It is hard to over-estimate the impact of the humble shipping containers and shipping process which has developed over the years. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, pallets have played a major role in changing the economy globally, serving as a convenient and affordable mechanism in the universal machine for transportation.
Palletisation is the method of storing and transporting goods stacked on a pallet, and shipped as a unit load. It permits standardised ways of handling loads with common mechanical equipment such as fork-lift trucks.
It is hard to imagine shipping industry without pallets, but it was during the early 1920s, shortly after the modern forklift was invented, when skids evolved into pallets, revolutionising the way merchandise was gathered, stored and protected. In 1925, bottom planks were added to the design. Thanks to the gradual technology development and innovation, today's skids and pallets are lighter, stronger and more versatile, making the process convenient.
Today, a huge proportion of material handling (from storage and transport, to assembly and delivery) retains manual elements; particularly within India's informal sector. When performed incorrectly or excessively, these tasks may expose workers to physical risk factors, fatigue, and injury. Manual material handling is among the most frequent and most severe causes of musculoskeletal disorders in the world. Incidents that can be alleviated - or even, eradicated - through the use of standardised pallets. Palletisation reduces the risk of product damage due to handling and worker injury. In addition, since pallets are stronger and more durable than other non-standard containers, they can hold more products and heavier products without the risk of breaking. Pallets may look simple in their construction, but they are indispensable in everyday logistics. Weighing around 10 kg each, they can withstand large amounts of weight, even as much as over 1,000 kg.
Palletisation is the most visible aspect of a definite shift towards standardising and professionalising the sector in India, to increase its levels of efficiency, productivity and safety. As per the Peerless Research Group (PRG) report, alternatives to wood pallets like plastic, composite and metal have grown in popularity since 2016, with plastic pallets seeing the most significant uptick because of the durability.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is working with the government to bring down the logistics cost in comparison to the GDP to 10 per cent from the existing 14 per cent in the next four year. Higher logistics costs lead to higher export costs, which directly impacts the competitiveness of Indian goods in international markets. However, the last few years, the logistics sector has witnessed an enhanced focus from the government. With the introduction of GST, e-Way bill, various infrastructure upgradations and also setting up a separate logistics department, the logistics sector has undergone tremendous transformation. We continue to have an optimistic view from this year's Budget as well for the Indian logistics industry. The proposal on strengthening national inland waterways under the program "Arth Ganga" will also provide a huge push in improving the economic activities along the river banks.
The adoption of national logistics policy as promised during Budget 2020 will further have a positive impact on the country's logistics industry. On one hand it will help to increase, upgrade and standardise the warehousing capacity and on the other, it will identify gaps that could be bridged to bring down the cost of logistics for the industry at large.
The Indian material handling equipment (MHE) sector is poised for rapid growth and a quantum leap in terms of growth and penetration. From favourable governmental policies to consumption-led growth, everything has contributed to this optimistic outlook.
Anil Lingayat, Executive Vice President & Business Head at Godrej Material Handling, has been associated with Godrej and Boyce for over 30 years.