Distribution
Blog Post

Secondary packaging containers (like crates, totes, bins, trays, baskets, etc.) are commonplace in Europe but are just taking hold in North America. While cardboard (corrugate casing) has always been the popular choice in North American warehouses, they can be easily damaged during the order picking and shipping process. 

Plastic crates are a great alternative. They’re easy to store. And, they can prevent handling issues and ensure customers receive undamaged, quality goods.

Here’s five reasons to switch to plastic crates:

1. Crates can handle more weighty products

While cardboard can manage the lighter end of the spectrum, plastic is stronger for handling heavier loads. Plastic containers are also more durable, meaning they’ll hold up against impacts, vibrations and pressure as they are transported in and out of storage, picked, packed and shipped.

2. Easier storage and retrieval

In an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), containers areoften densely stacked for storage on the warehouse floor. Since cardboard boxes can vary in size and shape, it’s easy to wind up with an unbalanced loads or unexpected spills. Plastic crates, on the other hand, are available in standardized sizes that allow for safe, secure stacking.       

3. Health and safety

It’s easy to clean dust, dirt and spills from plastic containers. They can also be sanitized, which is especially beneficial when following strict standards for health and safety.    

4. Environmental factors

Is your warehouse hot and humid? Or is it a cold storage facility? Whereas cardboard containers can easily warp or degrade, plastic better withstands moisture and extreme conditions without losing structural integrity.    

5. Sustainability goals

While cardboard boxesare relatively cheap to purchase up front, they don’t last long. Plastic crates are reusable—sometimes hundreds or thousands of times—which significantly minimizes waste. That can save you big in the long run, and ties in perfectly with your facility’s green initiatives.          

Choosing an option that best suits your picking system

The best storage packaging option will ultimately depend on the type of order picking system you implement. In a case picking system for example, plastic crates are your best choice due to their uniform size, strength and stability. And in a goods-to-man setup, plastic totes are most compatible with the AS/RS and high-speed conveyor system.

With an automated layer pick system, however, you will find that cardboard cartons provide the most manageable way to create full layers and rainbow pallets.

An automation systems provider can help you with your decision and guide you through solutions that best suit your business. And if you already utilize a specific container, an experienced provider can design your system with customized tools to accommodate your existing packaging.

Author Derek Rickard

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