New Vehicle Launch Requires Custom Packaging

This case history about Freightliner comes courtesy of Steel King. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.

When Freightliner LLC, the largest heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America, prepared to launch its new class 8 model vehicles called Cascadia, a major focus was optimizing the efficiency and quality of its supply chain. Due to the many irregular sized and shaped components required by the new vehicle launch, Freightliner opted for custom packaging over expendable packaging such as cardboard, wood crates or pallets, which offer less protection, require more space, and have recurring purchase and disposal costs.

"Once the parts are manufactured, they need to be delivered in the same condition," says Royce Hermens, a packaging engineering group leader at Freightliner. "This is critical for logistics, quality control, and cost containment since vehicles can't be sold if they're waiting for replacement parts due to part damage caused by shipping."

As an OE manufacturer sometimes receiving less than truckload shipments, Freightliner was mindful of the increased wear that extra unloading and reloading would cause when consolidating product at transport terminals. With environmental concerns growing and some states prohibiting the disposal of wood pallets at landfills, the company wanted to limit its use of disposable packaging.

For a number of key components, Freightliner chose custom packaging offered by Steel King Industries, a leading manufacturer and provider of shipping racks, portable racks and portable racking. The shipping rack supplier helped Freightliner to streamline logistics for the vehicle launch while enhancing quality control and cost containment.

Due to the size, shape and aesthetics of a day cab roof assembly, for instance, Freightliner would have shipped one per pallet if using expendable packaging; and it could not be stacked due to risk of denting, scratching and other damage.

Instead, "They built us custom shipping racks that accommodate eight parts each, and stack two high in trailers," says Hermens. "That's a 16-to-1 increase in shipping storage density with better protection. We and our suppliers can also stack five high in warehouses, which further improves storage density and makes it easier to store product indoors instead of out."

Because Freightliner pays for the cost of returning the shipping racks to its parts suppliers, the supplier of shipping racks developed a front wall assembly rack that "knocks down" to just one-third its shipping size for return shipping, via fold down corner posts. "The custom shipping racks cut our return shipping costs in third," says Hermens.

And the custom shipping racks, which contain protective padding only where needed, have been doing their part to improve quality control while eliminating the purchase and disposal costs of expendable packaging.

"The word from our warehouses and our suppliers is that product damage is not a problem with the custom shipping racks," says Hermens.

Hermens credits the supplier of custom packaging for flexibility in adjusting to changes in Freightliner's tight vehicle launch deadlines while consistently offering more than expected. "To expedite our vehicle launch when scheduling changes were needed, their shop steward sat in on one of our conference calls," says Hermens. "Other times, they collaborated with us to adjust dunnage position or rack closure to get it just right at no extra cost."

"Overall, we're aiming for ROI in less than a year on the custom shipping racks, and with Steel King that's what we're getting," concludes Hermens.

MHMonline.com welcomes relevant, exclusive case histories that explain in specific detail the business benefits that new software and material-handling equipment has provided to specific users. Send submissions to Clyde Witt([email protected]), MHM Editor-in-Cheif. All submissions will be edited for clarity, content and style.

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