Pallet pooling has a new player. In a (U.S.) market largely dominated by three players, PIMS (Pallet Information Management System) will soon emerge as a new option for manufacturers looking for a block 48 x 40. The pool will uniquely be managed as a non-profit cooperative effort of recyclers and pallet manufacturers throughout the country; a group previously focused on stringer and custom pallet manufacturing. The participants are uniting under a single, published specification and will offer the pallets as a purchase instead of a rental. Manufacture, maintenance, and recovery will remain a local endeavor, while a logistics center to track movements and monitor asset control will be established from a national perspective. The pallets will be identified by a trademarked logo, applied only by authorized PIMS partners.
PIMS comes about largely, although certainly not entirely, as a result of Costco’s recent announcement that they will only receive product shipped on block 48 x 40 pallets (with some exceptions after Costco approval). This decision puts in play a significant amount of business previously shipped to Costco on stringer pallets, in large part by the very members that are banding together to create PIMS. Unfortunately for PIMS, Costco’s announcement only indicates CHEP, PECO, and iGPS by name as accepted platforms. In recent announcements however, PIMS has indicated Costco approval of their pallet spec, signaling an initial win for the pool in effort to retain Costco vendors. In the rush to get to market with the pallet and retain business, the cooperative nature of PIMS brings the inherent advantages of an immediate, capable infrastructure as well as a customer base to contact quickly. However, the cooperative nature itself also could bring challenges such as quality assurance and asset control, a struggle all pooling systems tend to have in early stages. A co-op nature such as this can often only be as strong as their weakest link, requiring vigorous oversight and dedication to service from each member to prove successful in the long-run.
As the pallet pooling market continues to grow and become even more competitive, it will certainly prove interesting to observe the manufacturing and retail community’s thirst for further entrants. PIMS provides a unique business case and structure; perhaps born out of necessity, but strong nonetheless. It appears the business axiom of “competition only makes you stronger” will again be put to the test. One thing is certain for all poolers – the market is huge and migrating quickly toward block pallets as standard; together signaling opportunity for all players.