Packaging Specifications Manual | Packaging Specifications & Numbering Convention

I. Packaging Specifications:

Logistics managers must contend with an array of standards to ensure their product arrives safely at its destination as many forms of transport or distribution packaging are regulated throughout the world. Environmentally friendly packaging requirements are also being mandated. Canada has a “National Packaging Protocol” which requires a 50% reduction in packaging by the year 2000. Some European countries require some sort of “take back” requirement for transport packaging while others stipulate that no transport packaging is to be disposed of with regular trash.

Professional Associations and regulatory bodies such as the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) may offer pre-shipment test procedures which provide a means to determine the probability of the safe arrival of a packaged product at destination. The most frequently used transport packaging standards have been developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the National Safe Transit Association (NSTA). Certain carriers require manufacturers to meet these standards before they will insure against breakage during transport. ANSI (The American National Standards Institute), DOT (Department of Transportation), ISO (The International Organization for Standardization), MIL (Military Specifications), NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification), UFC (Uniform Freight Conservatory), UN (United Nations), among others have also developed standards.

Trade Associations represent a wide array of product categories ranging from automobiles to pharmaceuticals and pallets to plastic. The NWPCA, (National Wooden Pallet and Container Association), TAPPI (Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industries) and FBA (Fibre Box Association) along with manufacturers of stabilizing film, packaging foam, plastics, etc. have developed standards as well. Standards which have been developed by packaging product aligned agencies must be reviewed carefully as to their applicability within the industry as the basic incentive to enhance the sales of their particular line of packaging may cause them to over specify materials or create conservative standards relative to the environmental issues.

In addition to all of those mentioned above, many industries have established their own standards. This allows them to meet the particular needs of their products and transportation routes and in some cases to use less material than would be required by other established standards. The AIAG (Automotive Industry Action Group), ISM-RIF PSS (Institute for Supply Management-Rail Industry Forum Packaging Standards Subcommittee), the AAR (Association of American Railroads) and RAC- 6000 (Railway Association of Canada) are examples.

Many of the organizational standards being developed today are performance oriented, and are designed with the ultimate goal of protecting the product during transport. Like the various tests defined in this Manual such as the Compression Test, ECT (Edgewise Compression Test), Mullen Test (Bursting Strength) and the Tear Test (the ISTA, ASTM and NSTA guidelines and testing procedures are performance based standards. Performance based standards or specifications are those that describe measurable performance characteristics on the completed container system or subsystem rather than specifying, in detail, the materials of construction.

The Packaging Specifications in this Manual serve to qualify its general packaging guidelines relative to particular products. Though product load dimensions, quantities and gross weights as well as packaging descriptions are quite detailed in the Specifications section, it remains the overall intent of the PSS Manual to establish safe and economical performance standards for packages throughout the distribution channel. It also remains the responsibility of the supplier to advise the ISM-RIF PSS of recommended improvements and necessary changes to the specifications contained herein.

Unless other wise indicated, use of the standard packaging materials specified in this section is strongly recommended though the height, width, length and gross weight of the product may vary somewhat. When the opportunity to substitute “equivalent” packaging materials for the ones indicated is permitted, a note advising this fact will appear in the Packaging Description portion of the specification. Equivalent packaging materials must meet PSS Manual general guidelines. They must provide the intended function with similar types of material. For example, a suitable and more economical wooden crate may be substituted for the collapsible, wooden crate specified. However, wirebound crates or the use of steel strapping to strengthen sidewalls does not meet the guidelines and therefore, under normal circumstances, is not an acceptable “equivalent”. Durability and rigidity are reasons wooden crates have been specified. As a result, corrugated crates must not be substituted for wood when the specification calls for wood as by definition they are not the equivalent.

II. Numbering Convention:

The specifications within this Manual have been grouped by relative category. Generally, the first three letters of the common name of the specified item are used to identify it followed by consecutive, one or two-digit numbers. One exception to this rule may appear in the Packaging Materials and Freight Car Components Specifications sections which share the same general numerical range and therefore may not strictly adhere to the consecutive numbering convention within their respective categories. However, consecutive numbers do appear between these two categories and within the other categories as indicated below:

Packaging Specifications Category Specification Numbers
MRO ITEMS Nos. 50-69
S & C COMPONENTS Nos. 70-89

Resources:  Raymond, Michele, Sheri Wanamaker, Laura Pettit, Transportation Packaging and the Environment, Raymond Communications, Inc., Riverdale, MD 1994 Soroka, Walter, Fundamentals of Packing Technology, Richard Warrington Publishing, Herndon, VA 1995