If you’re not super familiar with all the packaging options in the material handling sector, you may be asking yourself, “What is a skid?”  Fortunately, that is a relatively simple question to answer about an industrial packaging component that serves a very important function in material handling.  Understanding the uses of this industrial packaging tool is important to maintain maximum efficiency in the supply chain.

So when we talk about the question, what is a skid, it makes sense to start with a definition.  In essence, a skid is a single deck pallet or a platform on runners.  In other words, it has a top deck to put your palletized goods on but does not have a bottom deck, as you would see in pallets.

On a skid, the platform or deck rests on runners (also called stringers or skids) that make up the foundation of the skid.  In other words, skids rest on the ground (or floor) on their stringers, like a sled sitting on its runners.  In fact, most people call the stringers on a skid “runners,” and the term sled or sledge is often used to describe skids used to move freight.

At this point, it might be useful to take a look at the video below to understand the difference in construction.

What is a skid?  Is it the same as a pallet?

As you probably already know, the terms skid and pallet are often used interchangeably in industrial packaging and logistics applications.  As you’ve seen in the video above, there are some very specific differences between pallets and skids.  Essentially, the skid was the first type of pallet ever invented or used.  That means that using the two terms interchangeably is mostly correct, but it’s important to understand the ideal uses and limitations of each.

Skids generally lack the strength, durability, and stability needed for long-term warehouse purposes.  When a palletized load will be repeatedly loaded and unloaded, the torque of moving the load and using a forklift puts a lot of strain on a pallet or skid.  The bottom deck boards allow pallets to manage that torque and stabilize the load, but the same stress may cause skids to fail.  The missing bottom deck boards simply make skids less stable from a packaging design perspective.

What is a skid ideally suited for?

Skids make an ideal foundation for heavy machinery.  They allow the machinery to be transported from the manufacturer to its final destination and can serve as a permanent foundation once it arrives.  The skid keeps the machinery, such as an industrial HVAC unit, off the ground.  A skid also allows heavy equipment to be pulled into the proper position, something that doesn’t work very well with a pallet.  Essentially, a skid is often used as a permanent foundation with the advantage of being mobile when necessary.

Custom skids can be designed to use the right materials and engineered for your particular product usage, transportation needs, weight, and intent of use.  Manufacturers using skids as a permanent foundation for their products often custom design skids to meet their specific needs.

There are other times when a skid is the best option because it saves on materials.  One example of this is when a skid is used for very heavy items that will only be moved once.  The agricultural industry uses skids for things like stone, brick, cement, and even sod.  We’ve also seen skids used to transport steel and metal.  The idea here is that these types of items need the least expensive packaging possible to get the product to its end-user, and skids can be less expensive since they lack bottom deck boards.  These are the kinds of considerations you need to take into account when you’re determining your total cost of packaging.

Wrapping It All Up

Now you know the answer to the question, “What is a skid?”  Although the terms pallet and skid are often used interchangeably, there are clear differences that will help you make a determination as to whether your products would be better suited to one or the other.  For most manufacturers, the pallet is going to be your best bet, but there are definitely situations where a skid would be better.

The skid is an important part of our industrial packaging industry and still serves an important function in material handling today.

*Updated 6/2/2022*