Volume 36, Issue 5, May 2001

             
                                            

Alternative Packaging Methods Help Companies 
Cut Costs and Save Time
by Ellen Giard

Numerous options are available to help glass and metal companies ship packages in a quick and timely manner—Overnight, Express, Priority and the likes are just a few of the many ways to send a product from location A to location B. On too many occasions though, the shipment arrives damaged—a common complaint among glass shops and distributors. Blaming the carriers and handlers for the loss is common, but sometimes shipments are simply not packaged in a safe and secure manner. Now, there are additional options available, which can help companies not only ensure a safe delivery, but also reduce costs and labor.

Staying Dry
One area that has seen its share of troublesome deliveries is tub and shower enclosure products. Up until about a year ago, Aqua Glass of Adamsville, Tenn., shipped its products in cardboard and wood. “This was a very time-consuming method, costly and didn’t protect the products very well,” said Randy Watkins, Aqua Glass strategic business unit manager. “Plus, our transportation and related damage costs were vAQUAGLASS_SHOWER COPYery high.” In addition to the shipping damages, Watkins said that since the majority of his company’s customers are wholesalers and manufacturers with little storage space, many of the units were stored outside. “When it rained the cardboard would fall off and stain the tubs. They were also bumped and dropped a lot when they were being moved around,” said Watkins. 

To remedy the problem, Aqua Glass teamed up with xpedx of Memphis, Tenn., a distributor of packaging materials to create a solution. “We told them our issues, and they worked with us to resolve them,” said Watkins. 

George Soles, sales representative with xpedx, helped Aqua Glass develop a packaging method that would protect the products, and also be safe and cost-effective for the company. The new method utilizes several packaging products from Laminations® of Appleton, Wis. One product, the Vboard®, replaced the wood around the edges of the units. According to information from the company, Vboard provides edge protection as well as load containment, stabilization and added strength. Also from Laminations, the PF PalletTop® is placed on top of the unit to hold the edge protectors in place. The PF PalletTop is made of two riveting pieces of notched Vboard, and is an alternative to wood pallet tops, the company says. The entire unit is then wrapped in a shrink-bag. Using the new method, Watkins says customers can see the shipment before it is opened, and the shrink bag protects the products from dirt and moisture, and also features an ultraviolet inhibitor that protects the products from fading.

Although Aqua Glass has take products from Laminations and created a packaging method to ship tubs and showers, Laminations’ products can be used to ship many glass products too. For example, the company’s Riveted Uchannel is designed for three-sided protection and is commonly used to ship items such as windows, doors and panels 

More than Just Peanuts
Another company creating innovative packaging products is Sealed Air Corp., based in Saddle Brook, N.J., Instapak® Foam Packaging is one of many products available through Sealed Air, and is also being used by glass companies. 
Through Sealed Air, 15 different types of foam are available; each suited for specific packaging purposes, which can be applied in either one of two ways. First, the foams can be applied with a hand-held dispenser, which shoots the foam onto the product being shipped. To begin this process, a layer of Instamate® film is placed inside the carton or container that will hold the item being shipped, and foam is dispensed into the lined container. Next, as the foam begins to rise, the film is folded over the foam and the item is placed on top of the film then covered with another layer of film before foam is once again dispensed and the container is sealed and shipped. 
The second method of packaging is a foam-in-bag process. The operator first determines the proper size bag and amount of Instapak needed for the shipment, then fills the bag and places it inside the carton. The product being shipped is next placed on top of the expanding cushion and a second foam-filled bag is placed on top of the product. As the cushions expand, the product is secure from moving around inside the carton, minimizing the possibility of damaged freight. “This is a void fill system, locking the items into place, compared to other packaging methods, such as foam peanuts which just surround the items being shipped,” said Cheryl Caridad, Sealed Air marketing and communications manager. In other words, when shipping with peanuts, products can still move about during shipment, and can possibly arrive at their destinations scratched, dented or broken.
“Instapak Foam Packaging has been available for more than 35 years, and its key benefit is that it is a protective packaging that is created on demand,” said Caridad. “Also there’s no need to store it [as you would other packaging materials such as foam peanuts, plastic, paper, etc.] so it reduces warehouse space as well. Two 55-gallon drums of Instapak chemicals are the equivalent of a tractor-trailer filled with packaging equipment,” she added.


