Thinking Outside the Box

Photo by Ndungukamau via Wikimedia Commons

Boxes have always been a primary to any successful business. Whenever you have to move anything from one place to another and you want it to arrive in the same condition that it was sent, a box usually offers the ideal solution.

The problem is that today there aren’t just one or two kinds of boxes. There are literally hundreds of box types that can be used for transporting products or parts. And the difference isn’t just size. It’s always material type, shape, and more.

Cardboard Boxes

When most people think of boxes, they usually think of the ordinary brown cardboard box. And the cardboard box is probably still the most common type of box used by businesses. Companies that delivery a lot of different kinds of materials lots of places — such as Amazon, UPS, or DHL, for example — go through literally millions of cardboard boxes per month.

Cardboard has the advantage of being recyclable, which is of primary importance to a lot of business and customers. But generally, cardboard boxes can only be used once before they have to be remade as a brand new box. This recycling process takes a lot of steps — from the baler to the recycler to the cardboard box plant — that can take a long time before the box is reintroduced into the supply chain. And each step requires more energy, which undercuts the original purpose of recycling.

Other Types of Boxes

As a result, many businesses today are using sturdier more rigid boxes that can be used again and again without having to be put into the recycling process. Boxes made of hard plastic can be used to ship materials in all directions in the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the distributor, from the distributor to the retailer, and from the retailer back to the manufacturer.

They also are often stackable and lightweight, reducing shipping costs and saving costly truck space.

Wooden boxes are another option for some types of businesses. While wood is more costly than cardboard or plastic, it has absorbing properties that make it ideal for transporting delicate and fragile materials, such as glass bottles.

Wood is also tough. It can take a beating and still be used multiple times as it passes through the supply chain.

Boxes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. They are an effective and important tool in transporting materials. But the types of boxes used by businesses is always evolving.


Different Types of Tape for Different Jobs

floor striping tape“Grab the tape, will you?”

“Okay, which kind?”

The answer to that question will depend on the kind of job you are working on. There are literally dozens of different types of tape that can be used in the industrial or commercial setting, including tapes of different widths, thicknesses, and even materials.

The type of tape you choose to use matters. Today’s diverse tapes are specialized for their specific application. Here is a look at some of the types of tape you are likely to see in the workplace.

Polypropylene Tape

Polypropylene tape is most commonly used for sealing boxes and other containers. It has high tensile strength, is waterproof, and also abrasion resistant. It is great for packaging because it conforms well to smooth and uneven surfaces alike. It generally doesn’t stretch very well, however.

This type of packing tape usually is clear so the user can see through it to the box’s seams. But it also can come with either opaque or even printed surfaces.

Polythene Tape

The benefit of polythene tape is that it will peel cleanly from most surfaces, it has some electrical insulation, and it conforms easily to most uneven or unusual surfaces. It also is water resistant and halogen-free.

Polythene tape is used in the automotive, boating, and building industries, among others. It mostly comes in black, but can also be found in other colors, but not clear.

Foil Tape

Foil tape has acrylic adhesives which improve their bond with age. It is completely water resistant and creates a total vapor barrier, which is why it is widely used in plumbing and ductwork.

While foil tape can create a strong bond, it will peel cleanly if left for only a short period of time. It usually comes with a metallic finish.

Double-Sided Tape

As the name implies, double-sided tape has adhesive on both sides, which makes it ideal for holding carpeting, tarps, and other sheeted materials in place securely. It also can be used to hang photos, labels, and other items.

Double-sided tape usually has a release liner that protects the adhesive on one side of the tape until you need to use it. These liners are made from siliconized paper and can be easily peeled off from the tape.

Cloth Tape

Cloth tape has a fibrous backing that gives it the strength to meet the demands of many varied applications. Duct tape is an example of cloth tape.

There are nearly as many types of tape as there are jobs to use them.

Label Maker is the ‘Dad’s’ Tool that Can Actually Improve Efficiency

Label MakerLabel makers have been around for some time now. They allow people and businesses to create and print their own professional looking labels that can be affixed to shelves, boxes, and other storage spaces.

