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Package Research Laboratory – Inspection and Certification with a Focus On Information, Knowledge, and Service
Package Research Laboratory: Established wood and pallet certification agency launches new Wood Tracker and Customer Center on its Website. Online portal provides extensive information and videos designed to educate customers about how best to comply with ISPM-15 regulations.

By Dr. Ed Brindley
Date Posted: 6/1/2010

Rockaway, New Jersey—Because the regulation and certification of export wooden pallets, packaging, and dunnage is a phenomenon of the last decade, many WPM packaging inspection companies are relatively young companies. Package Research Laboratory (PRL) is an exception to this. PRL has benefited major companies and government agencies for over 75 years, predetermining product protection for consumer, industrial and military products. PRL says its services can be beneficial to those who have experienced excessive damage claims, high packaging costs, or are contemplating the introduction of a new product package.


PRL’s Testing Capability

            PRL indicates that it has one of the best equipped package performance testing and design facilities in the country, testing corrugated, paper, wood, metal and plastic for serviceability as container components as well as manufacturers’ compliance to customers’ specifications. It is an independent certified ISTA and UN/DOT-HASMAT testing laboratory, staffed by skilled, certified technicians, performing tests in accordance with ASTM, TAPPI, NMFC, UFC, Federal, Military and customized application methods developed in their laboratory for or by its clients.

            PRL can perform chemical compatibility testing, stress crack analysis and shelf life aging studies to verify the safety of containers and the stability of products.

            PRL is equipped with completely programmable environmental test chambers and temperature monitoring equipment used to measure and record temperatures of products and packaging while being subjected to simulated shipping environments.

            PRL is one of the original UN/DOT approved laboratories for testing hazardous material containers. Its experienced staff is trained to understand and enforce proper packaging markings to meet the required standards for shipping domestically or worldwide.


ISPM 15 Inspection Basics at PRL

            Of course, most of our readers are interested in the phytosanitary treatment for wooden pallets and containers. It stands to reason that since PRL has such extensive experience in package testing it has the resources, knowledge, and ability to provide professional services in the phytosanitary arena as well.

            PRL is accredited by both the American Lumber Standards Committee (ALSC) and the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) to certify that the wood packaging materials and finished products comply with ISPM 15 guidelines for regulating wood packaging material in international trade.

            Under these guidelines, all wood packaging material destined for any of the over 130 participating member nations must be certified as either heat treated or fumigated with methyl bromide. If you buy heat treated lumber for use in any wood packaging product, you must be certified, inspected and your product be properly stamped with the WPM stamp.

            Package Research Laboratory serves as a third party auditor of the treatment process for the benefit of its wood packaging clients and provides the appropriate certification stamp necessary for overseas acceptance. PRL inspectors will visit customers’ facilities monthly to audit compliance to either the heat treatment or fumigation program.

            PRL has trained its technicians and inspectors (over 40) to have a thorough understanding of local, national and international regulations that result in efficient evaluation and implementation of quality control auditing programs. These programs are designed to be flexible and customized to individual needs.

            David Dixon, president of Packaging Research Laboratory, said “We are not just another inspection agency that gives clients a once a month inspection service. Our focus is on informational services. Our new Wood Tracker program on our web site assists customers in tracking incoming and outgoing lumber and pallets (Display 1). Our new videos are to the point and informative; soon we expect to upgrade their quality and completeness (Display 2). PRL is one of the first agencies accredited to provide audition services for the ISPM 15 program. Our heat treating chamber studies include temperature verification studies.”


Revitalized Web Site –
Wood Tracker Center

            PRL’s new web site version is free for customers, copywrited for its clients use. Since late 2008, regulations from the American Lumber Standards Committee have mandated that facilities without a heat chamber survey or mapping must heat treat at a minimum of 140o F for 30 minutes. PRL, as a leader in the ISPM 15 compliance, provides to its customers at no charge a heat chamber mapping which allows them to reduce heat treatment temperatures to 132.8oF. Dave indicates that any customer that manufactures WPM from green lumber can save thousands of dollars in fuel by knowing their heat treatment chambers and heating to the lower threshold.

            The PRL Wood Tracker and Customer Center is a free online service that makes WPM compliance simpler. It tracks all your WPM in one place, creates inspection reports with the click of a button, and gathers your complete heat treated wood usage and production history in seconds. The Wood Tracker keeps records safe from fire, theft, and computer crashes. You can find forms, order stamps and get answers to WPM questions. It is free to all PRL inspection service customers.

            The revised PRL web site has an inspection basics question and answer section that provides insight into so many of the things that people want to know. All companies that manufacture shipping pallets and containers using either coniferous or hardwood lumber for international shipping need to have their WPM (wood packaging material) inspected for ISPM 15 compliance. Twelve inspections a year, or about one a month, are required. If you buy heat treated lumber which you cut and use in wood packaging, then you must be inspected and your product properly stamped. You can buy certified heat treated lumber, use it to make your products, and then stamp your finished product with your own WPM stamp. Or you can buy untreated lumber, cut it to make your products, have your products fumigated or heat treated, and finally have your product stamped by the company that did the treating.

