What is a loading unit?
For the storage and transport of goods, so-called load units are almost always used as the basic unit in logistics. The goods are then packed either in modular packaging such as a crate or on a loading aid (also called a load carrier) such as a pallet.
The resulting load unit can be transported and stored much more efficiently than individual items or cartons. However, not every warehouse can handle every load unit at the same time. For example, there are pure pallet warehouses, in which only palletized goods can be stored.
Load units are handled at all possible working points along the logistics chain, for example during transport, in a picking warehouse or even before production. The modular packaging, which are used for this purpose, are for example:
- Box pallets
Below we explain how loading units can be divided and what advantages and disadvantages they have.
How are loading units divided?
Most of the loading units can be further divided into smaller elements, each of which can be handled separately. The smallest logistical unit is the order preparation unit. This is the smallest unit delivered to a customer when a product is sold. For example, this could be a carton in which 20 individual sets of cutlery are packed.
In order to be able to ensure optimal operation in production, distribution or sales, the units packed in load units can be further subdivided for order preparation. For example, order preparation units contain delivery units, which in turn group together the final sales or production units.
A loading unit (packed pallet) therefore consists of a number of units for order preparation (individual cartons) which are arranged in several layers or blankets on top of each other. Each unit for order preparation, in turn, contains several delivery units, in which the sales units (set of 12 handkerchief packs) are packed. These then contain the actual article, such as the individual handkerchief packs, which in a logistical context are also called consumption units.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of loading units in logistics?
Load units bring great advantages in logistics. They make it possible to combine a large number of individual units for order preparation. This allows, for example, 20 cartons to be moved directly at once by simply transporting the entire load unit. This means that each carton does not have to be moved individually.
However, load units require an investment for the load carriers used, such as pallets or containers. To make this worthwhile, packed units should remain grouped together as long as possible and not be broken up. However, most loading units can be used several times, which spreads the cost relatively well.
Are there different forms of the loading unit?
In logistics, loading units are divided into three groups.
- Load units with load bearing function
These include, for example, the Euro flat pallets or industrial pallets. These can be stacked on top of each other even when loaded and can be made of a wide variety of materials such as wood or plastic.
- Load unit in enclosing form
These provide all-round protection for the transported goods by surrounding them with integrated walls. This loading unit includes, for example, solid-wall box pallets or skeleton containers.
- Loading unit in final form
These include, for example, intermodal containers, air freight containers (ULDs) and swap bodies. These loading units can be closed from the outside and thus offer even better protection.