The Goods
As with any upgrades, companies utilizing these packaging methods have seen not only better arrival statistics, but also a number of advantages over their former ways of packaging. “Our new method has helped us reduce our overall costs,” said Watkins. “We try to let the marketplace know that we are the industry leader in our field, and since packaging is really also a part of the project, we wanted our packaging to carry that message as well.” Watkins also added that other improvements include better protection and reduced damaged costs. “Plus, the presentation is good because now you can see the product before you open the package,” he said.

The foam packaging method offers added benefits as well. “One of the advantages of shipping through this method is the versatility it offers,” said Caridad. “It’s an economic and efficient protective packaging that takes the size, shape and weight of the product being shipped. And also, because it’s made on demand it doesn’t need to be customized.” 

Another benefit of shipping with foam packaging is that it helps cut down on labor time. For example, compared to corrugated boxes and inserts that have to be built up by the shipper, those using the foam packaging method find it more labor-efficient. “We can crate a standard-size windshield in 20 to 30 minutes, assuming that it’s clean, has been inspected and is not so large that it needs additional custom crafting work,” said Amy Hohl, director of marketing for DCM Co. of Elkhart, Ind.

DCM has been using a foam-packaging method for about six years, but according to Bob Vogelzang, president, the company has varied the method to better suit its needs. Cardboard corners are placed over the four corners of the glass, then plastic bags are lain inside each corner and the foam is sprayed around the corner. The entire lite is then packaged in a tall box for shipment. 

“You could cover the entire windshield with the foam, but it would be very expensive,” Vogelzang said.

In addition, because of the cushioning provided by foam packaging, products receive added protection during shipping, handling and storage. “Because glass is an extremely fragile product, shipping it can be a challenge,” said Caridad. “And quite often it is shipped in multiples so there are material handling concerns in getting it to its final destination. If, for instance, a racking system is used in which the glass is placed [in layers] inside a box, cushions of the rising foam could be set between the layers of glass for extra protection that you wouldn’t get from inserting foam peanuts [or other packaging alternatives],” she said.


Strapped In

Another alternative product available is the Kor-Kap™ flat glass packaging system from Menasha’s Outback Packaging division. According to Larry Whitney of Menasha, thekorkap system was introduced recently, and can be used to store and transport most any type of glass. “We have insulating glass companies testing the system; float companies—both PPG and Pilkington are testing the system—and we also have a curtainwall company using it. There are also possibilities in shipping doors, or anything that is universally rectangular,” said Whitney.

Kor-Kap consists of four steel end-covers, padded with plastic, which fit around the ends of the glass. Steel bands thread through the corners to hold the glass together around the edges. Glass is said to be packed tighter, and thus, cannot bounce in transit. However, each piece of glass in the shipment must be the same size. “That’s the only disadvantage we’ve seen,” said Whitney. “You can’t ship multiple sizes in one unit.” And overall, he said the system’s response has been very enthusiastic. Some float plants have even approached the company about adapting the Kor-Kap to work with their automated packaging lines.
 
Like other new means of packaging, Kor-Kap also offers advantages over other conventional methods. “If you’re warehousing, it takes up less space than racks, and when you’re shipping, there is no dunnage to dispose of,” said Whitney. “Plus, since it weighs less and takes up less space [than racks], you can get more into the truck at one time.”

Companies can also expect to save on labor and costs. “It only takes about five minutes to pack the Kor-Kap, compared to how long it may take to load a wooden crate, which all depends on the labor,” he added.


No Cutting Corners
For flat glass and mirrors, MOCAP of St. Louis also recently launched its protective corner covers, which were designed to protect glass corners from chipping and breakage during shipment and storage. “A few years ago we created one size of the corners just for a man in the marketing industry,” said Brian Simpson, sales and marketing manager. “As others started to inquire more and more about them, we conducted research and development and recently unveiled five other sizes.”

