Measuring Things That Go Bump in the Night

Jan. 1, 2001
SafeShip is a new piece of technology that reports how your package is handled in shipping. It reports over the Internet.

Measuring Things That Go Bump in the Night

Since there is little value in screaming, "I’m number two," virtually every shipping organization shouts, "I’m number one!" How can you determine what is best for your product?

Packaging professionals now have a way to help their companies sort out the claims of whose dog is really smarter. Or, at least, which carrier is better over a given route.

As we all know, just-in-time means nothing if the product arrives damaged. When there is damage, all parties involved get sore arms pointing at the culprit. In the past I’ve written about package testing and monitoring shipping conditions. Now, a company called SafeShip International has put it all together and has developed a service to measure — and report — relative handling quality among shippers, modes and routes.

At PackExpo 2000, I spoke with Greg Hoshal, CEO and chief technologist of the company. Hoshal says the company is an Internet-enabled information technology company, providing relative quality information on the global shipping industry.

Much of how SafeShip does what it does is patent-pending technology, but, in brief, it delivers scientifically valid, statistically sound information directly to your computer.

In the past, buying shipping services was much like buying pallets. Decisions were (or are) based on price and deliverability — the wrong way to do things in either case. How a carton was handled was not part of the discussion.

Packaging professionals have always designed a package based, to the best of their knowledge, on what the shipping environment should be. Predicting how a carton would be handled required a crystal ball.

Hoshal, also the founder and president of Instrumented Sensor Technology, says SafeShip derives its information with the use of accelerometer technology, along with patent-pending engineering, and statistical and mathematical algorithms to create specific quality measures.

"These measures provide statistically valid engineering quality data in real time over the Internet on both a subscription and transaction basis," he says. He adds that the data is derived from the largest ongoing statistical sampling of the shipping and handling industry ever conducted. All measurements are certified for accuracy and are traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The data sampling is being done using a special shipping and receiving network set up by SafeShip to provide its customers with unbiased handling data. The method is reported to be scientifically unbiased across all carriers and modes reported.

What kinds of information can you get? The various products SafeShip offers include a "bump count." This is a total number of bumps, defined as drops or impacts a package experiences, equivalent to a three-inch (or higher) free-fall drop onto a concrete floor. You can also see where the hardest crash of your package might occur during shipment. The actual units are a linear measurement (inches, feet or meters), representing the total potential energy from the specified height, free-falling to the ground.

You can also determine from where the potential for damage of all crashes will come, total force and energy of all bumps, the orientation of bumps on the carton, and cumulative vibration or shaking during shipping.

If you’re concerned about the surrounding environment your carton travels through, SafeShip measures temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric pressure variance over time.

As Pogo, that wonderful cartoon character of long ago, once said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!" Well, maybe not. Now, with SafeShip, you can determine who the safer carrier or shipping mode is before you ship.

Clyde E. Witt

executive editor

[email protected]