Inside Logistics

Connected pallets shown to enable supply chain sustainability

If 5% of the 10 billion pallets moving today were reusable and Internet of Things (IoT) enabled, 7.3 million tonnes of CO2 could be saved

August 29, 2017

If five percent of the estimated 10 billion pallets moving around the world today were reusable and Internet of Things (IoT) enabled, 7.3 million tonnes of CO2—or 818 million gallons of gasoline could be saved every year.

This is the finding of a study by AT&T on the use of reusable RM2ELIoT BLOCKPal pallet. AT&T looked at the potential of using RM2’s connected pallets, to help the company achieve its 2025 goal to enable carbon savings for its customers that are ten times the footprint of AT&T’s own operations.

Using data from a peer-reviewed life-cycle assessment performed by Pure Strategies, the AT&T case study concluded that connectivity of the RM2ELIoT BLOCKPal pallet enables the client to potentially avoid 640 tonnes of CO2 (the equivalent of 72,000 gallons of gas) for every one million pallet trips.

RM2 produces reusable composite pallets, which then have an IoT tracking device attached. This solution, called RM2ELIoT, pairs RM2’s reusable pallet with AT&T’s LTE-M low-power wide-area network for longer battery life (expected up to 10 years) and better wireless coverage in difficult areas where pallets are often found: deep inside buildings, in below-ground storage areas, and on trailers, trains, and trucks.

According to the study, a connected pallet allows users to maintain oversight of inventory to prevent loss and gather new data from segments of the supply chain that were previously invisible.

“This connectivity changes the economics of reusable pallets, enabling more widespread adoption which, in turn, generates significant financial and environmental benefits,” the report said.

“Reusable, connected pallets allow users to reduce fuel consumption (composite pallets are typically lighter and have a lower profile than wooden pallets), decrease wood waste from broken pallets, and decrease the amount of raw materials required to produce replacement pallets by reducing the average number of pallets that are lost or broken each trip.”

The report also notes that connectivity allows tracking of individual pallets, thus reducing the chances of loss as well as the time spent trying to locate them.

According to the study’s findings, a connected, reusable pallet can be used 162 times before it reaches end of life, resulting in a 20 percent lower per trip cost than non–reusable alternatives.

Other sustainability benefits found for a company managing a million pallet-trips a year included:

  • A 21 percent reduction in CO2 emissions;
  • A 17 percent reduction in empty pallet traffic;
  • 1,588 fewer truckloads annually.

AT&T and RM2 worked with sustainability consultancies Pure Strategies, Carbon Trust and BSR to measure the benefits reported in the study.