Continuing on the line of a past aricle (April 1999, Re: Tubs), I have received several comments about containers and containerization that are worth passing along. Most plating shops assume that the incoming work will be in a container that they are expected to repack when the coating operation is complete. Several coaters have contacted me about a myriad of woes related to the packaging/repackaging process when dealing with fasteners. Some of the problems with cleanliness have been discussed, but a major cost factor is the containers themselves.
Bulk shipments are received and sent out as bulk, with it understood that the parts go out in what they came in, problems not withstanding. Major cost increases are seen when parts come in cardboard boxes. While a coater probably has factored in the cost to open, empty and handle, move and repackage the parts, chances are that he may not have thought of what changes in carton sizes could do to him.
The OEMs are in a state of flux over what containers to use on the assembly lines. One well-known OEM has gone from 14×14×10 to tear-off tops to 1/4-keg standards to 1/2-keg standards to special dimensions boxes and back several times. This did not include the reusable containers that come in and out of fashion every so often.
What causes this flux is that the assembly plants and the material handling engineers are constantly looking at ways to modify the part-feed systems for the lines. Tracks and various methods by which parts are placed in conjunction to the line operators are changed routinely. It appears that each new material handling engineer hired starts with a container change (just an impression, I'm sure). While this drives the fastener manufacturers frantic, the repercussions to the price of the coating are not considered.
As is well known, the policy of all OEMs today is that there will be no increase in prices due to labor, materials or operations. This forces the manufacturers to "eat" the increases of the latest container scheme. They, of course, do this in a large part by telling the coater that he will not be allowed any significant cost increase for handling. Since the market is tight, most coaters have the choice of refusing the job or accepting a reduction in the bottom line.
Just-in-Time demands on the fastener manufacturers have also lead to another handling cost increase. The need to have odd count and split boxes and pallets available for shipment to the assembly plants has placed the onus of repackaging and correct counting on the coater today.
For example, manufacturers have been known to have shipments rejected if the box contained 537 pieces instead of the JIT requirement of 489. Since the coater is the last person to touch the parts in many cases, the manufacturers require him to do the repackaging. Generally, there is some compensation for this service, but it is set when the contract is written. Changes in amounts, number of boxes per pallet, content per pallet, and even when and how they are shipped may fluctuate, while the agreed upon amount will not.
Container type adds to the bottom line when parts are received in boxes. There is a certain amount of carton handling destruction, regardless of how careful the coater is in opening them. Obviously, the more cartons that come in, the more cartons that may be split, torn, etc. Almost no customer considers the cost to replace cartons when quoting a finishing job (and few coaters do either). As one respondent told me, some customers send in tear-off tops that are already sealed and expected the finisher to repackage them in the same box without duct tape!
Finally, another finisher pointed out that the increased use of reusable containers is subject to the same problems as the tubs. Oil, chips and dross are only a few concerns. Generally, the finishing price does not include washing them, and the amount of extraneous material that a container picks up can be a challenge to the coater who has to empty it onto the line.
One related story was of a container that had so much waste in it that a loader, who must have flipped his cigarette into it when loading the truck, ignited the container waste. The driver was made aware of a smoke condition coming from his truck by a passing motorist. When he opened the doors, the smoke billowed out, and the tub was on fire. The tub was a loss, and there was damage to the interior of the trailer. There was also the additional cost to clean the finished parts.
Containerization should be considered when pricing coatings. Type of container, number of parts per container, boxes per pallet (if you are the final parts handler), who is responsible for cleanliness of containers, who pays for replacements to damaged ones, what adjustments will be made if containerization changes during the job run are a few of the thoughts to keep in mind when pricing a coating job. A lack of forethought in what changes and container types may do to your operation can seriously affect your bottom line.