A unit load is very often used in the material handling of discrete load materials. A Unit Load is a collection of materials so arranged and restrained that it can be handled, stored, and controlled as a single entity.
The advantages includes uniform handling and uniform storage operations, efficient (macro) external space utilization since each load is the same size and storage locations can be sized to accommodate this unit load and the loads can be packed tightly together without gaps. The disadvantages of using a unit load are the cost of assembling and disassembling the unit load, the cost of the container and wrapping, and the cost of the empty returnable container handling or the disposal cost of single use containers. Unit loads can have an inefficient (micro) internal space utilization if the unit loads can be completely filled up. Examples of unit loads are pallet, drum and ocean going inter-modal container.
A unit load combines individual items or items in shipping containers into single “units” that can be moved easily with a pallet jack or forklift truck. A unit load packs tightly into warehouse racks, inter-modal containers, trucks, and boxcars, yet can be easily broken apart at a distribution point, usually a distribution center, wholesaler, retail store, etc.
Most consumer and industrial products move through the supply chain in unitized or unit load form for at least part of their distribution cycle. Unit loads make handling, storage, and distribution more efficient. They help reduce handling costs and damage by reducing individual handling. A typical unit load might consist of corrugated fiberboard boxes stacked on a pallet or slip sheet and stabilized with stretch wrap, pressure-sensitive tape, strapping or shrink wrap.