Byrd Tool trims labor costs with paperboard crates

Tool maker reduced packing time by 30% by switching from wooden crates.

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You might expect a company that specializes in industrial woodworking tools to favor wooden crates for shipping. Until recently, Byrd Tool, located in Leitchfield, Ky., constructed wood crates to ship all of its products.

Recently, however, the company discovered significant labor savings by switching to a unique paperboard crate (Laminations, to ship its cutter heads for industrial planers, molders, joiners and shapers.

“It takes about 30% less time to pack our products in paperboard crates compared to wooden boxes,” said Tom Byrd, company president. “That’s a significant savings.”

Protecting the Shelix head during shipment
Among professional woodworkers, Byrd Tool is a recognized leader in innovation. The Shelix head, the company’s signature product, is a planer head that uses staggered teeth, also known as tips or knives, that are set at an angle and arranged in a helix design on a rotating cylinder. The tips slice the wood in a way that makes for a smoother cut than a traditional straight blade. “Woodworkers know that a shear cut is far better than a straight cut and that a stagger cut is much better than just a single straight knife,” said Byrd. “It’s also easier on their dust collection systems.”

Using common carriers, Byrd Tool ships about 75% of its product domestically, with the remainder going to places such as Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy and the U.K. Most of their sales come through the company’s website at

Byrd Tool still ships some of its heaviest planer heads and tools in wooden crates, which are constructed onsite. Larger shipments to places such as Taiwan are often palletized loads that are cubed and strapped, maximizing shipping space and enhancing load stability. In 2010, however, Byrd Tool began replacing wooden crates with paperboard crates to ship most of the 3,000 Shelix heads shipped each year.

Introduced as a cost-effective, sustainable choice for protecting long and narrow products during shipping and handling, the crates consist of two seamless U–shaped channels of laminated paperboard that fit snugly together. Available in a variety of calipers, leg lengths and sizes, they provide a sturdy, environmentally friendly way to ship products such as window blinds and rods, tubing, metal rods/extrusions, fragile instruments, glass products and industrial tools.

Creating the protective packaging
Byrd Tool orders the crates in 240-inch lengths and then cuts them to the desired lengths. Byrd uses two configurations with different leg lengths but the same 5-inch base.

Wooden plugs, made of 2x4s or 2x6s, are stapled on the ends. Holes drilled in the wooden plugs support the journals on either end of the heads, suspending the tool securely within the crates. “Depending how heavy the heads are, we sometimes use separate blocks to suspend them rather than relying totally on the end plugs,” Byrd said.

Suspended within the UCrates, the heads have a buffer space of at least 1 inch between the head and the container walls.

“If the UCrate is tossed around during handling, it will flex a small amount. The buffer space precludes any shipping damage,” said Byrd. “We have not experienced any damage problems.”

Given the number of units Byrd Tool ships annually, not only protection but also the cost of freight and shipping materials are considerations. But the big advantage of the laminated paperboard crates over wood is in labor.

“The actual box material—paperboard compared to wood—is pretty close to the same as far as price, but the labor costs of using paperboard crates compared to wood is less,” said Byrd.

Paperboard crates also avoid carrier surcharges for handling wooden crates.

“The difference in weight between a paperboard crate and wood is about 5 pounds,” said Byrd. “That doesn’t sound like much, but there is a premium charge to ship with exposed wood when you use UPS or FedEx. Using the paperboard crates, we not only save weight, but we are able to avoid the surcharge.”

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