Go to a tradeshow and you will see every kind of packaging imaginable as freight moves across a dozen different loading docks. You’ll see large crates which are the standard, but palletized merchandise of all kinds is in abundance too. Then there are those creative folks who move product in whatever manner suits their personality or mood of the day. The idea should be to move products to and from a show in a manner where there is minimal damage in packaging that delivers real savings/cwt.
Where do packaging issues begin and then evolve into damaged crates, and internal damage of the booth itself? I would suggest that problems arise when focusing on the wrong thing in the initial design process. It’s called tunnel vision. Next, it really breaks down on the outbound shipping going back to the place of origin. Let’s look at both.
The Inside of the Crate Matters
People who design and build crates have a particular mindset that guides them in their work. They are first and foremost concerned about guaranteeing the safety of the product.
What they often don’t consider is:
- The labor crew needs each part in a specific sequence to optimize the available time for set up.
- Show labor discards extra packaging that they used for wrapping individual parts.
- Different setup crews are repacking the booth each time, and labeling is rarely sufficient.
Your set up supervisor will always gameplan the best sequence for assembling each component. However, this will inevitably change some after the first set up, with minimal changes thereafter. You should take components out of the crate and set them up in the same order. The first component out sets up first. Pack components in reverse order; according to a disassembly sequence. The good news is that you’ll achieve maximum productivity and not have to constantly sort and identify parts. This is the beginning step for packaging that delivers real savings.
Original packaging often includes parts that come with foam wrapping for additional protection. After set up, packaging like this can become damaged or in such poor shape that it isn’t usable.
The old adage of “everything has a place and everything in its place” is the key to packaging success. If you do this, numbered parts should have a place in the crate with a corresponding number space. Plus, there are “non-exhibit” items that go into a crate. Items like bar stools, TV monitors, and swag inventory for example. So, space planning should include providing an area separate from the booth inventory so damage doesn’t occur. Simply put, have an assigned space for everything. Property damage will occur if you don’t.
Outside of the Crate Matters
The outside of a crate takes about as much abuse as mankind can possibly inflict on an object and still be lawful. That’s just the way it is. Crates are sped along through a handling process where time is of the utmost importance. Whatever it takes to win the battle of the clock, works; at least for those handling the crate. So, how do you win this battle?
Tips for Crate Building
To start with, you have to use quality materials that will withstand the use and abuse. Therefore, every crate will conceivably need to support a weight of 1-2,000 pounds, so here are some recommendations:
- The majority of the construction should be of 1″ plywood
- The exterior corners should all have reinforced corners to protect the edges
- The skids on the bottom of the crate are all made from 4″ x 4″ solid wood posts
- All interiors come with fabric on all surfaces
- If forklifts are causing a lower lip of the crate to experience abnormal wear, add a piece of angle iron to keep the edge of the wood from splitting or breaking.
The Ultimate Solution
We, as exhibit designers, have to be involved in the crate designing function. This allows a professional to be involved with knowledge of short term shipping issues and longer-term setup needs. He can then plan the crate layout in a logical manner to guarantee maximum efficiency. Our active participation at this stage of the process will guarantee a favorable outcome for the client in terms of safety for the contents and efficiency in setting up the booth. If done correctly, it will produce Packaging That Delivers Real Savings.