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Packaging Corner: Reduce supply chain costs with modular bulk containers

With recent economic pressures forcing companies to seek more ways to drive costs out of the supply chain, the desire to minimize the number of touches throughout manufacturing and distribution has attracted more attention to the advantages of bulk packaging.
By Sara Pearson Specter, Editor at Large
September 01, 2012

With recent economic pressures forcing companies to seek more ways to drive costs out of the supply chain, the desire to minimize the number of touches throughout manufacturing and distribution has attracted more attention to the advantages of bulk packaging.

“Companies have shown a renewed interest in bulk containers for discrete component shipping, driven by the high costs of both multiple handling touches and transportation,” says Jack Fillmore, director of engineering and product development for Buckhorn.

Of particular appeal, says Fillmore, is the ability to move from traditional modular handheld containers to a pallet-based bulk load, including 40 x 48-inch and 45 x 48-inch footprints in varying heights. Such a system employs variously sized modular containers that work together as subsets of the standard pallet sizes. This modularity and compartmentalization helps companies that are looking to get the benefits of bulk packaging while still getting some form of discrete unitization, Fillmore says.

“It’s an adaptation of the concept we’re used to seeing in the automotive industry with modular handheld containers,” he says. “That concept is moving up the chain into processing, manufacturing and, in food applications, staging right after harvesting. We’re seeing this in traditional manufacturing, but also in liquid and semi-liquid products shipped in intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), in flowable materials such as caps and closures, and in granular ingredients like resins and additives.”

Subdividing a pallet load with modular bins connected to a pallet, or dividers within a bulk container, enables each link in the supply chain to receive exactly the volume or amount of item needed while leveraging the cost savings associated with bulk shipping.

“Companies are looking at bulk packaging more from a fleet management and efficiency of movement of goods perspective,” Fillmore adds. “It’s not just the cost of packaging under consideration; it’s the total cost of freight and shipping of goods. That’s where bulk packaging offers tremendous benefit if the product lends itself to bulk unitization and shipment.”

Read more Packaging Corner.

About the Author

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Sara Pearson Specter
Editor at Large

Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Logistics Management as an Editor at Large since 2001. Based in Cincinnati, Specter has worked in the fields of journalism, graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for 15 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky., with a bachelor’s degree in French and history.


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