Gourmet meals, wine, blankets, slippers, and lots of leg room. These are some of the little luxuries you may receive traveling first class. But most of us rarely or never travel first class.
And when pallet loads of product travel domestically or to locales around the world, they get anything but “first-class” treatment. And you have to wonder, “What kind of condition they’ll be in when they arrive to the destination?”
When loads are placed in the back of a shipping container or truck, they’re exposed to extreme temperatures, moisture and lots of vibration.
We thought it would be fun to think about shipping from the perspective of a load, from the time it’s stacked to the time a customer receives it.
Here’s what might be going on in a load’s mind:
My journey begins with how people stack me up. It’s the foundation to a successful trip. People should make sure I’m stacked vertically. If I’m any more than 2 inches off plumb, I feel insecure. And since I travel by plane, ship, truck and rail, I always have to be prepared for the unexpected.
I’m usually stacked on top my friend the pallet. He’s a great traveling companion and I feel much safer when I’m inside his perimeter. If I extend too far out I would probably hit other loads and I really don’t like it when they do that to me.
After I’m stacked, it’s time to unitize my pieces with stretch wrapping. Talk about a safety blanket! Stretch wrap machines wrap layers of plastic around me, giving me a nice big hug, and if done right it keeps me together during the journey to my new home. I believe some people call that hug containment force. All I know is that I have to have enough to hold me together. Especially with everything I go through while on the road.
I mean, can you believe some of these truck drivers? They are always taking sharp turns, running over curbs or making sudden stops. Ugh, and the vibrations...it’s not like a pleasant massage, they’re my worst enemy. Constant vibrations can cause my layers to shift, messing up my alignment that I worked so hard on. This is when that big plastic hug really helps.
But, the worst is when I get separated from my travel mate the pallet. And just wrapping me tight won’t keep this from happening. I need to feel bonded to the pallet, if not I may slid right off like an egg slides off a well-greased pan. Yikes!
After I’ve been contained and feel bonded to my pallet, people need to make sure I don’t have a film tail. Anything more than 3 inches of film blowing in the wind I just can’t handle. Let’s be honest, long tails are only cute on cats.
If my tail is too long, it may get tangled in downstream equipment, including conveyors, forklifts and other machinery found in distribution centers and large warehouses - all the places I pass though. Plus, it may could cause my stretch wrapping to unravel during my journey.
Stacking me correctly, giving me enough containment force, securing me to my pallet and making sure I don’t have any long film tails are the things that give me the greatest chance of making it to my destination successfully. Customers will be happy to see me and won’t send me back to where I came from, or worse, throw me into a landfill.
Some of my friends have told me that global shipping damage caused by bad stretch wrapping costs $60 billion every year. Whoa! That’s a lot of money. I hate seeing it go to waste.
This post was published on February 24, 2016 and updated on September 13, 2017.