Though Worthington Steelpac is most known for its steel pallets, its product offerings are more diverse. In fact, Worthington Industries created its Steelpac division specifically to develop a steel shipping platform for motorcycles.
In 1996, approximately 17% of all Harley-Davidson motorcycle shipments were damaged because the wooden crates used to transport them weren't holding up to the rigors of shipping.
Harley-Davidson had been purchasing flat-rolled steel for motorcycle parts from Worthington Steel for several years, says Steve Letnich, vice president of sales and marketing at Worthington Steelpac. The manufacturer asked Worthington if it could develop a transport packaging product that would reduce product damage.
Packaging engineers at Worthington got to work and developed numerous prototypes before coming up with a solution. “We developed a steel platform surrounded with a cardboard frame,” says Letnich.
The first Steelpac facility was opened in 1999 and began shipping steel crates to Harley-Davidson's Kansas City, Kan., facility. By 2000, Steelpac began shipping to the company's York, Pa., plant.
“The idea was that it would last three turns and then be discarded,” Letnich explains. However, Harley-Davidson was pleasantly surprised when it discovered each crate was averaging seven to nine trips. The Steelpac crate reduced motorcycle damage by 33% and lowered the manufacturer's overall packaging costs. In addition, Harley-Davidson was able to reinforce its green initiatives by recycling the containers.
Despite its success, the producer of the infamous hog continues to improve the way it transports product. Steelpac is currently developing a new pallet for Harley-Davidson that will last 15 turns and eliminate most dunnage.