Deciding Which Transport Case or Packaging
Selecting the most suitable option for protecting your tools and equipment
Transit cases play a surprisingly significant role in your business success.
Well, there is nothing worse than feeling let down (or having let someone else down).
And whilst there are occasions this may have more serious implications than others, one of the foundations of any successful business is minimising or completely eliminating this feeling amongst your customers.
So why transport cases?
Firstly, it may be the case that your customer is purchasing (or even hiring) a very expensive, very important, very rare or very specialist product, tool or equipment from you.
If this arrives damaged (which can happen in a number of ways), it will have implications for their business. They may let their customers down. At best, they are likely to feel let down by you.
Secondly, you may have engineers or service technicians attending customers on site to fix problems or issues they have reported. Your customer may have had to wait patiently for this. Changed their plans etc.
So what happens if your support staff turn up and either don’t have the tools to do the job or the tools they have are broken or faulty? That feeling of being let down again.
However, both of these scenarios can be so easily prevented by using the correct packaging or transit cases.
Quick Reference / Contents
Why choosing the right transit case is so important
Choosing the right transit case for your business can be a tough – but crucial – decision. This is particularly true if you are handling or shipping high-value equipment, tools or parts.
But as well as customer satisfaction as detailed above (and the knock-on effects of increased repeat business, improved customer lifetime value, word of mouth recommendations and so on), there are a number of direct financial implications too.
For example, if high-value items become damaged beyond repair, the cost of having to write them off will be instantly noticeable on your bottom line.
This is in addition to the increased cost of shipping (i.e. to cover returns), the admin of organising replacements and the actual cost of the replacement product or equipment itself.
There is also the issue of productivity alluded to above too.
Staff turning up on site and not being able to their job because of damaged, faulty or missing tools still need to be paid (including potential overtime if the job is urgent and they go over their allotted hours).
This also has an impact on the other jobs they were scheduled to complete, causing delays and (again) customer dissatisfaction.
01: Protective Case Types
The main types of protective equipment case
All of this may be preaching to the converted (and apologies if it is!).
It is highly likely you know and understand this, but still, need to source the suitable protective cases for your product or application.
But where do you start?
There is a huge array of stock and bespoke case options. All of which seemingly have differing benefits, options, advantages, limitations and so on. And that is before even mentioning budgets!
However, in the simplest terms, the main types of protective case, and indeed exterior packaging available, are as follows:
- Moulded plastic (waterproof)
- Custom / Flight Cases
- Rack Mount Units
- Lightweight plastic
- Correx® (corrugated plastic)
- Corrugated cardboard
Does knowing this actually help with selecting an exterior case though?
02: Protection Required
The main considerations when protecting equipment
The answer to the above is probably not.
A more sensible approach is to first ascertain the main type(s) of damage that your equipment or products are suffering – or any other major considerations you have for your cases – and then use this to choose an appropriate case.
As such, a common list of requirements when sourcing exterior cases or packaging is as follows:
- Protection from water / dust ingress
- Protection from shock / impact / poor handling
- Weight limitations (e.g. international freight)
- Size of items being shipped (volumetric shipping charges)
- Portability by hand
- Security considerations
- Specific considerations for electronics
- High quality presentation and aesthetics
- Suitability for line-side / in plant handling
- You require a very high volume
The remainder of this article aims to align the above considerations with the most suitable equipment case or packaging for that particular need.
03: Waterproof Equipment Cases
Protection from water / dust ingress
Water and dust can not only damage electronic and specialist equipment, but can also damage specialist surfaces too.
However, this is a consideration that is mostly raised when specialist equipment is being taken out on site. This could be anything from measurement equipment in a nature reserve, tools to fix an air conditioning unit on the outside of a building, or even communication gear in a war zone – and everything in between.
The choice of equipment case for this requirement, however, is actually relatively simple – heavy duty moulded plastic cases.
Using any of these ensures your equipment stays safe, protected and – crucially – dry.
04: Tough Cases
Protection from shock / impact / poor handling
Waterproof or heavy-duty moulded cases are also the best selection of your high value or fragile items are suffering from damage caused by shock, impact or general mishandling.
Being very tough, the cases absorb a huge amount of the forces they can be subjected to, offering protection for the items inside.
They also offer exceptional resistance to crushing too – in fact, it is possible to drive over many of the cases with a car / van and for them not break.
Most have usually been subjected to large numbers of military standard tests, including drop tests, impact, puncture and bursting under pressure.
However, a significant point to consider here is that whilst the exterior case is important, the inclusion of foam inserts is equally as critical.
These will not only prevent the items moving about within the case but will also provide cushioning against the various forces and impacts that the protective case may be subjected to.
05: Lightweight Protective Cases
Allowing for weight limitations (e.g. international freight)
An area where the moulded waterproof cases have limitations is that of international shipping (particularly by air freight).
