day business of business, statisticians monitor just about everything we do. Their goal is to predict the future and they’re much better at it than tea leaf or tarot readers. They find statistical significance in many things we take for granted. Take the humble pallet, for instance. Freedonia is a market research company that takes a close look at pallets every year. Why? Because pallet sales are a good indication of where the materials handling industry, in general, is heading, and judging from their survey, pallet sales foretell a rosy future for used forklifts and the industry as a whole.
Pallets to 2017, Freedonia’s May 2013 study, reports that United States demand for new pallets will reach 1.3 billion by 2017, with sales increasing annually by some 3.5%. That’s demand for new pallets — the number of pallets in use will be double that number. Some of the reasons for the predicted growth in sales include:
• Economic improvement in the U.S.
• Companies are replacing traditional stringer pallets with block pallets.
• Used pallets purchased during the recession are being replaced by new pallets.
The outline goes on to say that pallets will be in more demand in the manufacturing sector than in the warehousing sector of the materials handling market, but that’s not because of a decline in demand in that sector, but because of improved pallet management services and systems.
The in-depth full report contains details about pallet use in specific industries. The outline cited above uses breakfast cereals as an example. If a manufacturer of breakfast cereals purchases pallets, that reflects anticipated increased consumer demand for their products.
Used Pallets and Used Forklifts
We’re not statisticians, but we do have our finger on the pulse of used forklifts. Demand for used forklifts, just like the demand for used pallets, increased during the height of the recession. At the same time, supply dwindled because owners were hanging on to their used equipment. If, as the study suggests, larger manufacturers are going to be trading in their used pallets for new ones in the coming years, it follows they will also be buying more new forklifts. It’s safe to say that more used forklifts will be coming on the market in the coming years. That’s good news for you if you’re in the market for a used lift truck because it will help keep prices down and quality up.
As in-depth as the Freedonia study is, it overlooks one unusual demand for used pallets. Tree Hugger reports that a Cool facade features movable modular skin of recycled pallets. Where else but in Paris would an architect come up with the idea of making such artistic use of used pallets? If it catches on, there could be a global shortage of used pallets, but it’s not likely to carry over into used forklift sales. Or will it? What if some innovative company starts refurbishing used electric narrow aisle forklifts and using them to deliver meals to customers in chic Parisian restaurants? No, it can’t happen. Can it?