Labelling everything allows you to quickly and efficiently organize any space, knowing immediately what is supposed to go in every spot and simplifying the task of putting away products and other materials.

But label making also can go too far. Imagine labeling your home refrigerator, for example, or the items in your medicine cabinet. In fact, label makers are often joked about as a very “dad” thing to own.

Zoning Your Workspace

All kidding aside, label makers are actually an affordable and effective way to improve the flow of practically any workspace.

Labeling shelves with what items go where and specific quantities that belong there not only aids in the putting away of items, but also in establishing inventory pars for reordering.

The labels created by most label makers can be printed in a variety of fonts, sizes, and colors, allowing you to zone your workspace according to any distinctions you want. For example, tools can be printed in one color, office supplies in another, and parts or equipment in a third, and so on.

Convertible Cartridges

Label Maker IIMost label makers use interchangeable tape cartridges, which allow you to use tapes of different sizes and color backgrounds. This can make zoning spaces and labeling shelves even more efficient and productive.

Plus, many of the label makers on the market today are made of durable, high-impact materials that allow you to take them into the field without having to worry as much about breaking by dropping or other accidental damage.

Plus, once you run out of tape, all you need to do is pop out the old cartridge, put in a new one and you are all ready to go. Keeping a supply of blank cartridges on hand means you never need to stop labeling!

Label Makers Are Addictive

A word of warning, however: Once you start labeling areas of your workspace, it can be hard to stop. Most people love the way their offices, warehouses, docks, and other work areas look with neat, professionally printed labels marking every square inch.

You may soon find yourself labeling areas that don’t necessarily need printed labels yet you may find it impossible to stop labeling everything in sight. No wonder label makers take such a great amount of kidding as the ultimate “dad” device.

Corrugated Boxes Are Rated According to their Strength

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Image via Wikimedia Commons

If you have ever been shopping for corrugated boxes for your warehouse, dock, or shipping operation, you may have noticed that they come rated at various weight tests.

For example, you might find corrugated boxes that are 250 lb. test or 350 lb test. But what does this actually mean? Can you really put 250 or 350 lbs. of products, parts, or other items in there and they won’t fail?

Corrugated Box Mullen Tests

There are basically two different tests used to measure the strength and durability of corrugated boxes. The first is the Mullen Test, also known as the bursting test.

The Mullen Test measures the rough handling durability of the corrugated material. It’s actually a measure of the force required to rupture or puncture the face of the corrugated cardboard material. A special tool known as a Mullen Tester applies force to the carton until it actually splits or bursts. This weight is its test weight, such as 275 lbs., for example.

Edge Crush Test

Now there is a second test that is used to measure the durability of corrugated boxes. The Edge Crust Test — or ECT, for short — is related to the stacking strength of a carton.

The ECT measures the edgewise compressive strength of corrugated board by compressing a small segment of the board on edge between two rigid platens or plates that are perpendicular to the direction of the flutes. The purpose of this is to establish a peak load, which is measured in pounds per lineal inch of load bearing edge.

But the ECT is usually expressed as an ECT value: For example 44 ECT.

Minimum  Values

The ECT values are a minimum value. This is because manufacturers of corrugated boxes may use different “recipes” when creating their corrugated cardboard materials, each of which may vary slightly in overall strength.

For example, a 200 lb test box may have an ECT that could be anywhere from 32 ECT to 44 ECT. The difference has to do with the amount of material that is used. Corrugated materials with lower ECTs may use fewer raw materials, have lower energy requirements, create less pollution to make, and so on.

Using lighter materials to make a container that is the proper size for the item being shipped with increasing amounts of recycled content is better for the environment. But that doesn’t help if the box isn’t strong enough to hold what’s inside.

If the corrugated boxes you are using are likely to undergo rough handling, a bursting strength rating is a better measure than ECT, in general.


How e-Commerce Is Changing Your Business

packagingRight now, one out of every three people buy the products they want online directly from the manufacturer. This tidal wave of direct-to-consumers (DTC) trade is forcing many companies to rethink the way they do business.

