HOW TO WRAP
By Tim Heston, Senior Editor
Ashipment arrived at your customer’s facility, and the customer calls to complain. The parts apparently are dented, scratched, or other- wise unusable. How did it happen? Did someone at the customer’s
loading dock rub the sheet metal panels together as he was lifting them out
of the box? Did the boxes fall as the truck driver made a hard stop in transit?
Did people in your own assembly or shipping department pack the boxes or
pallets incorrectly? Was a pallet’s center of gravity off-kilter?
When you get right down to it, customers want good products delivered
on time, every time, and this requires good packaging. Say a shop offers an
innovative delivery: kitted parts packed so workers at the customer plant can
lift them out in a certain order that will make their assembly process easier.
Like good sheet metal design, packaging can directly affect a customer’s manufacturing efficiency.
Assembly and packaging represent the final operation at most contract
metal fabricators. Bottlenecks in packaging trickle upstream. A shop may
have amazing lights-out automation, lightning-fast sheet metal cutting, advanced precision bending, and even automated welding. No matter how
quickly fabrication occurs, though, products won’t ship any faster unless
packaging can keep up.
In one sense, a poorly packaged pallet of parts damaged in transit turns all that value-adding
deburring, bending, welding,
grinding, heat treating, plating,
powder coating, hardware insertion, and assembly—into waste.
All those processes just produced a
batch of parts that couldn’t be sold.
Quality packaging ensures parts arrive at a customer site unscathed. Efficiency ensures packaging doesn’t hinder part flow, both at the contract
fabricator and its customer. Like at the track-and-field relays at the summer Olympics, the
race can be won or lost with the handoff.
The longer the truck ride, the more risk there is
that a pallet or box of parts could be damaged.
Quick and reliable response, after all, is one of the
key selling points for domestic manufacturing.
A fabricator’s locale can be a competitive advantage, and it’s also why some fabricators are
opening satellite locations. For instance, EVS Metal
of Riverdale, N.J., has opened locations in Strasburg,
No matter how well a product is packaged and securely loaded onto a truck, a long truck ride still increases risk of
part lateness or damage. Proximity mitigates that risk.
But it doesn’t eliminate it entirely. Bad packaging can damage parts, no
matter how short the truck route is. As EVS Vice President Joe Amico described, good packaging ensures certain part elements don’t touch each
other and scratch, a problem avoided by using foam, blocks of wood, or
other items to separate parts (see Figure 1)—a particular challenge when
assemblies have inserted hardware.
A good packaging strategy also considers weight. “Even simple flat panels can be difficult to package,” said Amico. Such a panel may be a relative
snap to fabricate: laser-cut, then form two short return flanges, and that’s it.
But stack those thin-gauge parts too high, and the weight of the top panels
may bend panel flanges on the bottom. Even a slight bend may wreak havoc
at a customer’s assembly plant.
Fabricators have rethought the very notion of a packaging department.
Instead, inline packaging—basically a “pack as you go” concept—has helped
FIGURE 1 Foam and inserts separate and protect these panels for shipment at EVS
Metal. Good packaging not only considers potential points for damage, but also weight,
including how the weight of stacked parts affects parts on the bottom. Photo courtesy
of EVS Metal.