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The humble wooden pallet, on which billions of products are delivered from manufacturers to retailers as part of the circular economy, is receiving a digital makeover in a trial that could unleash its 21st century ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) potential.

Two European businesses, which are leaders in their own fields, have joined forces to harvest the data from one of the world’s oldest technologies with a view to optimising supply chains and augmenting the recovery, recycling and repatriation of sustainable wooden pallets.

IPP, one of Europe’s leading pooling businesses serving the FMCG, fresh produce and chilled industries, has joined forces with Global Tracks, a Netherlands-based expert in the development and provision of specialist IoT solutions across the logistics, automotive, solar and mobility sectors.

The trial partnership will enable the digitalisation of existing business processes, to gain greater insight into how Global Tracks’ IoT expertise can be deployed in the IPP pool and leverage the extensive data provided every time a pallet is used. 

Data flows are digitalised, giving insight into asset damage, usage and loss, which in turn makes it easier for customers to work with IPP, which supplies more than 50 million sustainable wooden pallets to customers across Western Europe every year. 

Eric Schrover, CCO at IPP: “In a re-use model it’s vitally important that we maximise recovery of pallets in a timely way – it’s what we do as poolers. 

“At any given time, millions of pallets are being processed across the breadth of many supply chains and any inefficiency in a pooling model can mean enormous loss of value. 

“IPP is focused on sustainable sourcing, efficiency improvement, waste reduction and collaboration across the supply chain in order to mitigate costs and environmental impact. By monitoring physical location and flows, we gain insight into process inefficiencies. 

“We expect that Global Tracks will be instrumental in helping us to access such insight as part of our wider digitalisation ambition.”

Ralf Heeremans, CEO at Global Tracks, said: “The solutions that we are developing show that IoT is especially useful in highly-traditional business processes and can even be applied to low value assets. 

“The potential of IoT is not limited to high-tech companies. Working with IPP, we believe the humble pallet, which has been in use since the 1940s, is well placed to face the challenge of entering the 21st century through the optimisation of efficiencies to help shape the future of material handling, storage and distribution.”