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Returnable Containers Are Perfect For Returnable Packaging Systems

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In the last blog we discussed the transportation and how returnable packaging moves products. In this blog we are going to break it down to the next step – the containers inside of the truck. There are many options in every size, color, and shape when it comes to containers. These containers usually “cube” out a truck, meaning the container will stack inside of the truck with minimal wasted space. You don’t want to ship air inside of the truck, especially in a returnable system, because that space can add up to dollars over the life of a product.

Containers can be broken into 5 major groups which include Bulk Boxes, Hand Totes, Sleeve Packs, Boxes, and Steel Racks. Some of these containers can be customized to suite your specific needs while others only come in standard sizes. For now I will touch on each of the most used containers, but be sure to check out future blogs that will go into more detail about each type of container.

Bulk Boxes – Returnable Bulk BoxesA bulk box is one of the most common containers in North America. Bulk boxes come in mutable sizes and most sizes will cube out a truck. A majority of these containers are made of structural foam – a very strong material – and can last for many years in a returnable system. Bulk containers can be filled with product in bulk, meaning the product is placed in the container without any separation. They can also be outfitted with custom dividers made specifically for the product going inside. Many materials can be used for this dunnage, the main part of a Returnable System, from plastic corrugated to foams or laminates to help protect the products inside. Bulk containers have forklift openings on the bottom for easy transportation around the production facility. Bulk containers will stack on the top of the next container with special locations that will fit into one another. This makes stacking safe inside of the truck and also in the production plant. The last thing you want is for the containers to fall over and damage your product or, even worse, injure someone.

Box Totes for Returnable PackagingHand Totes – This type of container is exactly as the name says. Hand totes can be picked up by hand and are available in many different sizes and colors. Injected molded totes come in standard sizes and can be outfitted with custom dividers inside to hold your product. There are many manufactures of these types of totes, like the Bulk Containers and most of them will produce both types of containers. These totes can be stacked on top of one another with a stacking lip on the top and bottom of the totes. Injected molded totes are all good, but what do you do if your product won’t fit in a standard size? The Returnable Packaging industry has you covered! You can get a custom size tote built from plastic corrugated to the exact size you need, so you don’t have to ship air in your returnable system. These custom totes can be made in any color (this helps with making your production floor easy to segregate your products). With the custom size tote you can add all of the options you want in order to safely ship your product. A custom tote will cost you more in upfront costs, but the savings of not shipping air in every truck will quickly add up.

Sleeve Packs –Sleeve Packs for Returnable Packaging A sleeve pack is another option to the bulk box or hand tote. Sleeve packs began as an alternative to a Gaylord box on a pallet. If you need a lighter, less cumbersome pack then a sleeve pack might be your answer. The other major benefit of sleeve packs is that they fold down flat, much flatter than a bulk box, making return shipments less costly. You can also get up to or over 20 sleeves in the space it takes to ship one erected. Sleeve packs usually consist of a plastic pallet and lid and the side walls are made from plastic corrugated. The plastic side walls are usually made from a higher gage sheet than you will see in a tote, but you can use a lower gage plastic if your part warrants it. There are also new materials in the market that add more strength to the sleeve if you have a heavy part or want to stack many sleeve packs on-top of one another. Sleeve packs are used in many industries and are gaining more traction in Europe over the bulk containers due to the weight reduction.

Box Tote for Returnable PackagingBoxes – Although boxes are the most basic packaging, they can be complex. Most manufacturing facilities use some kind of box. Any cardboard box you are using can be converted to a plastic corrugated box. This can be the easiest step if you would like to implement a Returnable Packaging system into your production process. With boxes, you can design anything you need to safely ship your product. Boxes are usually the least expensive option for a returnable system and can be tested on a smaller scale to see how Returnable Packaging will work in your production flow. The best part of using plastic corrugated boxes is that they will fold down flat for easy return. Depending on the height of the box, you can ship many boxes folded down in the space it takes to ship 1 box erected. This saves on the return shipping costs if you don’t have a Milk Run with your Logistics.

Steel Racks – Steel Racks for Returnable PackagingIt’s easy to say that steel racks are considered the Cadillac of Returnable Packaging. Steel racks are just what the name says; a steel fabricated cage. They are made from steel tubing and are welded together. Most steel fabricating shops can produce a steel rack – just make sure the shop you use is familiar in making this type of product. If the racks are out of square then they will not stack and it will be difficult to add dunnage to the inside. Steel racks are custom made and can be outfitted with many options including forklift openings on the bottom, with or without casters, so it can be moved easily. Racks also have posts on the top so they can be stacked on top of one another. Racks are made for heavy parts or large parts that won’t fit in a container. Custom dividers can be added inside to hold your part in place. Dividers can be laminated with class protection materials if your part is sensitive to scratching. Custom sewn fabric bags can be added to the inside to hold your part as another option to plastic corrugated.

There is such a wide variety of reusable containers that are used in a Returnable System. The options on all of these containers are endless, and can only be limited by your imagination. In future blogs, I will dive deeper into these types of containers along with the dunnage that goes inside of them.

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