The use of handheld reusable containers in the North American automotive industry, now taken for granted, first took hold in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and has never looked back, reflects Bill McMahon, Director of New Business Development at ORBIS Corporation. I connected recently with Bill, who played a pivotal role in orchestrating that conversion to reusables, along with Adam Glorioso, Product Manager at ORBIS Corporation. The topic of our conversation was the recently introduced ORBIS sealed-edge dunnage, a product that provides a smooth and rounded edge to the top of corrugated plastic container dividers.
From the beginning of this shift to handheld containers, Bill explains, plastic corrugated dividers have provided the simplest and most cost-effective way to partition a box in order to protect Class A parts and better present them on the assembly line. From Day One, however, there was the nuisance of those sharp edges, which could result in torn cuticles as workers reached into boxes for automotive components.
Over the years, various approaches have been taken to eliminate the sharp edge issue, a challenge made more difficult in that production runs of any particular container are often quite small, perhaps in the 500 to 2,000 quantity range. “Every pack is custom to the part,” explains Adam, noting that they change all of the time.
Two approaches to eliminating sharp edges have been used, but both have had their limitations. One of these involves taking a thinner corrugated plastic material, such as 2 mm, and then folding it over. This approach may result in dividers that are not as straight as intended in the design, which is suboptimal.” The other approach is a stitched-edge process, where a thin wrap of a nonwoven fabric is sewn across the top edge of the divider. While eliminating the problem of sharp edges, the issue of durability can come into play as parts are dragged across the stitching perhaps 3 or 4 times per week, and over thousands of uses, the stitching can wear out, Bill adds. Also of note, the laborious stitching process was a production bottle neck to an otherwise high speed production process.
Then, after struggling with the issue for over many years, the solution emerged, Adam and Bill say, while ORBIS Corporation was looking to resolve a totally unrelated issue. The result is ORBIS sealed-edge dunnage. Using specially built equipment, custom sized divider pieces can be edge sealed with minimal labor, and the plant bottleneck has been eliminated. Adam says that the process can handle plastic corrugated anywhere from 3.5 to 10 mm in thickness, as well as tri-laminated plastic sheets or other products with enough plastic to seal them. Additionally, he emphasizes that the process does not add significantly to the cost of the item.
The result is a durable sealed-edge divider that will provide a safer and more ergonomically friendly solution for assemblers, who no longer need to put up with sharp edges. For more information, visit www.orbiscorporation.com.