Reusable containers: Putting a cap on your container needs

CAPS does for reusable containers what CHEP does for pallets

By ·

Wooden and plastic pallet pooling gets most of the attention, in part because there are so many pallets in the market. But users of plastic containers have a pooling and container management alternative, too, from Container and Pooling Solutions, or CAPS.

“Basically, we’re a leading provider of returnable container management solutions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico,” says Drew Merrill, vice president of business development and strategic planning for CAPS.

CAPS breaks its service offerings into five buckets, no pun intended:

• Dry returnable containers for automotive and general manufacturing companies, especially Tier 1 automotive suppliers and manufacturers.

• Liquid returnable containers, or intermediate bulk containers, for non-hazardous liquids.

• One-way bulk corrugated liquid container for international shipments.

• A Web-based tracking system that CAPS uses to track its pool of pallets, but which can also be used as a standalone service for companies that want to own and manage their own pool of containers.

• Container-related repair and maintenance services throughout the lifecycle of a returnable container. CAPS operates eight service centers for users who own their own fleet of containers, but want to outsource the maintenance of their assets.

Companies turn to CAPS for a variety of reasons, according to Merrill. Cash is a big reason: It takes a lot of it to build a fleet of returnable containers big enough to serve the needs of auto parts suppliers, for instance, who are sending containers out every day, but not getting all of them back every day.

Using a pool allows a manufacturer to only rent the containers it needs. “In the automotive industry, for instance, someone may reuse your containers for your competitor’s programs or their work-in-process. Or, some of your pool will simply disappear through shrinkage,” says Merrill. “Either way, you have to increase the size of your fleet of containers because you don’t have visibility across the supply chain.”

On top of that, there is generally a shelf life to any automotive, or other manufacturing, model program: A supplier buys a fleet of containers to deliver parts for a specific model, then has to replace those containers five years later when a new model is introduced. “At the end of that five years, the old containers just go into a back room if you own your containers,” Merrill says. 

There is no average price for the program, since there are a number of variables, everything from the size of the container to the internal dunnage required, the cycle time and the operating environment. The pooling model, however, is relatively simple. When CAPS takes on a new customer, it analyzes the overall program and then quotes an all-inclusive fee that includes the delivery of the asset, along with recovery, repair and inventory tracking and management. “The bottom line is that we have to have a better price point or we cannot get in the door,” says Merrill.

For an automotive supplier with plants in Mexico, for instance, CAPS has created service centers along the Mexican border to maintain an inventory of 35,000 containers in seven different sizes. Each day, the manufacturer submits orders to CAPS headquarters in Livonia, Mich. Those orders are transmitted to a service center near the plant, where the required containers are removed from inventory, scanned and prepared for pickup by the manufacturer’s trucks. After the manufacturer fills the containers, they scan them out to various automotive assembly plants in North America. Those data feeds also go to CAPS, which can then track the location of each individual container.

Once the auto manufacturer empties the containers, they’re ready for pick up and return to a CAPS service center. In this instance, CAPS may pick up the containers, the manufacturer may pick them up, or they go through one of the auto manufacturer’s distribution centers for a return. Once they arrive back at a service center, they’re scanned back into inventory. “Since every container is individually identified, we know which containers have been lost,” says Merrill. “That’s critical when you get into loss and damage credibility.”

That same container tracking service can be used by companies that prefer to own and manage their own fleet of containers. “We can be accessed as a software-as-a-service model with a monthly subscription fee,” says Merrill. “For companies that are going to get bank financing or a bank lease, it’s a critical service, because the lender wants to know that they have some way of tracking the collateral that backs the loan.”

Pallets and containers: A CHEP off the old block
More than a decade after entering the North American market, CHEP continues to be the leader in pallet pooling.

Pallets: Pallet pooling for the other guys
Upstart PECO Pallet brings competition to the pallet pooling market

Pallets and containers: The plastic pool alternative
iGPS offers pallets users an alternative to wood


About the Author

Bob Trebilcock
Bob Trebilcock, editorial director, has covered materials handling, technology, logistics and supply chain topics for nearly 30 years. In addition to Supply Chain Management Review, he is also Executive Editor of Modern Materials Handling. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Trebilcock lives in Keene, NH. He can be reached at 603-357-0484.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Article Topics

CAPS · CHEP · Containers · Pallet Pool · Pallets · · All Topics
Latest Whitepaper
Hydrogen, the Future of Materials Handling
Large, successful organizations are integrating hydrogen fuel cell technology into their lift truck fleets and benefiting from lower operational costs, reduced emissions and improved reliability.
Download Today!
From the October 2016 Issue
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order fulfillment process and increased throughput with near 100% accuracy.
System Report: Brownells new DC is flexible and responsive
Pallet Usage Report: Pallets Remain Critical in the Modern-Day Warehouse
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Pallets: Supporting Product, Processes and the Enterprise
The smallest leak in performance or cost can bring a lean, nimble and speedy supply chain to a halt. During this 30-minute webcast we'll examine how Modern's readers use pallets to keep the wheels turning as they maneuver a road filled with sharp edges and potholes.
Register Today!
Brownells: Designing for Efficiency and Growth
Brownells’ new Iowa distribution center has taken touches—and miles—out of the order...
Industry celebrates National Manufacturing Day
Fourth annual Manufacturing Day is a grassroots effort by U.S. manufacturers to improve the public...

American Eagle Outfitters’ omni-channel journey
The fashion retailer has used warehouse execution software and automation to create a true...
The data-driven lift truck
Now that manufacturers and distributors are using the data from their automated systems to drive...