By Dean Cohen, Contributor
Plastic bins and totes have revolutionized the way businesses store, move and organize. Businesses in many different industries are taking advantage of new molding technologies that have afforded flexibility and durability while making workspaces more efficient and more user friendly.
This year has pushed healthcare facilities to the max. The need to maximize available storage space has been paramount. Injection molded bins now are available in more than 10 colors perfect for color coding and inventory identification. These same bins are now also available in tri-clear polypropylene, allowing see-through storage and immediate visibility to stored contents. In years past, clear bins were only available in consumer, light-duty applications, but new innovations in molding have allowed clear bins to be every bit as strong and long lasting as their heavy-duty colored bin counter parts. The bins are found at nurse’s stations, hanging on louvered panels attached to any wall surface (thus creating wall storage solutions) and can also be found on wire shelving systems throughout the hospital. This enables materials managers to efficiently store their medical supplies and securely transport them to the most at-need locations.
Medical environments that have any concerns with plastic bin storage have the option of wire mesh bin storage. Mesh bins, as their name implies, allow for dust and dirt-free storage while also allowing for instant visibility of contents inside. The metal nature of the wire bins also allows for a much heavier storage capacity that was previously a limiting factor with plastic storage. Like their plastic counterparts, these mesh bins also stack or hang, offering dual solutions to optimize any working space.
Manufacturing, warehouse and office environments illustrate the great diversity of plastic bin storage. Large, heavy-duty stacking bins have allowed for bulk and large part storage. So much so that many companies have started taking advantage of the overall low cost of plastic storage versus a more costly version using pallet rack. Those that have existing pallet racks have found solutions in using larger rack bins to create pick locations within their existing pallet rack set up. The generous space and stability of these large stacking bins have allowed both offices and manufacturing spaces to inexpensively solve their storage space dilemmas.
Throughout supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores, attached top containers (four-sided totes that have lids pre-attached so they can open and close with ease) are now the standard method by which distribution centers transport and control inventories from national hubs to point-of-sale outlets. Their space-saving nesting capability, coupled with safe and secure lid closure, ensures product inside is protected and transported safely. In line with these attached top containers come the standard nest and stack conveyor friendly totes seen inside the largest e-commerce fulfillment centers. These “e-commerce all-stars” have become the backbone of the picking process and the most optimal method by which millions of all our orders are picked, sorted and then packed and shipped.
THE POPULARITY OF PLASTIC STORAGE
Plastic storage has always had a place inside a person’s home, garage or workspace where a clean and organized location leads to greater productivity. Molded small part storage, Tip Out bins and modular small plastic drawer cabinets have allowed for high-density storage in a minimal amount of space. These smaller part storage solutions offer clear transparent bins allowing clear visibility of inventory and the ability to easily identify where parts, tools or personal effects are being stored.
Above and beyond all the differing types of bins and totes has been the huge expansion of available materials that these products can be molded in. Popular resins include polypropylene, polyethylene, polycarbonate and polystyrene, each one offering varying standards involving temperature needs along with durability based on what type of item or product is being stored. Plastic bins and totes today can withstand a wide band of temperature environments ranging from -60°F to 250°F. In addition to material types, varying additives can be blended in the manufacturing process. Examples include conductive or anti-static additives allowing a finished bin product to safely store electronic components and parts, which are sensitive to the potential buildup of an electrostatic charge. Another is the blending on impact modifiers or UV stabilizers allowing for totes to be able to withstand strong impacts in conveyor or heavy-duty environments. These UV additives also prevent these totes from being degraded by potentially harmful UV light when left outside.
Plastic bins and totes are indeed everywhere. While probably not noticed on an everyday basis, they truly are serving a greater and greater role in the process of helping companies pick, store, transport and organize. If your company seeks a path to greater productivity involving storage, don’t look past the numerous storage options and solutions all of today’s bins, totes and containers can offer. WMHS
Dean Cohen is Vice President of Quantum Storage Systems, a distributor of rugged industrial plastic bins and warehouse bin storage systems, including stackable storage bins and tough durable parts bins for the industrial, material handling and consumer markets (www.quantumstorage.com).