Choosing the Best Shipping Container for Your Business
There are many different crating designs and materials from which you can choose. These can vary considerably in cost, and there is much to consider when selecting the right options for your crating and shipping needs.
In the day-in, day-out activities of running a successful forging operation, many executives and managers are too occupied to consider in detail the type of crating they use to ship product to their customers. In fact, they rarely take the time or put forth the effort to see how they can cut costs or get a better value when it relates to packaging/shipping containers.
If asked why they use the packaging or shipping containers they do, the normal answer is “This is how we have always done it.” But in today’s competitive market, it can be the difference between staying in business or closing the doors.
For example, failed packaging can delay project timelines, jeopardize supplier/customer relationships, create costly product damage and cost even more in a damaged reputation with your customers. Forgers all want the cheapest way to move their product, but many more answers need to be addressed to see if you can get a better return for the money spent.
In this article, we are going to review different crating options and point out where and how a few extra percentage points may possibly accrue to your bottom line.
Matching Containers to Your Product
When we first consider our shipping operations, we normally focus on what is required to move finished product out the door. This usually ends up being a simple decision made by a couple of people. “Place it on a pallet and ship it” seems an easy enough answer to crating options. But this simplistic solution doesn’t consider how it will be handled along the way and what will be handling it.
In our experience of today’s business environment, credits are often issued by manufacturers because the product received was damaged due to insufficient or inappropriate shipping containers. These situations can become very costly because you not only lose the cost of the packaging, you may also lose all or some of the product. And if you want product returned, the freight coming back is an additional expense.
The decision to select a certain type of shipping container should not only serve the shipper, but also consider the customer’s point of view. Is there an advantage to have your name shown? Will it be seen by others? Is it shipped in a van or on a flatbed truck? Can it be a free billboard as it rolls down the highway?
And how about in the yard it is received in? Would it make your customer happy that it stores well at their facility? Is it stored inside or outside in the weather? Does it need to be stacked? How much stacking weight will the unit need to handle? Is there a lot of side pressure on the box? Not considering the answers to these questions can hurt your company’s bottom line. Taken further, it can also become the reason why you are losing accounts to your competition. Merchandising is a very important part of being successful in today’s fast-paced, global business environment.
Types of Containers
What crating options do you have to choose from? They are many and varied. The list includes plywood/waferboard crates, plywood clip box, wooden wirebound crates, wooden stackers and corrugated cardboard containers.
When it comes to making a crate in-house, plywood is usually near the top of the list. It has the ability to hold up in all weather conditions; it can have excellent stacking abilities; it has great durability and life expectancy; and it is the simplest and quickest to make up. The biggest issue with plywood crates is that they need to be made up internally (or locally) so that the freight to get the product doesn’t cost you more than the crates themselves. Making them in-house means an increase in labor and overhead. In addition, most of the plywood material you are making them from is a commodity building product. This causes the cost to fluctuate dramatically with the lumber market.
For example, 0.5-inch CDX and 0.5-inch waferboard have been more than $15/sheet, which makes these boxes an expensive choice. This would put the cost of a simple 40-inch x 48-inch box well over $35 in material alone. When you add to that a pallet/base and labor, you are well on your way to spending more than $60 per container, and that doesn’t include the often-valuable space required within your facility to make them.
Plywood Boxes with Metal Tabs
Because they can be used multiple times, these boxes work very well when regularly returning material back and forth between facilities. Baltic birch plywood gives a nice surface to be printed on with logos and other essential wording. They have the ability to be stacked and will withstand the elements. The downside of these boxes is the lead times required since they are primarily made in Canada. Also, baltic birch is pricey when used for crates, especially so if they are used for a one-time shipment and you are unable to get them back.
