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‘Filling the Void’ saves time, costs and damage: case study

NEW CONCORD, Ohio--Shipment damage and other losses are being resolved by manufacturers and freight transporters worldwide with reusable cargo protection.



NEW CONCORD, Ohio–Shipment damage and other losses are being resolved by manufacturers and freight transporters worldwide with reusable cargo protection.

Each year, many tons of money and merchandise are lost to due to conventional dunnage failing to prevent cargo from shifting, colliding and breaking up during shipments on trucks, rail cars or containers. The result is not only damaged goods, but also environmental waste, loss of time and unnecessary worker injuries, suggests a case study report from Paylode, which offers 100 percent recycled dunnage.

The use of common dunnage materials, such as plywood, matting and cardboard is highly problematic to many shippers, and billions of dollars are lost annually due to products damaged as a result of inadequate dunnage.

Rather than accept those situations as inevitable operating costs, manufacturers and freight companies are now looking at new dunnage technologies that prevent unnecessary product damage and other losses.

A new protection perspective

MillerCoors decided to test a line of reusable plastic cargo protection products with hopes of curbing environmental waste and reducing operating expenses. Through a partnership with Paylode, a company offering 100-percent recycled dunnage that can last hundreds of trips, MillerCoors saw savings of more than $8 million annually, met corporate waste-reduction goals five years early and eliminated the source of 25 percent of the company’s recordable injuries, among many other benefits.

“In addition to the mere waste, disposable dunnage also was problematic because the wooden products are heavy, weighing as much as 55 pounds,” says Ray Reehm, a member of the MillerCoors Supply Chain. “This caused workers strain and injury, not to mention leaving behind splinters.”

Paylode separator pads replaced sheets of plywood and cardboard dividers as buffers between pallets. In addition to the benefit of no splinters, the separators feature an ergonomic hand hole for easy loading and unloading and a cushioning hollow cavity to protect loads. 

MillerCoors simply takes back the bulkhead spacers and pads to their warehouses after each trip or picks them up the next time they visit their customers. The company reduced damaged loads by more than half.

Victory over gravity

In addition to bulkhead spacers and separator pads, Paylode Cargo Protection Systems (New Concord, OH) also manufactures a variety of AAR-approved and CFR-compliant reusable dunnage equipment that protect cargo from damage and often enables the shipper to increase how much of their product can be loaded into each shipment. These products include 100 percent recycled plastic void panels, spacers and fillers that are applicable to trucking, rail and container shipping situations. 

One user who is finding multiple benefits from working with Paylode is Shaw Industries Group, Inc. (Dalton, GA), the largest U.S. carpet producer and a leading supplier of various types of flooring products.

Until recently, Shaw shipped its carpet tile products via rail, truck and containers packed four to five feet high on 53×26-inch pallets, which are relatively long and narrow compared to the more standard 40×48-inch pallets. The reason for the narrower dimension was to make it more convenient for customers to transport the pallets through their retail facilities.

When double-stacked in truck trailers, however, the carpet tile pallets had a relatively high center of gravity. In most cases the pallets of tiles would not fit snug into a trailer or other container, leaving plenty of space for the pallets to shift in transit – unless the dunnage functioned exceptionally well.

“In a rail car, just the start and stop of the train could cause a substantial shift of our products, often making them fall off the pallets,” explains Chris Shannon, a superintendent at Shaw Industries Group. “These products are not usually damaged when they tip over, but that problem does require our warehouse employees or customers to spend time re-stacking them in order to unload. That work is not only inconvenient, but also time consuming.”

Shannon adds that it could take up to an hour to re-stack one pallet. To re-stack a complete load could take as much as an entire day – a very significant expense.

To overcome the dunnage protection problem, Shannon’s group tried using air bags that would inflate up to 4ft. by 4 ft.

“We liked that system because it was relatively inexpensive,” he explains. “But, unfortunately, the bags sometimes lost air or deflated during shipment or unloading, possibly due to handling. Also, the bags were often returned in a damaged condition, so we could get only one or two turns out of each.”

To solve the dunnage reliability and life cycle problems, Shannon turned to Paylode Cargo Protection Systems. Paylode’s objective is to eliminate the continuous cost of purchasing cardboard and wood dunnage for every load – while reducing labor and freight damage at the same time.

After making a study of the Shaw situation, Paylode engineers recommended the use of Lateral Void Filler separators. These devices are designed to fill the spaces between palletized goods so that they will not lean and fall into the empty spaces of a load.

“We call them wedges,” Shannon says. “These are wedge-shaped plastic fillers that really do the job. They are more expensive than the air bags. But, from my experience, the Lateral Void Fillers are almost 100% reusable. And, in the eight months we have been using them, we have not yet seen any damage or shifting of our carpet tiles. So, with an airbag, I get limited utilization; in some cases we’re lucky if it makes one trip. With the Lateral Void Fillers they always make the trip, and they last a long time.”

Fortifying the flour

Lentz Milling Co. (Reading, PA) has been serving the bakery industry for over sixty years with a wide selection of fine quality, brand name bakery ingredients, frozen baked goods, ready-to-bake pastries and other products.

According to senior purchasing agent Bill Moyer, it is the shipping of flour ingredients from various points to its Reading plant that causes Lentz some dunnage problems.

“Most of our flour is shipped to us by rail,” Moyer explains. “One of our largest shippers has had an issue with using air bags for dunnage, in order to keep the load straight. Even the ‘humping’ from the rail cars as they are hooked up can unsettle a load.”

“Every time a bag gets damaged we have to turn the pallet around to
dig out the damage, because we don’t want to put any contaminated flour in our warehouse,” says Moyer. “That means a considerable waste of time and labor requiring two men at a rate of $16-$18 per hour – more if overtime is involved.”

To overcome the problem Lentz began using Paylode in early 2013. As with other customers, the dunnage innovator sent engineers to review the record videos of problematic situations so that they could propose the most beneficial solutions. The result was a dramatic reduction in product damage and cost.

“Using these reusable dunnage devices has resulted in a two-thirds reduction in costs due to damage and labor savings,” Moyer reports. “We practically don’t have a damage issue anymore, only about 10 bags per car.”

Moyer says his group worked directly with Paylode to estimate and evaluate the best protection solutions.

In the end, Moyer says, the new approach has been a plus for everyone. “It has saved considerable loss in damaged products and saves us time and difficulties in the unloading process. So, that’s actually two ‘plusses,’ and two happy customers.”


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