Many businesses today are investing in more sophisticated materials handling solutions that optimize and maximize throughput while minimizing mistakes that can instantly damage their reputation.

Changes in Packaging

One of the most immediate changes many companies are making is changing their packaging. Shipping bulk products to retailers require bulkier, less costly packaging like pallets and cases secured with shrink wrap.

But with DTC commerce, individual products often need to be packaged individually using new materials, such as polymer bags. While most consumers will gladly absorb the cost of this packaging, businesses are left to figure out how to restructure their shipping departments to accommodate packaging that can change size and shape with every order.

Costly Mistakes

When manufacturers sell their products to retailers, there is a lot more room for error. Packages that are mislabeled, spoiled, or damaged can be easily returned and replaced with end-user customers being none the wiser.

With DTC commerce, however, errors in shipping and damage to products can damage a company’s reputation. Rather than giving the manufacturer time to apologize and rectify the mistake, consumers are often compelled to write and post a nasty review on their social media accounts or elsewhere online immediately.

While it’s not fair to businesses, it is one of the new realities of DTC commerce. As a result, manufacturers are motivated to minimize mistakes with every order they ship.

Speeding Up Delivery

Another new reality in the DTC business environment is that consumers expect and demand faster shipping. With companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart, and others promising next day or even same day delivery for online orders, other companies are challenged to find faster and more efficient ways to get their products into the hands of web-based buyers.

As a result, many businesses are investing in automated conveyor systems with modular conveyor platforms that allow retailers and system integrators to process and ship orders faster and more accurately than ever before.

These types of platforms include automated features that offer more flexibility and customization while allowing for the rapid handling of smaller and lighter packages in a variety of configurations. This can result in dramatic reductions in package damage while allowing more accuracy in hitting smaller, tighter delivery targets.

DTC commerce is here to stay. Businesses that can’t adjust to this new reality may not be.

Soda Makers Face Packaging Challenges in Internet Age

Photo by Ndungukamau via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Ndungukamau via Wikimedia Commons

Enjoying a cold Coca-Cola or Pepsi on a hot summer’s day is as American as apple pie or baseball.

But a changing marketplace and increased focus on the potential health risks of these sugary drinks has sent ripples through the soft drink industry in recent years.

Amazon’s Effect on Soft Drink Sales

More and more consumers are seeking to buy the products they use every day online, rather than in actual stores. In fact, a recent study stated that a third of all US consumers buy at least one product through Amazon or another online retailer at least once per week.

This is bad news for the soft drink industry because soda pop is dense and requires tight packaging to protect containers. But it’s also relatively low cost compared to other products weighing the same. So selling and shipping it to online customers can be cost-prohibitive.

Last week, PepsiCo Chief Executive Indra Nooyi said the company is looking at new, lighter packaging that would help its drinks travel better.

Governmental Interference

Another new hurdle facing the soft drink industry is soft drink taxes that take aim at the alleged health effects of sugary drinks.

A circuit court judge in Chicago earlier this month temporarily blocked a new penny per ounce county tax on all sweetened drinks set to go into effect July 1. Prior to the judge’s decision, the soft drink industry launched a full court press to attack the unpopular tax, including TV commercials and full-page newspaper ads aimed directly at consumers.

Suing Soda Makers 

Then there are legal assaults on the soda industry, including a lawsuit filed last week by a Washington, D.C., pastor against Coca-Cola, claiming that the soda pop giant was deceiving customers about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages and ravaging poor, inner city communities with subsequent health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Pastor William Lamar, of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, said he is tired of presiding over funerals of parishioners who died from health problems stemming from a steady diet of soft drinks.

Lamar claimed that soft drinks and other poor diet choices were killing more people in urban communities than street violence.

Next Steps for the Soda Industry

As consumers become more concerned about eating and drinking healthier and the beverage industry looks for better, cheaper, and faster ways to deliver its products to buyers, big soft drink producers like Coke and Pepsi will need to develop innovative ways to keep people wanting their products.

5 Cheap, Effective Ways Reduce Product Damage

packagingAnytime a box, pallet, or container is moved, there is the risk of damage. Product loss due to damage during transportation can cost companies a fortune every year. And that money comes right out of the bottom line.

