Packaging Corner: The container inquisition

Answer these 10 questions to find the best fit for your operation.

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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.”

Read more Packaging Corner columns.
Read more from the Pallet Report.

About the Author

Sara Pearson Specter
Sara Pearson Specter has written articles and supplements for Modern Materials Handling and Material Handling Product News as an Editor at Large since 2001. Specter has worked in the fields of graphic design, advertising, marketing, and public relations for nearly 20 years, with a special emphasis on helping business-to-business industrial and manufacturing companies. She owns her own marketing communications firm, Sara Specter, Marketing Mercenary LLC. Clients include companies in a diverse range of fields, including materials handing equipment, systems and packaging, professional and financial services, regional economic development and higher education. Specter graduated from Centre College in Danville, Ky. with a bachelor’s degree in French and history. She lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley where she and her husband are in the process of establishing a vineyard and winery.

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