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The internet of things is proving you can teach even the oldest of dogs the newest of tricks.

In this instance, the sustainable wooden pallet is that old dog and it could soon be playing ‘fetch’ with its own piece of wood as part of a digital makeover that may soon incorporate smart tracking, and even temperature and load monitoring, to optimise the location of products and the reduction of wastage.

Earlier this year Wrap came up with new guidance to make supply chains more resilient to waste. The SNPD (Sustainable New Product Development) initiative puts real-time longevity and reusable resources, including packaging, at the heart of NPD so that organisations are encouraged to embrace the opportunity to make the circular economy even more circular, and certainly more virtuous.

But how can something as basic as a wooden pallet make such a difference?

Well, for those of us in the business of renting, repatriating and repairing pallets as part of a sustainable circular economy, latest tracking technology accessed by increasingly lower-cost technology and longer-life batteries will allow interesting progress to be made in the monitoring of consignments and returnable packaging.

Developing tracking technology will further help us to optimise supply chains, not just to retrieve our pallets more efficiently, but will also assist producers to significantly reduce waste and help ensure product availability on-shelf is maximised. Tracking may also ensure the integrity of supply chain temperature regimes in real time.

Conversely, added visibility of product flows will benefit both producer and retailer alike to ensure that product sales and distribution channels can be visible across the supply chain. It is all part of the internet of things and the emergence of devices that are able to provide business-critical data back to decision makers.

We have long known, as the oldest technology in the supply chain, the wooden pallet is physically very capable. But in tomorrow’s supply chain it will also be digitally capable in an increasingly connected world.

Phil Storer is a director of Pooling Partners