Packaging Corner: The container inquisition
February 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial
It might appear that Ken Beckerman, president of Flexcon Container, is in the business of selling reusable plastic totes and bins. But it turns out that he’s really a detective. That’s because when someone calls about buying a box, he and his sales team ask questions: no fewer than 10, in fact.
“It’s important to ask a lot of questions to narrow the problem into a solution. We try to get intimate knowledge of the system that the container is going to be running on and what the container needs to do so we can offer options to fit an application perfectly,” Beckerman says. In addition to an option that meets the caller’s specs, alternatives might be for containers that are less expensive, more durable, lighter weight (for more content capacity) or save space in the system.
This question list includes:
1. What will the container do on a typical day?
2. Will the container leave your facility?
3. How does the container move through the facility?
4. If the container rides on a conveyor, what type? Which brand? Are there sensors or gates? Are there inclines or declines?
5. How much weight goes in the container?
6. Will the containers go in a freezer or an autoclave sanitization process, or remain at room temperature?
7. Is this a temporary solution or a long-term investment?
8. What other reusable container systems have you seen that you like?
9. When do you need the containers?
10. What is your budget?
Those last two questions are often the most important, Beckerman says. A rush delivery requirement may limit options to what’s in stock. Used or overstock containers might fit tight budgets better than new. And, companies looking to automate should consider the container in parallel with the system’s development.
“As a container guy, I’m definitely the last thing they think of, but I’ve worked through that,” he quips. “There are so many standard totes and containers today, it’s easier to supply the perfect size container than it was even 10 years ago. There’s no such thing as a custom container anymore; it’s very easy to pull standard size tooling from the warehouse and make the tote that fits a need, and in a low minimum quantity to make it affordable—just 250 to 500 units.”