Everything you need to know about integrated pallet marking

Sep 29, 2021 by Mark Dingley

Your pallet markings must be clear, legible and high quality so, it’s important you invest in technology to help you achieve this. We’ve created an ultimate guide to coding to help you on your journey.

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What do you need to consider for pallet marking? If you’re producing timber pallets, you need to ensure they have marks that will tick compliance boxes across global supply chains.

Without the right marks on every pallet, you risk products being rejected by export markets, which is an expensive mistake.

In this article, we explain why compliant pallet marking is essential, types of pallet marking, along with the top factors to consider for integrated pallet marking.

What is pallet marking?

Pallet marking is a mark on pallets (usually wooden) which provides information about the pallet itself, for example: which organisation manufactured the pallet, where the pallet was manufactured, whether the pallet has been treated and whether it is free of pests.

Types of pallet marking

There are different types of marking based on what you are using the pallet for and where it is being shipped, i.e. export or domestic.

The most common reason for pallet marking is to identify whether the pallet has been treated for pests according to the ISPM15 standard, and how it has been treated.


What is the ISPM15?

ISPM15 is a standard developed by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), which exists to prevent and control the spread or introduction of pests of plants/plant products around the world.

All pallets used for imports and exports MUST be treated to comply with the ISPM15 standard, and marked with a stamp to verify their origin and method of treatment. Pallets used only for domestic purposes may or may not be treated.

This standard is a requirement for pallets in most of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Europe, North and South America.

Essentially, the ISPM15 requires raw wooden pallets to be sufficiently treated to eliminate insects or fungus which may be living inside the wood. Untreated pallets cannot be used for export or if the goods carried on the pallet are sensitive to pests. The two approved methods of treatment are heat treatment or methyl bromide:

  • Heat treatment is the most common form of treatment for pallets in Australia, and the IPCC preferred method. Steam, kiln drying and microwave, or radio frequency heating is used to heat the wood to at least 56°C (60°C for hardwoods) for a minimum of 30 minutes to eliminate parasites and insects.
  • Methyl bromide treatment uses fumigation with the pesticide to kill any pests in the timber. It cannot be used for materials thicker than 20cm as the pesticide may not penetrate deeper. Because the IPCC recommends heat treatment over methyl bromide treatment, this is less common. Also, some countries (including the UK) have outlawed methyl bromide treatments due to health risks.

To prove compliance, all ISPM15 stamps are made up of the following:

  1. The trademark IPPC symbol - a “corn ear” located on the left side of the stamp.
  2. A two-letter code to identify the country of origin (as per ISO 3166), and a company registration number to ensure the pallet can be traced back to the manufacturer (located on the right side of the stamp).
  3. A two-letter code to indicate the type of treatment applied (located on the right side of the stamp). The most common letters include:
    • HT – Heat Treated
    • MB – Methyl Bromide
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Why is pallet marking important?

If you or your customers are shipping goods internationally, you need to be confident that your pallets will not be unnecessarily held up at customs or quarantine control at their destination.

Each pallet stamped with the ISPM15 mark is a mark of compliance for the export country, and a mark of confidence for your customers. This helps ensure your goods clear quarantine procedures quickly and smoothly.

Failure to comply or mark fraud will result in penalties. For example, a recent case in the US was brought against a pallet company for mark fraud. The company placed stamps on wooden pallets to say that they complied with ISPM15 regulations, when they didn’t. The pallets were used to transport goods overseas and were even sold to other companies that believed that they were purchasing compliant pallets.

other companies that believed that they were purchasing compliant pallets. The company was fined $100,000 under the Plant Protection Act for knowingly using ISPM15 stamps on pallets that had not been properly treated.

Other pallet marks

  • EPAL: Approved by the European Pallet Association
  • Name of the pallet inspection firm
  • Manufacturing company name or logo
  • Uncommon type of wood
  • Date of manufacturer
  • Batch number


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Top factors consider for pallet marking

  1. How precise and legible is the mark?

    In the marking of pallets, you need maximum precision. Marks must be clear, legible and precise in order to be compliant and easily identifiable If you have poorly legible marking on your pallets, it will result in lots of rejects, which winds up expensive.

  2. What type of manufacturing environment do you have?

    The dusty environment in which you are marking wooden pallets is typically not suitable for most conventional printers, which is why you need a robust coding machine with low maintenance requirements.

  3. How durable is the mark?

    Every mark made on the pallet must be able to withstand any treatments, while staying clear and legible as the pallet moves through the supply chain in potentially harsh environments.

  4. How flexible do you need the solution to be?

    How many different markets do you need to produce pallets for? In order to react quickly to changing print content and to service different customers, you may need a more flexible marking system. Some systems allow you to store the print content in a central system, so you can control the content and switch it for different jobs.

  5. How easy is the solution to use and maintain?

    Any system on your line should be streamlined for maximum efficiency. Consider how easy your solution is for operators to set up, maintain and use.


Why inkjet coding is the popular method for pallet marking

In the past, hot branders or manual stencils were the best ways to mark pallets. However, this is time-consuming and labour-intensive. At the same time, they produce inconsistent results.

Innovations in marking and coding technologies means there’s now a more efficient and cost-effective option being used by pallet manufacturers globally: automated drop-on-demand inkjet coding.

Here are the benefits of drop-on-demand inkjet coding for pallet marking:

  • Durable marks: High resolution inkjet coding creates a mark that is durable and can withstand heat or methyl bromide treatments pallets are put through.
  • Clear and legible marks: Mark legibility is essential for pallet manufacturers to maintain compliance. Because inkjet marks are created with a lightfast ink, they satisfy readable compliance standards.
  • Consistent quality: An automated printer removes the need for manual marking and delivers consistent, high quality marks even in dusty environments.
  • Capable of handling harsh environments: A robust printhead design can handle dusty and challenging environments without requiring expensive and time-consuming maintenance.
  • Low effort and maintenance: The printers are low maintenance and come with large volume ink containers meaning less manual changeovers are required.
  • Quick and easy to control: An integrated central system means codes can be set up and managed easily and variable codes can be created as needed.


Need to talk about your pallet marking? Talk to our experts about your unique needs and discover the best solutions for efficiency and compliance.