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Save Big Dollars on Freight Through Bulk Bag Improvements (Technology)

as published on myplasticsindustry.com

Dan Schnaars
President
AmeriGlobe LLC

While the price of a bulk bag today is often less than the cost of the wood pallet it sits on, the cost of getting a ton of product to an export customer often runs up to $120 - $130 per ton. Companies can spend a great deal of effort trying to reduce the price of an antiquated bulk bag design by 10% to save $1.00 or they can redesign the bulk bag in a manner that reduces the ‘system’ cost by 10% and save $10-$13 per ton!

Your company may be able to reduce costs notably through better bulk bag utilization. If you are getting less than the maximum weight allowed in your 20 ft export containers and/or you are using 40 ft containers, and/or you are not maximizing your domestic trucks, then you are a good candidate to improve costs dramatically with newer bulk bag technology.

There are several simple things to look for to determine if you are a cost reduction candidate.

1. Are you maximizing your Export container? Goal - 44,000 to 45,000 product pounds
2. Are you using 40 ft containers? Goal – 20 ft containers
3. Are you spending any money bracing your products inside the container? Goal - $0.00
4. Are you using wood pallets? Goal – Minimize their cost

If you are not reaching the goals listed above, there are dollars to be saved through better bulk bag designs!

Export containers are charged the same price for shipping whether they are 45,000 pounds or 1 pound. Therefore, every single extra pound of product you can squeeze into a container lowers the cost of every pound you ship. These savings can often be realized with little change to your system.

In selecting the right bag to maximize your container, you will have two goals;
1. Put 4400 pounds in each available footprint.
2. Fill the entire container with complete layers to lower bracing costs.
3. If using a pallet, be sure it does not interfere with inter-bag support.

Back in the early 1980’s, the standard bulk bag design was 35 x 35 x desired height. Filling equipment was not very sophisticated then and many bulk bags leaned notably on their oversized wood pallets. These leaning bulk bags often reached from sidewall to side wall in export containers and appeared to be the best bulk bag at that time.

Thankfully, the bulk bag technology has advanced significantly since then. Today’s filling equipment and bulk bag designs indicate that the best size to use is now a 37 x 37 x desired height. This new size bulk bag will have three major benefits;

1. It will lower the height requirement by roughly 10% for the same amount of product.
2. It will completely fill your export container from left to right and eliminate any movement in those directions.
3. Your product will arrive in very vertical condition, improving your customer’s opinion of your product.

Naturally, if you had been height restricted with your present design and not getting your full weight in the export container, then the extra 10% of volume you gain by expanding the base will add up to 10% more product into every container and lower your shipping costs by 10%! This larger base will allow each bulk bag to be supported on all four sides, giving them improved stability. This will enhance the bulk bag's arrival condition and appearance.

If you are using Export Containers, check your bulk bag specifications now. If your specification reads less than 37 inches square, you may be spending more money for your product delivery than necessary!

Once you have the right bulk bag selected, you must also consider if you have the best pallet for the job. The wrong size pallet can spoil your goals. Please look at Figure 1. Many companies use 40 x 48 or 42 x 48 wood pallets under their bulk bags. This is often done because this pallet is already ‘available’ in the plant. For some reason, many people understand the need to properly size a wood pallet for paper bags but think it is unimportant for bulk bags. They take the attitude that ‘any pallet’ will do.

 

 

 

 

Fig. 1 - 48” x 42” with 35” x 35” bags The 48” long pallet wastes space on the floor and none of the bags are supported.
Drawing of bags on pallet with space between bags

For best arrival conditions and lowest bracing costs, the wood pallet must be properly sized to work with the bulk bag. As you can see in Figure 1, the pallet is longer than the bulk bag. Therefore, every bulk bag rides as an independent column, unsupported by any bag around it. These bags will move with the natural inertia created in every transportation mode. They will move until they reach a support such as a wall, another bag or the floor. In order to prevent this, many companies put air dunnage bags down the entire center of the container. This is a very expensive way to ‘brace’ your bulk bags.

Now let’s look at Figure 2. Here the bags have been sized upward to the recommended 37 square. The bags now fill the container left to right. The wood pallet has been downsized to no larger than 42 x 42. A 40 by 40 pallet is even better! Now the wood pallet is shorter than the bags so the bags can now touch each other front and back. Your bulk bags will be supported on all four sides with no bracing at all! Because your pallets are smaller and use less wood, you will pay less for your wood pallets as well.

By following these two simple suggestions, you will eliminate almost all container bracing AND lower your wood pallet costs!

 

 

 

Fig. 2 - 42” x 42” with 37” x 37” bag

No floor space is wasted by the pallets. All the bags are supported by either another bag or a wall on all four sides.

 

Drawing of bags on pallets with no space between bags

 

Dan Schnaars is the founder of AmeriGlobe LLC, a 24 year old company with a history of reducing its customer’s costs by taking the entire system into account. Over his 30+ years of packaging experience he has received numerous patents that are aimed at improving the performance and overall costs. In 1988 he was the Small Businessman of the Year for the state of Louisiana. He won the Lantern Award for excellence in manufacturing in Louisiana in 1997.

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