It is Not Just a Box – Steel Containers for Material Handling
By: Jillian Burrow, Contributor
Several quote requests come in daily to a multi-product based, material handling equipment manufacturer for steel containers. “It’s not just a box” would be a great auto response to the generalized request for an assumed universal use bulk steel box.
The thing is, it is more complicated than “just a box.”
Each request needs more
This is where the Container Specialist comes in. He/she has learned over years of experience that the correct conversation will lead to a custom container solution that meets the needs of the specific customer. It also avoids the headaches that are created when any missed details occur.
Each request, whether the customer knows it or not is for a specific solution. Each one of these requests comes with a bigger plan in mind. The boxes need to be incorporated into daily material handling practices and furthermore, meet a much more detailed and defined check list of requirements then often thought when initially calling for that quote.
The “just a box” needs to serve the bigger, more specific purpose.
Custom comes with questions
This is when the important, pertinent questions must be asked. As always, a happy, well-served customer is the number one priority.
When implementing a container or multiple containers in a material flow, a standard style will often not do. A custom build is more often needed to serve the purpose of unique applications. Keep in mind that most requests are often very vague and only provide dimensions for the boxes sought after. These vague requests create a lot of design assumptions. These assumptions can result in an under or over-engineered container. No one wants that.
Getting it right the first time is essential. That is why a little extra time spent on questioning the requirements, product needs and the customer’s expectations go a long way in avoiding error or misinformation.
The container specialist initiates a conversation to gather important information and create a fully sufficient product.
Industry tells a lot about the type of container is needed
Material handling is important in all industries, but it does not serve the same purpose in all. Collectively, material handling can present itself different in the same space across the same sector.
Therefore, that “box” that is asked to be quoted might not be the box that is required.
A quick start to deciding the correct build and features to a steel container is assessing your industry sectors and industry segment. Which sector? It is manufacturing, fulfillment, warehousing or distribution? And within those sectors, which segment? Is it within the automotive, consumer goods, construction or electronics industry to name a few?
This is important in pinpointing how the container will be implemented and used more thoroughly. More importantly, it gives insight into work conditions and environment.
Type of parts and part size are a key factor
What will be put into these boxes? Bulk steel containers can hold anything from metal shavings to plastic parts and beyond. Knowing the contents is key in determining what type of box construction is needed.
The overall function of a steel box is to hold material. What is sometimes overlooked is that it is designed for it. To create a functioning box, it must know what will be held inside and why. It is also important to know the size of each part and how it will take up space. Is there a specific stacking pattern or will the handler throw components in, and they land as they will and pile up?
Additionally, will the container be solely carrying materials, be part of the assembly process, or solely storing product?
Options are important
Though a container construction is a simple base with four walls, there are several options that can be considered.
Paint or no paint.
Most facilities use the containers indoors and outdoors, so they require some protection from the elements. In this circumstance, paint is a good option.
In some facilities, customers have visual ques and color code the containers depending on their use. Sometimes the color of the box will indicate what can or cannot go in them.
Similarly, some customers use the containers only in a controlled environment and paint is not necessary because they do not mind rusting. Another instance when paint is not always warranted is when a customer worries about contamination. They will elect not to paint the box or often they will just paint the outside of the container.
Also, important to mention, if a customer is putting hot parts in the container, it will eventually bake the paint off.
Drop Gate Option.
A drop gate is a nice option to have. Consider the placement of the container and the handlers point of reach. If the container is too high, whether by design or if it is placed on a stand, then the drop gate allows you to open the gate and access the inside with a little more ease.
Fixed Hopper Front.
A fixed hopper front is a protruding nose with an opening that allows for visibility. The handler can see the contents better. It also serves for easy picking of parts when multiple containers are stacked on top of one another.
Lifting lugs are used a lot on jobsites specifically when debris, parts or supplies must be craned into the area from above or pulled out of certain areas or higher levels that a forklift or similar vehicle does not have access to.
This is also true when containers are used in shops to get parts around that have areas where forklifts do not have access to or not allowed to operate in.
Fork Tubes or Fork Stirrups.
Fork stirrups and fork tubes are similar in function but will vary in price. Either option can be added as two-way entry or four-way entry in picking up a container using the forks of a forklift. Fork stirrups only extend into the container depending on the width of the bar stock (normally 2” to 3”) and the fork tubes extend the entire length of the container.
Both fork stirrups and fork tubes are used for stabilization of the container and dumping the contents from the container.
Angle Runner as an option.
Angle runners are an option for when containers are placed in pallet racking that either has no decking or when it has wire decking. It is also useful when containers are being used on a conveyor. The angle runners are positioned at the base of the legs running front to back. WMHS
Jillian Burrow is the Marketing Manager at Topper Industrial (www.topperindustrial.com), which specializes in the design, construction and implementation of material handling carts and all line-side equipment, including steel containers (www.toppercontainers.com). Burrow has been with the company since 2006 and oversees all marketing and public relations, as well as manages the company editorial and blog site, www.forktruckfree.com.
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