Wooden Nailed Crates
Wooden crates are a good option for many. Their size can be modified very easily, and you can go with thicker material as needed to contain extra weight. They also hold up very well in all weather conditions. When volume is low and special sizes need to be made, this is usually one of the best ways to go. If you need the same few sizes in quantities over 50 per size, then wirebound crates become a better value, especially if you can make one of the stock sizes work for smaller quantities. Like plywood, the disadvantage of wooden crates is that they need to be made locally or in-house because, once assembled, the cost of shipping them any significant distance is prohibitive. These become expensive because of the raw material and labor required to put them together. In most cases, a nailed wooden crate usually runs 15-20% more than a wirebound crate.
Wirebound crates are the industrial form of the old fruit crates and have been in production for almost 100 years. They are made from mixed hardwood cleat and slats that are machine-stitched together with galvanized wire. They offer many advantages over most other wooden crates. Depending on the design, they are able to hold and stack up to 2,500 pounds. The low-grade hardwood is not tied to the commodity market, so their pricing remains very stable. The wire gives the box a big strength advantage for any outbound pressure compared to other boxes, and they are also stackable.
Their sides are made into a mat (lead image) by a stitching machine, which drastically reduces the labor to make them up. These mats/sides may be laid flat when they are shipped to the location, which offers a savings in shipping. They assemble in minutes with no nails or fasteners required, depending on the design. Another advantage is that they hold up extremely well in all weather conditions and can be stacked/stored outside in your customer’s receiving yard. Once used, they can be laid flat to return to the shipper to use again if needed.
The wirebound is a very versatile crate. It is often used to ship forgings, castings, plastic extrusions and other goods. They are also less costly than other wood containers. An example of the pricing for a 30-inch x 30-inch x 30-inch heavy-duty wirebound crate for small forging parts, including the base, is under $40. Wirebounds can be made in many different designs, from an open crate to a solid slat. In most cases, they are designed to meet the requirements of each customer.
Wooden stackers are a simple knockoff of a cranberry crate. They are fastened with nylon straps in the corners, and they are the quickest to set up compared to all other wooden boxes. They are made to fit over a standard 40-inch x 48-inch pallet, and they are stackable. Wooden stackers are available in different heights with solid and open slats for the sides.
This is one option, which can be applied to all of the aforementioned boxes, that gives you the ability to have custom-printed logo and information that will last out in the elements. These are used in the lumber and other industries to identify and promote the product within.
Corrugated boxes are used frequently as shipping containers for the forging industry. Boxes are lightweight in material, but they provide some measure of product protection and can be incorporated with inner components for bracing and blocking to secure the material when shipped. Corrugated boxes are popular due to their ability to be recycled and have printed graphics on them. They can be custom-designed by size, grade of material, flute direction and inner packaging to provide increased stacking strength. If long-term storage is required in humid conditions, corrugated may not be the best material to use. As with most packaging, these boxes have stacking, side-wall strength and durability limitations. Storing corrugated outside in the elements is an invitation to trouble and not recommended.
The aforementioned wooden crates/boxes have the ability to be heat treated so they can be used as an export container. Most manufacturers of crates and pallets have a heat-treating chamber on site along with their approved certification stamp.
All of the aforementioned boxes have their place in industry, as do plastic and steel containers in some applications. Looking at your facility’s individual requirements will direct you toward the product that best fits your needs. By clearly understanding your crating and shipping options and seeing the cost advantages, you will get a better understanding of where and how to fine-tune your shipping requirements.
Co-author Tony Korish is VP of operations at Wisconsin Box of Wausau, Wis. He may be reached at 715-842-2248 or at email@example.com. Co-author John Tomaino is a sales executive at Wisconsin Box’s Tonawanda, N.Y., facility. He may be reached at 716-695-5360 or at firstname.lastname@example.org For additional information, visit www.wisconsinbox.com.
More About Wisconsin Box Co.
Wisconsin Box Co. is a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of wirebound boxes and ships its crating products coast-to-coast. The company has six facilities from which a majority of the box making, storing and shipping take place. These locations include Wausau, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Walworth in Wisconsin, as well as Tonawanda, N.Y., and Dyer, Tenn. The Milwaukee and Walworth facilities specialize in custom packaging of many different types, from corrugated to nailed wooden crates and many options in between.