As long as there has been industrial production in this country, there has been the wood crate. For decades, it has been viewed as a reliable, cost-effective, and relatively simply tool for packaging and transporting industrial products. In some cases, it may be the best solution.
There may be other solutions that are more
protective, efficient, and cost-effective.
Wood crate packaging isn’t the only solution, though. Packaging technology has advanced substantially in recent years. Many industrial companies still use wooden crates because that has been their default for year. However, they’re unaware that there may be other solutions that are more protective, efficient, and cost-effective.
➔ There are generally two challenges with wood crate packaging:
1. Quality assurance
Though not always the case, many wood crate industrial packaging solutions are built to generic standards rather than custom specifications. You pick the crate that’s closest in size to your needs and fill the excess space with foam peanuts or other dunnage. Unfortunately, this approach is often less than ideal when it comes to protecting quality. Dunnage is helpful, but it’s not always a 100 percent effective form of protection. Your product could still be vulnerable to moisture, vibration, or other risks.
2. Cost efficiency
Wood crates are often built from scratch with new materials. There’s labor involved too. You also have to pay for all that dunnage. You’re also saddling your customers or other recipients with the task of eliminating or recycling the materials on their end.
Fortunately, you have other options available. Below are three solutions that we commonly show to industrial companies who are ready to move away from wooden crate packaging. If you’ve used wooden crates for years, now may be the time to explore other strategies.
Custom Fabricated Metal
Metal is often an ideal material for industrial packaging. Obviously, it’s strong and durable. It is highly effective at minimizing risk and ensuring quality. Depending on the metal you use, it can serve as a barrier for rain, wind, sunlight, heat, and nearly any other dangerous natural element that could threaten your product’s quality.
Metal can also be easily recycled. If your customers have high sustainability expectations, you can use recycled metal to produce most of your packaging, reducing your costs and meeting your environmental objectives. On the back end, your customers can quickly recycle the packaging.
The challenge is finding a packaging partner who can do the job. Metal can’t just be nailed together, like a wooden crate. Rather, it has to be fabricated and may need to be custom engineered. Many packaging companies don’t have the tools or resources for that work.
However, if you can find a partner who does have those resources, you may find that metal is a more reliable and cost-effective solution. The packaging partner can develop a metal package specifically for your product and then custom build it to minimize all quality risks.
You have a regular customer for whom you deliver parts and products on a consistent schedule. The order is always the same. So why are you building a brand new wooden crate every time a shipment leaves your facility?
Instead, consider rotable packaging. A rotable package is one that can be used over and over again. You send the package to the customer. They unpack the items and send the package back to you for reuse. You save time and money on packaging costs, which may impact the customer’s ultimate price and could shorten the delivery schedule.
The packaging itself could be made from metal, plastic, or some other material. The more important point is that your customer can then unpack their products and send the crate back to your facility for you to reuse. You save on materials and labor and you boost your sustainability.
Again, having the right packaging partner is critical if you want to implement a rotables strategy. They can analyze your product and your distribution process to develop the right rotable packaging for you.
Some industrial companies use misguided reverse engineering to decide that wood crates are the most effective solution. They are sensitive to their product’s quality vulnerabilities, so they believe that they need a substantial amount of shredded paper, foam peanuts, cardboard, and other dunnage to keep the product safe.
After accounting for the space that the product requires, along with all the dunnage, they assume that they need a large wooden crate. This assumption is often incorrect.
The use of dunnage and other quality assurance tools should be based on a thorough and detailed risk analysis. What are the real risks that the product faces while in transit or in a warehouse? How likely are each of those risks? What kind of damage could each risk cause?
After a detailed analysis, make a decision on how best to minimize the most potentially damaging threats. Dunnage may be the answer. Or you may find that a small metal container with protective chemicals is more effective. It could be an engineered plastic solution, or the protectants may be a mix of traditional dunnage and compressed air.
There really is no way to know whether a wooden crate with dunnage is right for you without doing a complete risk analysis. A sophisticated packaging partner can perform this type of examination and then engineer a solution that best meets your needs.
The wooden crate has been a standby in industrial facilities for decades. In some cases, it may be the best solution. However, don’t stick with it without exploring other options. It’s very possible that alternative methods may provide stronger quality protection and cost savings.