Box and Crate Engineering (Feb, 1946)
Box and Crate Engineering
That may be a recognized course of study some of these days
By WM. J. DUCHAINE
UNIVERSITIES and engineering schools, now that the war is over, quite likely will offer courses in “box-and-crate engineering.” Industrial concerns, who employ safety engineers, chemical engineers, and others with specialized training, will add experts on container construction to their staffs. Packing and shipping of postwar industrial products will become an exact science, and for no small number of college graduates it will become a profession.
Box-and-crate engineering is planning for shipping before an industrial product leaves the drawing boards. That many cubic feet of space could be saved in ships, railway cars and motor trucks through scientific designing of boxes and crates has been demonstrated many times in the shipping of war materials. It also has meant the saving of millions of dollars in freight charges.
Both the government and private industry have done extensive research work to make boxes, crates and other containers sturdier despite the use of less hard-to-get lumber. The famous Forest Products Laboratory at Madison, Wis., began its research in this field long before the outbreak of war. The wirebound box industry and other private concerns, engaged in the production of packaging material, has utilized the services of the Madison laboratory and a private research institution at Rockaway, N. J.
Members of the Wirebound Box Manufacturers association, who have had experience in providing boxes for millions of tons of war shipping, have already launched a campaign for an increased industrial market. With dollar volume up about 110 per cent over 1940, the 42 member companies had a 1943 sales volume of 44 million dollars. Even before the war, the demand for industrial and meat-packing boxes was expanding rapidly. These fields are expected to give the industry its greatest impetus now.
The industry is divided into two sections geographically, as well as in type of product. Southern plants produce most of the veneer boxes for fruits and vegetables, while northern plants’ production is devoted mostly to industrial and meat boxes. All types use material of various thicknesses, depending on the characteristics of the intended contents.
Wire is more than a binding agent in these boxes. It is stapled to the wood in such a way that it gives more than its own strength to the whole. Spacing of the wire strands and placing of the staples is determined by careful calculations and tests. Laboratories for the industry are maintained in Rock-away, N. J., and each manufacturer periodically sends sample boxes there for thorough tests to maintain standards.
With this scientific approach to the problems of shipping containers, and with the expectation of a huge new market in industry and meat packing, the industry is putting great importance on the newly developed “box-and-crate engineering.” When a manufacturer is designing a gas range, for example, the box-and-crate engineer can often recommend minor changes which will reduce crating and shipping costs and reduce damage in transit.
The G. B. Lewis company of Watertown, Wis., has been doing much experimenting on its own with industrial containers both for wartime and postwar use. One man working with a power lift truck and Lewis Skid Boxes can do as much material handling as previously done by a whole crew. They can be safely stacked ceiling high to hold parts in temporary storage. Lewis Skid Boxes are over 90 per cent wood. Panels of resilient, bump-resisting woven wood-and-wire are mounted on a strong white elm frame. The corners are reinforced by metal stampings. The special skid construction enables the fork of a power lift truck to easily remove one or more boxes from the stack.
The Lewis company has a new folding skid box in process of development, which is designed to handle loads up to 4,000 pounds and will be used primarily in trucking heavy materials from one plant to another. Although the idea of folding boxes is not new, it is believed that Lewis is the first company to give serious consideration to a product of this type to be used in connection with hand or power lift truck equipment. The new container, incidentally, can be quickly assembled or disassembled by one person.
More than 8 billion board feet of lumber went into the manufacture of dunnage, boxes and crates in 1942, and in 1943 the use had risen to 12.6 billion feet, and the prospects were for even greater consumption in 1944. The 1943 figure was nearly one third of the total U. S. lumber consumption of 38.8 billion feet in that year.
The Forest Products Laboratory, maintained by the U. S. Forest Service at Madison, Wis., has done some outstanding work on wartime shipping container problems. In 1942, the Army Ordnance department assigned to the laboratory the job of solving the special packaging, loading and shipping problems for all ordnance equipment and supplies.
Existing containers were redesigned or new ones designed and specifications prepared for hundreds of items, including anti-aircraft guns, armored cars, ammunition, rifles and bazookas. Besides providing special protection to ordnance supplies in overseas shipment, large savings in packaging materials and cargo space are being effected. For instance, a crate designed by the laboratory for an artillery item saved 70,000 cubic feet of cargo space per month on shipments from a single depot.
The chief of the packing and packaging section, Army Service Corps, estimated that the packaging methods and organization formed by the Madison laboratory in the shipment of ordnance supplies alone effected savings in ship space valued at more than 50 million dollars. The largest single crate designed was for a half-track carrier weighing 13,700 pounds. Packaged materials are arriving in good condition in spite of such hazards as temperatures ranging from 50 below to 135 above, rain totaling 450 inches a year in some places, and as many as 100 separate handlings en-route.
Proper packaging of guns, tank parts, ammunition and like items affords various economies. Lighter crates and boxes mean less lumber used and less weight in transport. Better design assures less damage to precision machinery. A shell case dented in transit is worthless. Steel had to be protected from saltwater corrosion and quick rust in humid jungles. The Madison laboratory tests hundreds of waterproof and greaseproof papers for the Ordnance department to determine their adequacy.
Boxes and crates designed for the Army Air Forces had to be of light weight for air transport and able to withstand rough handling, be quickly opened, and be reusable on distant airfields.
The Forest Products Laboratory has given training courses for packaging inspectors to more than 3,000 persons from Army Ordnance, Corps of Engineers, Army Air Forces, the Navy, and manufacturers representatives. Laboratory technicians are assigned to inspection and consultant work at ordnance depots and shipping points. Assistance was also given to manufacturers, Lend-Lease, War Food Administration, and the Army Air Forces in packaging and shipping problems.
Box-and-crate engineering- in fact, is already a science and a profession, Born of war’s necessities, it is one of the many developments of those hectic years destined to raise the standards of industrial practice in a peace-time America.