Reducing the risk of transportation damage is just good business. But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get results. Instead, here are five simple, effective, and affordable ways to reduce the amount of product damage.

Avoiding Broken Pallets

When you load products onto pallets, wrap them in shrink wrap, and place them into the back of a truck, cargo container, train car, or another vehicle you expect them to arrive at their destination in the same condition as they left your facility.

But if the vehicle is not full and there is space between the pallets, even something as simple as turning a corner too quickly can cause the pallet to become unstable or even tip over.

The first way to avoid this is to apply more shrink wrap around the base of the pallet and the first row of goods. If you only wrap the top of the pallet or are chintzy on the shrink wrap around the base, the odds of a tip-over accident during transport are significantly higher.

Another solution is to overlap the shrink wrap as you move up the pallet. Leaving gaps unwrapped and unprotected can cause products to easily slip off and become damaged.

To ensure protection, each layer should have about a 50% overlap with the next two to three layers of shrink wrap.

Broken Cardboard Boxes

Have you ever opened up the back of a delivery van and found that cardboard boxes have been split open and their contents are spread out all over the floor of the van?

This is caused by several reasons. One is that the boxes were not properly secured. When boxes slide around, are stacked too high or aren’t secured to the sides of the van, they are prone to damage even if you drive extremely carefully.

Another problem may be the quality of the cardboard boxes you are using. The fibers in recycled cardboard boxes are typically shorter than new cardboard. This can make it more difficult for packing tape to stick to the surface.

Top-Quality Packing Supplies

Packaging is usually not the place to save money or cut corners. If you can’t afford new cardboard boxes, at least use high-quality packing tape.

It’s also a good idea to clean the surface of packaging before applying packing tape. Dust, dirt, and other debris can build up on the surface of boxes, especially in a busy warehouse or dock, making it more difficult for packing tape to adhere to the boxes.

Bulk Containers May Be the Solution to Your Shipping Problems

Reusable Plastic ContainersIn today’s fast response marketplace, shipping costs are one of the fastest-growing line items in practically any business’s budget these days. Customers accustomed to online ordering now want their orders faster and cheaper than ever.

While mega-corporations like Amazon and Wal-Mart can afford to spend billions on research and development into innovative delivery methods such as robots and pilotless drones, the typical small business has to find ways to improve efficiency any way they can.

One possible solution to reducing shipping costs is to spend less on packaging and make a one-time investment in bulk containers.

Flexibility of Bulk Containers

Bulk containers are widely used in materials handling, especially in the transport of food products. Typically made of hard, durable plastic, bulk containers come in every imaginable size, shape, and thickness so you are sure to find the ones that are best for your particular product.

Most bulk containers are stackable. Some are even lockable for increased product protection and safety during shipping.

They also are affordable and cost-effective. A one-time investment in a reusable bulk container will usually be far less than the cost of disposable cardboard boxes and other types of single-use packaging.

Benefits of Bulk Containers

Most bulk containers are engineered to provide years of use. Many can be used over and over again without worry of warping, eroding, splintering, or rusting out. Long-lasting bulk containers are one of the most cost-effective ways to move parts, products, or supplies across your warehouse floor or across the country.

Because they are reusable, businesses can see an immediate reduction in their packaging line item. Even if they become damaged, most bulk containers can be easily repaired and put right back into service.

They also take up less space during transport than traditional disposable packaging. Most are stackable when filled and nestable when empty. They also come with or without lids, which reduces the amount of space needed to store them when they are not in use.

Sanitation and Environmental Benefits

Keeping bulk containers clean is simple. Just use water and a little soap if necessary and they are literally as good as new. Or if you use enough bulk containers, they can be pushed through a bulk container cleaning machine which sanitizes them completely.

Finally, because they reduce the amount of post-market waste, bulk containers are better for the environment, providing a benefit for both the planet and your business’s reputation.



Stretch Wrap an Essential Tool for Keeping Pallets Safe

Photo courtesy: Robert F. Blackman at
Photo courtesy: Robert F. Blackman at

What in the world did we do before stretch wrap? It’s now one of the most commonly used methods of pallet wrapping.

