Nowadays we find ourselves before a global market where borders practically do not exists and products can be shipped anywhere in the world. This has implied a challenge for companies, who face complex distribution cycles, and where packaging optimization is essential for products to arrive at their destination in perfect conditions. Fortunately, today’s advanced packaging technology helps improve the freight’s design and packaging, making the distribution cycle more efficient.
Package design therefore plays a major role in all phases of the distribution cycle. When it comes to devising the packaging of a specific product, many variables come into play (material, shape, sizes…) and all of these criteria affect not only the distribution cycle, but also the level of losses or the cost for producing and implementing that package. In this regard, packaging technology and simulation tests are great allies for companies to improve their packages as much as possible.
dvanced packaging solutions: their importance for the distribution cycle
In every distribution cycle you can find three types of packages: primary, secondary and tertiary. For all of them, there are advanced packaging solutions and tests available to certify their performance.
This is the packaging that is in contact with the product and protects it directly. A primary type of packaging would be cardboard or plastic containers, or bottles or plastic bags that contain the product.
This type of format is designed to create a cargo unit that helps warehouse and move the product. An example of this would be cargo boxes for storage or transportation. This category also includes foldable boxes, corrugated cardboard, etc. Generally, secondary packaging includes the primary packaging as a way to strengthen the protection and containment when handling the goods, but it may also be used to offer the product to the public or to customers, as is the case for supermarkets or big boxes stores.
This packaging groups and provides support to secondary packages to prevent damages from occurring during handling, storage and transport of the cargo. This type of format needs to be made out of strong materials, such as the different types of corrugated cardboards – which are available in different thicknesses – or wood containers. We can also consider as tertiary packaging some products such as the pallets themselves, edge protectors, plastic wrap and any item that allows a cohesive cargo structure to be maintained for transporting or storing products.
Tests over the container and packaging system are performed to test the primary and secondary packaging, while transport simulation tests are performed to test the tertiary packaging, which are a series of tests that replicate the events experienced by a load during shipping or handling.
“Tests over the container and packaging system are performed to test the primary and secondary packaging, while transport simulation tests are performed to test the tertiary packaging”
Improving deliveries with advanced packaging technology
Testing packages at every level (primary, secondary and tertiary) is necessary to accomplish an advanced packaging, but the transport simulation tests are of particular importance because:
- They help reduce material and distribution chain costs.
- They ensure compliance with legal aspects and applicable regulations.
- They guarantee sustainability, waste prevention, recyclability and reuse.
- They make sure that the product’s protection is not compromised.
The most common palletized product tests are:
Tests over the container and packaging system
- Compression tests: they study the behavior of materials when compressed. This test is particularly useful for product containment materials and products that can be packaged as self-supporting goods.
- Tensile test: allows you to know the materials’ mechanical resistance to tension. This test is important for slings, banding, straps and cardboard, among other materials.
- Cushioning curves: they allow you to know the characteristics of cushioning materials through the application of standardized testing methods.
- Packaging material characterization: they allow you to have an in-depth knowledge of the material used for packaging.
Tests for product-packaging systems
- Static compression: allows you to know the load level that an object can bear on it. This test is particularly important to know the amount of load that can be piled in static conditions over a product or over its protective packaging.
- Creep test: this test allows you to know how a material behaves in time when supporting a load over it in static conditions.
- Fragility test: allows you to know a product’s strength. This test is particularly important when the product to be protected is expensive or fragile, or breaks without the packaging being damaged.
- Transport simulation test: This is a series of tests that replicate events undergone by an object during transportation. For example, crash, drop, vibration, creep tests and others.
In addition, in transport simulation tests, the product-packaging system is subjected to the least favorable physical phenomena that it may suffer during the distribution chain. There are two approaches for this type of test:
- Perform it by applying the specific characteristics of the existing distribution cycles as specified in existing standards.
- Study the specific characteristics of the distribution cycle that the product-packaging pair will experience and replicate them under less favorable conditions, as specified by the standard.
The transport simulation is replicated by carrying out the following tests:
- Vibration test: in this type of test, the product-packaging pair is subjected to the typical vibrations experienced during transportation based on the demands for which it has been designed. These tests are performed on the vibration testing machine, and performing them requires that you first define the routes that the freight will follow and, based on them, establish the conditions that you want it to fulfill (those established by existing standards or the specific conditions it will undergo in the specific transportation routes).
The simulation is performed taking into account the type of vehicle, the roads it travels and the total distance traveled. In addition, the level of severity that the product-packaging system is to be subjected, and the type of vibration it will be subjected to (sinusoidal, random or pre-defined by default) has to be selected. Likewise, during this test it will be necessary to take into account whether the cargo experiences long storage periods to simulate the same stress that it has previously suffered.
- Drop impact test: it consists of testing the efficiency of the product-packaging system under the least favorable conditions. Conformity to the drop conditions depend on the characteristics of the packaging design to be tested and of the severity assigned to the package. These tests are performed in drop impact testing machines.
- Impact or shock test: it is performed by selecting the impact’s dynamic characteristics, focusing the measurement on the impulse or the acceleration that the object to be struck will suffer. The impact axis may be selected, and if you are interested in knowing these values, you can even opt to receive information about the maximum impact resistance or the resistance to repeated impacts (material stress), as well as test whether the item being studied complies with the impact resistance requirements.
“In the vibration test the product-packaging pair is subjected to the typical vibrations experienced during transportation”
- Static compression test: during this test, the compression conditions that the product-packaging system may be subjected to are replicated. If it involves an item that is stacked, it is subjected to the compression of the surface of the packages it supports or of the stacked pallet.
- Creep test: the static compression test only tells us how much load the product-packaging system being tested can bear. The problem comes when the product-packaging system needs to be stored for a somewhat long period of time. That resistance to compression during long periods of time is tested via creep tests.
- Environmental tests: the product-packaging system is also affected by the temperature and moisture conditions around it during its storage and distribution cycle. Therefore, when performing the tests mentioned above, it is important to consider whether the samples need to be previously subjected to certain environmental conditions, or even to maintain those conditions during testing.
Benefits of having an advanced testing laboratory
For companies, having an advanced testing laboratory implies a series of advantages, such as:
- Cost reductions in materials, as well as in the distribution chain.
- Comply with legal aspects and applicable regulations.
- Ensure sustainability, waste prevention, recyclability and reuse.
- Improve the product’s protection to prevent it from being compromised.
- Detect possible damages that affect the load as a result of handling and/or transportation.
Conversely, companies that do not have a laboratory at their disposal, or who do not perform these tests altogether, may be losing money due to several factors, such as shrinkage, over-packaging, or due to the time dedicated to package and transport the cargo.
This is why at Safe Load we recommend companies that export their products to create their own internal package testing laboratory, since, in the long run, it will prove to be a profitable investment that will provide it with greater flexibility and improve its services.
One such example is Duo Plast, which created its own laboratory using Safe Load machines with two purposes: on the one hand, performing its own tests (they manufacture and sell stretch film) and, on the other, offering the testing service to its clients, so that they optimize the product+packaging system.