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Material Handling
Wednesday | 30 June, 2021 | 12:20 pm

Protect & ship

Written by By Lauren Duensing

Above: UFP Industrial skids are safe and effective loading and storage platforms in the multi-step, unit-load shipping process.

Re-evaluating packaging can provide a huge payoff

July 2021 - At first glance, packaging for metal products seems uncomplicated—wood skids and pallets, dunnage, shrink wrap—mainstays at the ready to receive loads of steel, copper, etc., and carry them to their destinations. But packaging is a process where companies can shrink costs if they switch to materials that better protect products and contribute to a more efficiently loaded truck.

“Our customers’ products are valuable, so it makes sense that the packaging used works without fail to ensure satisfaction and an uninterrupted supply chain,” says Dave Watson, director of national sales for UFP Industrial, Grand Rapids, Michigan. UFP Industrial is part of UFP Industries, which manufactures, distributes and sells a wide variety of value-added products used in residential and commercial construction, packaging and other industrial applications worldwide.

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Eliminate extras

UFP Industrial works with customers to design load-reliable, cost-efficient pallets and skids using the Pallet Design System (PDS) and other software systems. The company can propose packaging options that meet exact load requirements, eliminating excess materials that add to costs.

“We have design specialists that can help configure a solution that meets protection and weight requirements,” says Watson. “Our designers can also help customers lay out a truck” to maximize the weight requirements and efficiency.

UFP Industrial can also offer metals companies innovative solutions, like BarrierWood Corrosion Resistant Lumber (CRL), which was created to replace hardwood lumber that often is wrapped in VCI film and plastic sleeves to prevent corrosion on steel. BarrierWood CRL is machined to a V-groove that increases air flow at the point of contact with the steel. Additionally, the lumber is treated with a colored topical solution that contains a chemical compound, which helps to prevent corrosion in transit.

The moisture in traditional, untreated lumber can cause rust on steel products—even if dried, and “if you’re using plastic bags to encapsulate your dunnage four-by-fours between the steel sheets [to help prevent corrosion], the bags can blow off partially or completely, causing rust damage,” Watson says. Switching to BarrierWood CRL can eliminate some of these headaches.

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Reject rust

“Steel Warehouse has primarily used BarrierWood Corrosion Resistant Lumber for its lumber packaging needs since 2013,” comments Brian Dentino, purchasing manager for Steel Warehouse’s Chicago branch, in a testimonial. “During that time, we reduced our rust re-work, while lowering our labor and supplies expenses created in our old packaging with VCI film. BarrierWood CRL has helped us meet our growing market demands without increasing headcount or cost.”

Although BarrierWood is more expensive than traditional lumber, the metals companies that have switched “end up saving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” says Robert Bilbrough, account manager at UFP Industrial. “BarrierWood saves them money on additional materials, such a corrosive barrier or VCI film—they don’t need to use those anymore. And then it also saves on production efficiency as well as rework and quality issues A quality control issue can cost tens of thousands of dollars in product re-work, shipping, labor and materials. BarrierWood removes the financial threat of corrosion.”

In addition to the money saved on quality complaints and excess material, BarrierWood can contribute to a safer warehouse environment because it’s 38 percent lighter than commonly used hardwood lumber components. “Ergonomically, you’re using a substantially lighter product that doesn’t sacrifice the safety of your product,” Bilbrough says, which reduces strain on employees.

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From metal parts and assemblies to coils and sheets of prime steel, UFP Industrial strives to discover efficiencies, develop and test innovations in containment—all with the intent of cutting costs and increasing the consistency and reliability of product delivery.

Collaboration solves problems

UFP Industrial has two certified testing labs to ensure the packaging systems developed will stand up to harsh shipping conditions. And, with more than 180 facilities around the world, the company has the reach and ability to source materials and to serve regional, national and global companies.

“UFP sales teams, which include people from engineering, design and purchasing, can travel to your facility to sit down and hear your pain points,” Watson says. “They can then come up with a solution that meets those needs.” UFP Industrial makes it a point to deliver nuanced strategies that are not over-designed and expensive or under-designed and unreliable.

“We also strive to use species indigenous to the customer’s area of the country,” Watson comments. “If they’re in the South, we often choose Southern yellow pine. In the Northeast, it might be spruce. The steel industry tends to deal with hardwood. We have hardwood capabilities, but hardwood is very heavy. Shipping it to customers is costly. And, many times, hardwood is not dried at the mill, which adds a process. When you use Southern yellow pine, it’s being dried at the mill, saving a step.”

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UFP Industrial designs its products to meet exact loading requirements.

“We also have a division, UFP Packaging, that runs parallel to our core plants,” Watson adds, “and they offer stretch film, strapping, labels, corner protectors, RFID tags, which are all items that are used in just about every metal facility. We use these internally in our facilities, as well.” He says some of these products also can be personalized with logos, if the customer desires.

With current lumber prices spiking at levels 374 percent higher than last year, according to Wells Fargo, now is a good time to re-evaluate packaging options. Watson and Bilbrough say that companies often are reluctant to switch materials, believing for instance that hardwood is stronger than softwood—even though some mixed hardwoods are not as strong as softwood, despite their greater weight.

“Right now, because of the constrained availability of lumber, some companies are having to make changes to the wood species they are using,” Watson says. “And I think we’ll see more companies trying out different solutions to ensure that there are no shipping disruptions.” MM

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