“Logistics packaging design basics haven’t changed much in 80 years. We’re still using corrugated fibreboard boxes, steel drums, wooden crates and pallets. What has changed drastically is the environment surrounding logistics packaging. That’s changed because the shipping requirements keep changing with each new generation of technology”. (Tom Andel, “Packaging Basics: Less is More,” Integrated Warehousing & Distribution-Transportation & Distribution, September, 1996).
Distribution packaging describes technical packaging functions that provide product protection and that facilitate safe and cost-effective product distribution. It tends to conserve rather than add value. The materials used to package represent a key factor in the distribution equation and generally perform the following functions:
They Unitize Loads:
It is much easier to handle one 1,000 pound load than a thousand 1 pound loads. Loads are most commonly unitized on pallets, a platform that can be picked up by a forklift truck. In using pallets made of wood, the choice of wood species has a great impact on cost and durability. The denser and stiffer the wood, the greater the pallet’s durability and usually the greater its cost. However, well-made hardwood pallets are the most durable and often the total cost-effective option of the many material choices available. Other materials are usually specified for considerations other than durability.
In addition to providing a product platform, the pallet is a buffer against the handling environment. A forklift driver placing a pallet into position may not be able to see the exact placement location and stops when he comes in contact with something. For this reason, it is recommended that material be contained within the confines of the package with no overhang so that the pallet is “contacted”, not the items on it.
There are many possible pallet sizes and designs; however, for the sake of standardized distribution, certain sizes and designs predominate. The sizes specified in the PSS Manual Guidelines and in the Packaging Specifications sections are those recommended for use in the rail industry.
They Stabilize Loads:
Unit loads often need to be stabilized in order to retain load geometry and order during shipping and handling. Strapping, usually polypropylene or steel, is specified for heavier loads. Wrapping a pallet and its contents with stretch material provides stability well.
Load stability can be increased by the application of adhesive-like compounds. Adhesives can be designed to produce a high-track local bond.
They Contain Products:
Products may be contained in a large variety of packaging materials, i.e., bags, barrels, bottles, boxes, cans, containers, crates, drums, kegs, pails, trays, etc. which must then be unitized and stabilized.
The basic function of any packaging material is to contain the product or contents, safely and economically throughout the distribution chain. Though many of the PSS Manual Packaging Materials standards are specific as to construction design and component material content, the intent is to supplement the general packaging guidelines with information which will ensure that certain performance standards will be met.
Resource: Soroka, Walter, Fundamentals of Packaging Technology, Richard Warrington Publishing, Herndon, VA 1995.