StaFast Building Products, a Reynoldsburg, Ohio-based division of rubber company Kenda Group, specializes in supplying rolls of thick, synthetic rubber roofing membrane for large, flat or low-slope roofing projects. Black membrane, 45 and 60 mils thick, is sold through wholesale distributors and directly to roofing contractors in rolls or sheets that measure up to 40 feet by 100 feet.
About 12 years ago, the company scaled down the offering to smaller panels of 10 feet by 20 feet and 15 feet by 25 feet, explains Chuck Matthews, StaFast’s marketing director. The smaller sheets are designed for do-it-yourself homeowners or contractors doing small projects, such as a flat roof for a porch or garage.
“Our single-ply membranes come in either white or black to meet different climate needs and personal preferences as far as color,” Matthews says. But shipping the two products is more complicated than black and white.
While both membrane sheets are single-ply, the black version arrives from Kenda’s manufacturing plant in Taiwan in an easy-to-handle form. The panels of 10 feet by 20 feet or 15 feet by 15 feet are folded and then rolled onto the outside of a 6-foot cardboard core. The roll is then wrapped in plastic, put on a skid, wood-crated and shipped to the United States. “These wooden crates can be stacked on top of each other to fill a shipping container,” Matthews says. “And because the product comes crated in this manner, we just ship it along by truck, as is, to distributors and contractors and never really have to handle the individual rolls.”
The white membrane product, however, is reinforced with a polyester scrim and is more rigid than the black version, making it resistant to folding and wrapping. It comes to StaFast on master rolls that are 13 feet wide by 100 feet long. The panels are then slit down to widths of 6 1/2 feet by 20 Transport Packaging feet and, until recently, folded and re-rolled onto cores.
However, attempts to put the folded and re-rolled panels into tubes proved cumbersome, and the tubes themselves presented shipping problems.
“Because of friction, there was some problem with sliding the rolls into the tubes,” Matthews explains. “The biggest problem was keeping the end caps secured to the tubes. The material would slide a bit inside the tubes with the movement of the trucks during transit and pop the caps off.”
The tubes presented other challenges. “If we put 10 tubes on a pallet and banded the pallet, they still had the tendency to work loose and not hold together very well. With the movement of the truck, the tubes became unstable,” says Matthews. In addition, the tubes couldn’t be stacked very high.
StaFast turned to Laminations to design a retail pack that addressed handling issues as well as provided shipping advantages through nestability. The paperboard-based packaging solution consists of seamless, U–shaped channels that fit snugly together.
The square tubes stack well and maximize the available truckload space, Matthews says. “We place either 10 or 14 tubes to a pallet, and we stack them four pallets high and two across in the trucks. It really cubes out the space well.” StaFast has been using square tubes since July.
“The really big savings for us is in not having to build a wooden crate around the tubes,” Matthews adds. “There’s been quite a savings in terms of manpower and materials. Also, when the truck backs up to the customer’s dock, you’re not worried about those wooden crates having worked themselves loose during shipping.”
The white membrane material is now packaged as either two rolled panels per tube or one. Once the rolls are placed in the square tubes, plugs, also made from paperboard material, are stapled to the ends to form caps with staying power. Then, the tops are stapled in place.
Tom Lyons is a senior manager with Directions Inc., based in Neenah, Wis.