This is because, due to their high protection levels, they tend to be quite heavy. This can mean that once loaded with the required foam case inserts and equipment, they can become very costly to ship.
The answer to this is aluminium cases.
Whilst not offering quite the same levels of protection as waterproof cases, they are still strong, robust and durable, but at a fraction of the weight. And when combined with foam inserts, can still offer a calculated level of protection.
This also means that, if the transit case is relatively large but will require easy handling by your field staff, this may also be an option here too.
06: Custom Size Cases
Consideration of size of items being shipped (volumetric shipping charges)
As well as weight limits on shipping, there are also what is known as “volumetric” charges (effectively being charged by size).
And as with weight limitations, this can actually have a number of cost implications caused by your cases.
For example, if you are using a stock shipping case, you need to select the nearest size available, which usually is slightly larger than required. So this not only adds to the volumetric charge (as you are effectively paying to ship some empty space) but also means more foam is required inside (again adding to the overall cost).
A solution to avoid this is to use a custom built case.
Flight cases are one option for this and can provide good levels of protection when combined with appropriate foam inserts. However, if protection from dust and / or water is also required, the EXOCase system would be the most suitable.
07: Secure Cases
As above, both waterproof cases and aluminium containers tend to feature pad-lockable tabs for security purposes. This can be particularly important for exceptionally high-value items taken out by your team of service engineers / technicians.
Flight cases can be manufactured to incorporate a similar feature, but as their inherent strength is less than waterproof / aluminium transport cases, these would be easier to “destroy” in order to get to the contents.
Further to this, however, any transit case that features a foam interior can actually have a tracking device concealed within, meaning that if a case is lost or stolen, it will be possible to track down its whereabouts.
08: Carry Cases
Portability by hand
Whilst this may be a significant consideration for your transit cases (particularly those used for taking equipment out on site), most options can actually satisfy this requirement.
Both waterproof and aluminium cases tend to come with comfortable handles as standard, whilst larger cases may also have built-in wheels and telescopic handles.
Flight cases can also be manufactured with these features in mind.
09: Electronics Cases
Specific considerations for electronics
Whilst one of the key considerations for electronics is protection from water (making the waterproof cases a useful option), there are other considerations too.
For example, specialist servers and communications equipment may require the use of dedicated “rack mount” units to aid transportation, cooling and handling.
However, specific items may also be sensitive to static charges – meaning that ESD safe or anti-static packaging may be required.
Whilst it is possible to source transit cases manufactured from static safe material, this can often be achieved through the foam insert itself.
10: Sample / Presentation Cases
High quality presentation and aesthetics
Whilst not really focusing on protection, there is a huge range of lightweight plastic cases available that can be an option depending on your budget and the items you are looking to protect.
For example, if you have quite durable equipment or products (think hand drills or similar tools) then whilst the case needs to offer some protection, the requirement isn’t as demanding.
In this scenario, the transport case can actually be used as “added value” packaging for your customers / end users, or can carry your branding and logos if being used by service engineers etc.
The other major use for these types of cases is the presentation of samples.
Due to the nature of this application, there doesn’t tend to be too much rough handling, meaning that whilst it is still important to protect the items within, a focus can be placed on maximising the aesthetic appearance of the case.
There are various other considerations regarding presentation to take into account when sourcing sample cases, however.
11: Handling Containers
Suitability for line-side / in plant handling
If the expensive or delicate parts or products you are producing or supplying mainly require protection during your own manufacturing processes – then protective cases are often not practical.
In this case, products such as moulded plastic or Correx® totes are much more suitable to aid with movement around your facility or factory, with the inclusion of foam dividers or dunnage offering the required protection.
12: High Volume / Single Trip
Options if you require a very high volume
As with line side packaging and in-plant handling, if you are sending very large volumes of a product or equipment – even if it is high value and / or fragile – protective cases are likely to prove cost prohibitive.
Surprisingly, in this instance, it is worth looking at corrugated cardboard.
This makes it ideal for high volume items but would be unsuitable for returnable packaging applications or if the packs were to be consistently exposed to the elements (i.e. water / rain / dust etc.).
Choosing the right transit case for your business
Knowing the main challenges you face in protecting your equipment or specialist products can make choosing a suitable transit case much easier.
For example, if you need the highest levels of protection from impact, water / dust ingress and mishandling, then moulded plastic waterproof cases should be your choice.
If you are on a limited budget, do not require high levels of protection or are looking for a striking visual impact, the lightweight plastic cases are a good bet.
And if you are either handling items in your manufacturing facility or sending out very high volumes of items, then cases are likely to not be the most appropriate solution at all (with Correx® totes or traditional corrugated packaging being most suitable).
However, regardless of the exterior transit case or packaging you choose, it is important to remember that the level of protection can be enhanced considerably with the use of the correct foam inserts.
About the Author
General Manager | GWP Protective
Having originally joined GWP Protective back in 2004, working on the factory floor, Richard now heads up the business as General Manager. [Read full bio…]