The use of common dunnage materials, such as plywood, matting and cardboard is highly problematic to many shippers, and billions of dollars are lost annually due to products damaged as a result of inadequate dunnage.

Rather than accept those situations as inevitable operating costs, manufacturers and freight companies are now looking at new dunnage technologies that prevent unnecessary product damage and other losses.

A new protection perspective

MillerCoors decided to test a line of reusable plastic cargo protection products with hopes of curbing environmental waste and reducing operating expenses. Through a partnership with Paylode, a company offering 100-percent recycled dunnage that can last hundreds of trips, MillerCoors saw savings of more than $8 million annually, met corporate waste-reduction goals five years early and eliminated the source of 25 percent of the company’s recordable injuries, among many other benefits.

“In addition to the mere waste, disposable dunnage also was problematic because the wooden products are heavy, weighing as much as 55 pounds,” says Ray Reehm, a member of the MillerCoors Supply Chain. “This caused workers strain and injury, not to mention leaving behind splinters.”

Paylode separator pads replaced sheets of plywood and cardboard dividers as buffers between pallets. In addition to the benefit of no splinters, the separators feature an ergonomic hand hole for easy loading and unloading and a cushioning hollow cavity to protect loads.

MillerCoors simply takes back the bulkhead spacers and pads to their warehouses after each trip or picks them up the next time they visit their customers. The company reduced damaged loads by more than half.

Victory over gravity

In addition to bulkhead spacers and separator pads, Paylode Cargo Protection Systems (New Concord, OH) also manufactures a variety of AAR-approved and CFR-compliant reusable dunnage equipment that protect cargo from damage and often enables the shipper to increase how much of their product can be loaded into each shipment. These products include 100 percent recycled plastic void panels, spacers and fillers that are applicable to trucking, rail and container shipping situations.

One user who is finding multiple benefits from working with Paylode is Shaw Industries Group, Inc. (Dalton, GA), the largest U.S. carpet producer and a leading supplier of various types of flooring products.

Until recently, Shaw shipped its carpet tile products via rail, truck and containers packed four to five feet high on 53x26-inch pallets, which are relatively long and narrow compared to the more standard 40x48-inch pallets. The reason for the narrower dimension was to make it more convenient for customers to transport the pallets through their retail facilities.

When double-stacked in truck trailers, however, the carpet tile pallets had a relatively high center of gravity. In most cases the pallets of tiles would not fit snug into a trailer or other container, leaving plenty of space for the pallets to shift in transit – unless the dunnage functioned exceptionally well.

“In a rail car, just the start and stop of the train could cause a substantial shift of our products, often making them fall off the pallets,” explains Chris Shannon, a superintendent at Shaw Industries Group. “These products are not usually damaged when they tip over, but that problem does require our warehouse employees or customers to spend time re-stacking them in order to unload. That work is not only inconvenient, but also time consuming.”

Shannon adds that it could take up to an hour to re-stack one pallet. To re-stack a complete load could take as much as an entire day – a very signific

ant expense.