Design, Driven By Your Needs

Guest blog from MHI Member Company UFP Packaging

Would you walk into a car dealership and tell the salesperson to write up a sales agreement for the cheapest model on the lot, whatever it is, sight unseen? Or how about your next cell phone? Will you simply request the most inexpensive model behind the counter?

Chances are, you would have particular performance or appearance expectations in mind. You need a vehicle that is a hybrid, or a phone that has the best camera available or is of a particular color. Unfortunately, that same nuanced thinking is too frequently left at the coat rack when it comes to pallet and crating selection. Consider that your company’s products, not to mention reputation, are literally riding on what you choose. A lack of appreciation for need-based design can result in a palpable disconnect between the fantastic customer experience you pledge and what an off-the-shelf solution can provide.

Take the wood pallet, a highly engineered platform that is too often considered generic. There are an estimated 2.6 billion wood pallets circulating in the United States. Collectively, this massive pool is sometimes referred to as the U.S. pallet system, but it is far from that. It is an amalgamation of a great many systems.

Even the most popular size, 48×40”, only accounts for 35% of new pallets manufactured each year. And just among 48x40s, there can be a great range of design variations to optimize for variables such as payload weight, carton configurations, material handling systems, and even retail display considerations. For example, if you have heavier unit loads and use drive-in racking, perhaps your 48×40 needs a fourth stringer or thicker deckboards to provide adequate support. Perhaps your pallet would benefit from wings or cantilever design. And for various industrial packaging applications, the options can be even more complex, with payloads as diverse as sensitive equipment or massive machinery.

How Need-Based Design Makes a Difference

Let’s take a closer look at our conversation about the generic 48×40” pallet. Your boxes are not exactly the same as every other shipper, so why should you accept the same pallet? Aside from the design options mentioned above, consider something as simple as deckboard placement. Over 70% of compressive box strength in corrugated containers is found at the box corners. If deck boards are not positioned to support the box corners, deformation and possible product damage will result.

There is a lot for the packaging design team to consider for industrial packaging. Product protection must be ensured for the range of handling conditions experienced from start to end of the journey. Providers employ a variety of packaging materials ranging from wood and steel to plastic and precision-cut foam to ensure safe delivery.

Need-based design can also help provide improved part density and cube utilization to reduce shipping and storage expense or access doors that improve product presentation for safe positioning and removal. Knockdown containers can help optimize empty container returns. Features such as ramps, casters, inspection windows, specialty hardware, and vapor barriers can all add extra value, depending upon the application.

Choosing a packaging partner

With your company’s reputation riding on every shipment, take time to choose a packaging partner with the best capabilities to meet your needs. And revisit your packaging design periodically when changes occur in your supply chain or across your customer base. Look for a partner with solid engineering and application experience, access to testing facilities, and facility with design technologies such as pallet and packaging design software.

Perfecting design is a collaborative process. Start with your end goals in mind, and take the time to share the details of your application. Deep understanding, combined with packaging partner expertise, enables design innovation. Joining forces with a trusted supplier can help you get there.