In previous posts we have discussed reducing shipping costs and the benefits of replacing or eliminating pallets.
In this week's post let's discuss all of the ways that the cost of bulk bag packaging can be reduced.
- Reduce bulk bag size. Reducing the height of a bulk bag by 10% decreases its price by roughly 5%. Maximum densification, for example using the cone table densification system, can almost always decrease bag height by 10% - sometimes by as much as 40% or more.
- Eliminate baffles. If your bulk bags have internal baffles and they are being used to enhance stability, it is highly likely you can eliminate them by using a densification system designed for maximum results. Getting rid of baffles can save as much as $5 per bag.
- Use coated bulk bags. If you use liners in your bulk bags you may be able to eliminate them and use coated bulk bags instead. See the blog post "Bulk Bag Liners - When To Use Them... or Not!" for an excellent review on when to use liners and when not to. Switching from a liner to a coated bulk bag can save as much as $2 -$3 per bag.
- Replace wooden pallets with plastic channels. Using plastic pallet replacement channels can reduce direct packaging cost and logistics related costs too. See the blog post "Eliminate Wood Pallets - Ship Bulk Bags Without Wood Pallets" for details.
- Eliminate wooden pallets. Properly designed and filled bulk bags can be handled only by using their lifting loops thereby eliminating pallets - and their cost - completely. See the blog post "Pallet Free Bulk Bag Handling" for details.
As you can see from there are numerous ways to significantly reduce the cost of your bulk bag packaging.
How can bulk bag users reduce shipping costs?
The bulk density of your product determines the opportunity for shipping cost savings.
If your product is heavy enough to weigh-out a shipping container/trailer then, as we have seen in the last two posts, replacing wood pallets with a plastic channel replacement system or simply eliminating bottom support altogether can significantly reduce shipping costs. Reducing the weight of packaging per shipment means you can replace the weight reduction with product thereby shipping out more product per container and reducing shipping cost per pound.
However, if your product's bulk density is such that you can't weigh-out a container/trailer there is an additional step you can take to minimize shipping cost.
Bulk Bag Densification Increases Payload
Light products such as wood flour, fluff carbon black, fumed silica and the like react favorably to certain types of densification. This means that the payload of a given size bulk bag can be increased. Increasing the bulk bag payload increases the amount of product that be shipped per container thereby reducing shipping cost per pound.
Low bulk density bulk solids tend to trap air between their particles. Depending on the particle shape it can be very difficult to remove the air while the bulk bag is being filled. Bulk bag filler densification systems are designed to remove the trapped air thereby densifying the product.
Some densification systems are more effective than others. Carefully matching the method of densification with the product characteristics can result in a significant improvement in packed bulk density thereby increasing payload.
Bulk Bag Densification Reduces Shipping Cost
As a starting point it is reasonable to assume that a densification system capable of maximum compaction should be able to increase payload weight by a minimum of 10%.
Control and Metering's experience is that payload increases of 20-30% are often achievable and in some cases as much as 40%+ more weight can put in a bulk bag that has been previously filled without densification or with ineffective densification systems.
Are Pallets Necessary?
Pallets are used to move heavy objects. Forklifts or pallet trucks are used to move them. In the case of bulk bags however, there is a built-in alternative to using a pallet or bottom located lifting device to move them: bulk bag lifting loops.
Every bulk bag has lifting loops that are designed to safely lift the bag and its contents. They can be used to move the bag from the filling station to storage into and out of a shipping container and everywhere in between.
So, technically, a bulk bag does not require a pallet or equivalent.
Checklist for Handling Bulk Bags Without Pallets
Bulk bag filling equipment. Before you can safely handle bulk bags without pallets you must ensure that your equipment is designed to allow the bag to be removed from it without a pallet. Bulk bag fillers can be designed to release the lifting loops while still supporting the bulk bag thereby allowing the bag to be removed by threading the fork tines through the loops. Note that you must have a forklift to remove the bulk bag from the filler - a pallet truck won't work.
Bulk bag design. The bulk bag loops must be 'cross corner' design and the must be designed to stand up right on their own. Both of these features make it easy to thread the fork lift tines through the loops without assistance. Cross corner refers to loops that are sewn on side of the bag and looped over the corner and sewn on the adjacent side. This provides a 'tunnel' for the forklift driver to aim for. Of course, the loops must stand up on their own to make the tunnel. This is done by sewing a strip of plastic within the loop to give it rigidity.
Sanitary considerations. Since the bottom of the bulk bag comes in direct contact with the floor - of your plant or warehouse and the shipping trailer/container - it is often advisable to add a protective flap across the entire bottom of the bag to minimize contamination and provide an extra layer of fabric for added robustness. The flap is sewn along one edge, drawn across the bottom of the bag and attached to the opposite side using Velcro or loops and ties.
End user capabilities. While shipping bulk bags without bottom support has many benefits for the producer, it is a catastrophe for an end user without a forklift. Your customers have to be prepared, willing and able to work with your product in bulk bags without pallets.
Shipping Bulk Bags without Pallets - Is It Really Feasible?
Short answer: yes. Although a small percentage overall, there are many bulk bags being shipped without pallets. For example, export shipments of various products that travel via shipping containers are often shipped without any kind of bottom support. In North America, one of the resin industries converted from boxes to bulk bags now all domestic production of this type of resin is shipped in bulk bags without bottom support.
Palletless Bulk Bags - Benefits
Shipping without a pallet or any bottom support is a lucrative proposition. A number of operatic cost saving opportunities immediately occur:
- Eliminate pallet cost.
- Reduce shipping cost. Removing the weight of the pallet from each shipped package means you can increase the payload weight of each bulk bag. This can significantly reduce the shipping cost per pound of product.
- Reduce handling labor. Not having to manage the handling of heavy pallets increase productivity and reduces packaging labor cost per pound.
- Increase warehouse efficiency. Not having to store pallets can significantly increase available warehouse space.
- Eliminate border crossing delays. Borders crossing delays often occur because palleted shipments may be inspected. Additional time (money) can be lost if documentation has to be resubmitted or modified.
- Improve sustainability. Eliminating pallets and any kind of bottom support clearly improves sustainability by reducing the use of material and waste.
Shipping bulk bags without bottom support is feasible, is already being done and can dramatically reduce operating costs.