According to Simpson, the corners are made of soft PVC and are inserted over the corners of lites of glass. “These covers can be used for flat glass, mirror and sheet metal, as well as with glass tables and shower doors.”

Simpson expects those who use the protective corners to see their share of benefits as well. “It costs very little to place the corners on glass, compared to what it may cost to replace glass if it breaks during shipment.” 

He also says the soft, flexible PVC is much more shock-absorbent than other materials used in similar fashions such as cardboard. 

The only disadvantage, Simpson said, is the corners are not available in more sizes. “But we are probably going to look into adding more,” he added.


Bumps in the Road
Despite the numerous benefits of innovative packaging, trouble spots are still common. According to Vogelzang, the biggest problem he continues to face lies in the way of freight handlers. “There is nothing anyone can do about the way material handlers ship the goods. Glass should not be shipped on its side. It needs to stand vertical or it will crack,” he said. 

Watkins had similar thoughts. “[With the old packaging method] Damages tended to happen away from our location, so they weren’t necessarily our fault, but the customers still expected us to pay for them,” he added. (For related article, see November 2000 USGlass, page 48).


Final Destination
Regardless of the type of glass being packaged—flat, mirrors, shower enclosures or automotive—the shipper still wants to ensure a safe delivery. 
“Half of our business is correctly identifying van conversion replacement windows and motor home windows. The other half is the same as any architectural glass business—making sure the glass item reaches the store in [working] condition, ready for installation,” said Hohl. 


Packing It Up:  Packaging Products for the Future
In an effort to see glass and related packages arrive at the shop or distributor undamaged, there are several additional new products available to help companies do just that. 
Below are a few: 

Pack Up With New Products from Pactiv 
Lake Forest, Ill.-based Pactiv Corp. has introduced four new Air Binz storage and dispensing systems for use with its recently launched Pactiv Air 3000™ system.

Pactiv recommends the floor bin transfer system for medium- to small-packaging needs. It is designed for either tabletop or inline shipper packing, and the company says the system is easy-to-operate and can be relocated quickly and with little effort.

The floor mount bulk dispenser is designed for areas with low ceilings. According to the company’s press release, the product allows quick dispensing via louvered piping, which transfers cushions from the Pactiv Air 3000 system into an overhead dispenser. The dispenser provides approximately 94 cubic feet of cushion storage capacity.

The portable bulk cushion bin with portable cushion loader enables 260 cubic feet of storage space. Pactiv claims the lightweight design is easy to move and ideal for use with multiple packaging stations.

The suspended bulk system has an overhead dispenser suspended from the ceiling, which transfers cushions to the suspended container via a stream of air. It is available in two sizes providing approximately 260 to 600 cubic feet of storage space. The company suggests this system for multiple packaging stations and claims that the overhead dispensing maximizes plant floor space while providing maximum cushioning inventory.

Also from Pactiv is the company’s Cushion-Comb™ honeycomb shock-absorbing structure. According to information from the company, the Cushion-Comb, made entirely of paper, features honeycomb cells that have been pre-crushed to enable them to absorb repeated shock, minimizing “road shock” to products in transit.

As an alternative packaging method to plastic foam products, Cushion-Comb is oriented and adhered to a sheet of corrugated cardboard and placed into a master shipper, which allows for accurate positioning of the material for optimum shock absorbing performance, the company says.

Easy Lifting with the New Ergo

Just as you want to make sure your shipment safely reaches its destination, it’s also important to keep your shipment handlers out of harm’s way. According to Schmalz Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., its new Ergo 300 can help users prevent lifting-related injuries. 

The company says the vacuum tube lifters are capable of handling loads from 20 to 660 pounds. Additional features include a built-in ventilation unit for easy product release, optional hinged handles and an ergonomically-designed operator control, which is used to help avoid injuries associated with repetitive motions. 

Ellen Giard is the managing editor of USGlass.

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