Stretch wrap isn’t just effective. It’s also relatively cheap, easy to use, and convenient. And it can be either low-tech or high-tech: In small operations, it can be slid onto a broom handle and manually wrapped around a pallet to provide a safe, comprehensive wrap.

In larger operations, rotating platforms and automated stretch wrap feeders can wrap hundreds of pallets per hour as they move down a production line and into the beds of waiting trucks.

Benefits of  Stretch Wrap

Stretch wrap offers one of the most effective means of securing items loaded onto pallets. Prior to the development of stretch wrap, most loads had to be covered with tarps that were tied down. Some loads were even packed into nets that could be easily lifted by dockside cranes.

But stretch wrap safely and tightly holds palletized items while providing a protective coating against weather, dust, debris, moisture, and other hazards. There are even UV stretch wraps that can help protect products from the sun’s rays.

It also can be applied to a variety of surfaces, including flat loads and those with pointed corners.

Stretch wrap is also much less costly to use than other methods of pallet wrapping such as strapping or tarps. The equipment used to automatically wrap pallets with stretch wrap is often less costly than other machines and usually requires less energy to operate.

It’s also better for the environment. Most stretch wraps on the market today are completely recyclable.

Wrapping Pallets in Stretch Wrap

Using stretch wrap is remarkably simple even if you don’t have special pallet wrapping equipment. All you need to do is to pull about three feet of plastic off the stretch wrap roll, then squeeze about 8 to 10 inches at the end of the sheet together to make a rope shape.

Then simply thread this roped end through one corner of the pallet. You don’t even have to tie a knot if you don’t want to because stretch wrap will stick to itself.

Then, beginning at the base of the pallet, begin wrapping the pallet. Wrap the base at least five times while keeping the film tight as it is pulled off the roll. Then move up toward the top of the load, making sure to keep the tension tight.

Use a knife or cutting tool to cut the stretch wrap after the entire pallet load is safely wrapped.


Different Kinds of Strapping for Different Uses

Mobile Poly Strapping MachineStrapping is widely used for securing bundles, loads, and products for safe and efficient shipment. But the term strapping actually encompasses a lot of different types including poly strapping, woven cord strapping, and even steel strapping.

The type of strapping you need will depend on the type of load you are shipping. For example, bundles of 2X4s shipped from lumber yards will need different strapping than bundles of hay sent from a commercial farming operation. And recycled paper bags require a third kind of strapping.

So which kind do you need? Here’s some information to help you find out.

Types of Plastic Strapping

Plastic strapping is a category that includes several different types of strapping, including polypropylene strapping, polyester strapping, and nylon strapping.

Polypropylene strapping is probably the most widely used type of strapping in business and industry because its light to medium duty and is highly economical. It’s the kind of strapping most commonly used in palletizing, unitizing, and in carton closing and bundling.

Nylon strapping used to be popular because it was easy to determine its specific strength or the strength-to-weight ratio. However, because nylon is more costly than other types of strapping it has fallen out of favor.

The benefit of polyester strapping is that it can be easily woven to create greater strength. It is often used as a replacement for steel strapping.

Benefits of Steel Strapping

Steel strapping is the oldest type of strapping. Also called steel banding, it has been in use since the late 19th Century and is still used today to bind things like lumber, rolled steel, and for open top railcar and trailer loading.

Steel is the strapping material of choice for binding heavy loads that require maximum strength and minimum stretch. Steel also comes in a variety of surfaces, including paint, paint and wax, and galvanized steel to prevent corrosion.

Besides its cost, the downside of steel strapping is that it can rust over time. It also adds more weight to the load than polypropylene or polyester strapping.

Steel is also more likely to tear or scratch the cargo it is binding. Plus, if you aren’t careful when cutting steel bands, they can spring and lash, potentially causing injury.

Finally, steel won’t change shape. So if the load it is holding shifts, shrinks, or otherwise becomes smaller, the steel strapping will remain the same size and will no longer hold the cargo securely.