Packaging engineers need to understand distribution and shipping issues

Jan Gates, senior packaging engineer at medical products maker Guidant Corp., presented the following insights at MD&M West. • Know your distribution system. Companies can make a great product, but may not know the product's [packaging and distribution] needs. It's imperative to get the device to customers safely. • Take advantage of shipping tests, such as those developed by UPS and FedEx. They can save you money. • Use indicators for temperature-sensitive devices. Distribution companies don't always tell you about extreme temperature conditions or how long a package was exposed to them. • A box is not just a box. There have been big changes with corrugated in the past 20 years. • Project your corrugated needs years in advance so suppliers can grow the trees. • Considerable money can be saved simply by changing the type of dunnage that's used for product protection in a shipping case. • Know the strength of board you'll need, all the dimensions, how flaps will fold, how boxes will stack, and watch for over- or under-hang on the pallet. You'll pay more than you need to if the box isn't right. • Engineers need to understand regulatory issues and graphics design. • Understand dimensional charges pertaining to package weight and volume. By making a change to the length or width of the box, it can affect shipping cost. • When it comes to distribution regulations, the United States passes regulation and gives companies time to comply, whereas Europe expects regulations to be adhered to immediately.

--By Jim Butschli, Editor
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