Tag: packaging

Pallets from China can pose risks to supply chains

usa-palletFor this post, we welcome a friend to the Pro QC team, Daniel M. Krassenstein, as a guest blogger.  

Many U.S. importers regard procurement cost and pallet vendor selection as the shippers’ burden, but this is risky and exposes an importer to severe supply chain disruptions should their pallets not be compliant with local requirements and face rejection by border officials.

In addition, U.S. importers are missing an easy opportunity to improve their supply chain and their costs. Here is an outline of what is available in the market and their respective benefits and drawbacks.

Solid Wood Pallets

A. Risk of Beetles – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service conducts inspections of inbound containers at U.S. Ports of Entry. If they find evidence of wood-boring beetles in the solid wood pallets (even if the bugs are long-dead), then your entire container gets rejected and will be sent back to China. I know this for a fact, as we dealt with such a situation a few years back and it was costly!

B. Preventative Measures – The Asian long-horned beetle is a threat to North American forests. The established methods to destroy the families of beetles whose larvae or adult forms eat and destroy wood are well accepted and include either heat-treating or fumigating (using methyl bromide) the solid wood pallet. The International Plant Protection Convention sets the standards and there is an approved international mark on the pallet itself, which certifies the treatment.

C. Problems in China – There indeed are reputable solid wood pallet suppliers in China who do properly either fumigate or heat-treat the solid wood pallets in order to eliminate this pest. However, I know from first-hand experience that there are also some solid wood pallet providers who are either incompetent, or who take short cuts, resulting in solid wood pallets that are noncompliant. So, at minimum, if you prefer solid wood pallets because of their durability, you should do your due diligence and actually audit the solid wood pallet supplier. Because regardless if your supplier procures the pallet, YOU, the U.S. importer, are actually paying for it as the costs are built in to your free on board cost and YOU are the one incurring the risk.

Alternative Pallets

There are various descriptions of Particle Boards — Press Wood, Plywood, Chip Board, Flake Board, Wafer Board, etc. The advantage of using this type of pallet is that on your Bill of Lading you can state “Shipment Contains No Solid Wood Packing Material” and thus avoid associated risks and costs of solid wood pallets.

However, these pallets may not be as durable as solid wood pallets. Typically, they’ll be fine for single use from China to your first U.S. destination, but if your customer wishes to reuse that pallet, the bottom stringers are more likely to break off or the composite wood blocks are more likely to break free than with the solid wood alternatives.

Other alternatives include Slip Sheets and even TELLAP Bag, a patented type of bulk bag with a sleeve for fork lifts built in to its bottom.

So far, our own experiments with either plastic pallets or metal pallets have not proven either cost effective or practical to use. And that brings us to…

Cost Factor

Obviously, your own sensitivity to absorbing the cost of a more expensive pallet will vary, depending on whether you are shipping higher-end electronic goods or cheaper commodities. In general, we’ve found pallet costs range from $25 (plastic), $15 (solid wood) to $10 (press wood).

In summary, your vendor in China likely does not even realize the impact of the pallets they use — they are most likely just buying the least expensive option that they can find. However, the U.S. importer has every right to dictate minimum standards and runs the risk of making a costly mistake if they do not do so.

Daniel M. Krassenstein is director of Asia operations for Procon Pacific. Contact Daniel M. Krassenstein at daniel.krassenstein@outlook.com.

This article was originally published on www.joc.com and was reprinted here with the author’s permission.

5 Reasons Packaging Integrity Matters

Packaging is considered to be both the presentation of products to consumers, as well as the configuration in which products will be expedited through various channels.

The master carton or “pack” design includes the configuration in which product will be shipped through channels for end-user consumption, making it especially important where packaging integrity is concerned.

Here’s why:

1) Carefully planned packaging includes both cost savings obtained through the minimal use of materials, weight and labor, as well as reductions in potential rework costs.

2) Packaging has a direct impact on the perception of quality by the consumer.  

3) Orientation is an important consideration because the carton itself only has stacking strength in one direction, which is why it is imperative that the pack be designed the way it will be stacked in transit.  Labeling is important in communicating packaging requirements.

4) Packaging experiences a number of potentially damaging forces, which might include shock from handling, drops, vibration from transportation or compression from stacking in warehouses and vehicles.

5) Above all else, the objective of packaging is to insure products arrive safely in the hands of consumers without sustaining damage or other potential cosmetic or aesthetic issues.

Pro QC uses the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) 1A standard for special testing during on-site inspections. This evaluation focuses on the drop-test of individual cartons at a corner, edges and sides. The ISTA Series 1 is considered non-simulation integrity performance testing and is designed to challenge the strength and robustness of the product and package combination, not to simulate environmental occurrences. Pro QC considers defects resulting from this test as critical, so any issues noted with the product result in a reject status.

Additional test procedures are available through ISTA that also incorporate vibration, compression and atmospheric conditions. “Use of ISTA test procedures reduces risks in the transport environment and increases confidence in the safe delivery of a tested packaged-product.”

There are two types of tests that ISTA offers, which includes performance tests and development tests. According to ISTA, performance tests “result in a pass/fail assessment and are used to determine the viability of a packaged product to survive normal shipment. Development tests compare relative performance to two or more designs or the same design from different suppliers.”

We posted an article related to the Importance of Packaging in our quarterly newsletter.  Contact us for additional information.

Evaluating inspection reports

Many companies anxiously await product quality inspection results and focus on the “accept” or “reject” status alone.  However, it is important to note that useful information exists within the details that are worth examining.  Here are a few things that should be considered:

Defect Trends – An accepted inspection doesn’t mean that no defects were noted.  It just means they fell within the AQL (Acceptable Quality Limit).  Maintaining a spreadsheet of defect data can help identify trends and areas of improvement.  Using the idea of 80/20 (Pareto), continuous improvement efforts can be targeted at defects contributing 20% of the total, with the expectation that an 80% overall improvement will result.

Packaging Variance – If packaging details are not provided in the product specification, the inspector will report the findings and use the package integrity testing (ISTA drop-test) to determine if there are any issues.  However, it is useful to note variations in packaging when they exist.  Digital photos and metric information is included within the reports.

Product Specification Revision – As inspection reports are issued and findings evaluated, changes to the product specification should be made as a continuous improvement effort.

For additional information regarding understanding the inspection process, click here.


Your quality questions answered

We’ve  answered many of our most commonly asked quality questions in our newsletter.  As a recap, here are the most popular:

What happens during a pre-shipment inspection?

What is a “drop test”?

How do you address the issue of a supplier that has the desired capabilities but is inconsistent in quality performance?

What is root cause analysis?

What is life cycle testing and how is it performed?

What is the difference between a continuity test and a hipot test?

Visit the Pro QC website to subscribe to the quarterly newsletter. And, let us know if there are any questions you would like to see us include!