            In preparation for an inspection, PRL suggests that you assign one person as your facility inspection representative. This representative must meet the inspector at each inspection and be familiar with the program’s regulations. It suggests setting aside a section of your yard to hold treated lumber separate from untreated lumber. You must maintain a systematic method of keeping records and in-facility quality control procedures, such as records of the amount of treated lumber purchased from a certified agency and records of the amount of treated lumber being used in the manufacture of pallets, crating, boxes and dunnage.

            An inspector is looking for a number of things. Is there a person in your company who is the appointed contact to oversee the necessary records for each inspection? Are the WPM stamps properly used and stored? Is there a place in your yard where treated lumber is kept separate from untreated lumber? Are your products properly stamped? Is the amount of treated wood purchased less than the amount of treated wood used for stamped products?

            If you fail an inspection, a written report will be submitted to you outlining what non-compliant issues were found during the inspection and what steps need to be taken to bring your facility into compliance. If PRL believes that a client will work in good faith to meet the requirements, then the client will be given a reasonable amount of time to fix the issues that caused the failure. Another inspection will be scheduled and carried out by PRL.

            Pallets and containers should be marked on two opposite faces in such a way that it is easily viewable by customs inspectors, who will inspect your products at ports around the world. For lumber, each individual piece of lumber must be HT stamped at least once if it is to be used in the ISPM 15 program.

            Last September, a new stamp format was released. See (Display 3) for the new representative stamp format and the three stamps involved in the ISPM 15 certification program.


The Debarking Requirement

            What about debarking of wood packaging material? The revised ISPM 15 requires all stamped WPMs to be manufactured from debarked wood. The Debark Regulation requires that any number of separate and clearly distinctive small pieces of bark is acceptable under the following conditions: 1) Less than 3 centimeters (1-1/8”) in width regardless of the length of the patch. 2) Greater than 3 centimeters in width and the total area of the bark patch must be less than 50 sq. centimeters (approximately the size of a credit card). Bark is considered to be the outer layer of a woody trunk, branch or root outside of the cambium layer. Pieces of bark covering several faces of a wood component must be measured widthwise from edge to edge of each patch. Excessive bark can be scraped or stripped from the wood components.

            PRL indicates that it has a zero tolerance to bark exceeding the levels stated above and has to perform re-inspections due to WPM not being compliant to the ISPM 15 limitations to bark. This debarked requirement applies to all products with the WPM mark. It is noteworthy that Australia requires bark free WPM, which is more stringent that the debarking requirement.

            For more information about Packaging Research Laboratory and the treatment of pallets and packaging, call David Dixon, president of PRL, at 973/627-4405.


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WPM Tricks of the Trade

Package Research Laboratory has five new brief videos on its updated web site, http://www.package-testing.com/ispm-15-Help-Videos.html. Initially, PRL posted preliminary copies of these videos but plans to replace them with more detailed videos soon. They are brief, typically from about one minute up to two and a half minutes. But they make some excellent points on key issues involved in phytosanitary treatment and marking of wooden pallets and packaging.

1.         Acceptable Stamp – A wooden pallet or box must be stamped twice on opposite sides. A focus on stamp quality shows common problems such as a partial stamp, missing borders, double impressions, and blurred images.

2.         Repaired Pallets – In the United States, any stamp used for certification must be totally removed from a pallet that has experienced any repairs, including reconfiguration, rebuilding, or changes. A variety of methods can be used to remove an old stamp, including grinding, sanding, ink coverage, spray paint, and brushes. Black spray paint is often used, but it can present problems due to bleed through. It takes less paint if gold paint is used, and its coverage is better.

3.         Stamp Maintenance – Bad stamps should be turned in. PRL does not recommend using abrasives or harsh cleaners. A stamp should not have any tears or blemishes. Tooth brushes and soft cleaners can be safely used. Inks should not contain any acetones.

4.         Bark RemovedPRL suggests checking used pallets closely and removing any bark before heat treating. Make certain that old marks have been removed.

5.         Heat Chamber Thermocouples – Probes should be carefully placed in the end of the largest wood component. Drill the center of the largest wood component as deep as the thickness of that piece. Make certain the probes feel snug. Seal it in with a generous amount of any non-conductive material, such as plumbers’ putty.



To Whom It May Concern,

            I am writing in regard to the excellent service we have received from Package Research Laboratory. PRL has been our sole heat treatment agency and will continue in that capacity in the future. PRL as a company has always kept us up to date on all heat treatment issues and has assisted us in efficiently staying compliant with these issues. But your greatest asset is your knowledgeable staff which we have always found both professional and personable.

            Recently our representatives from PRL performed an air flow study on our heat treatment facility and found that the chamber was not operating as efficiently as its potential. Following their advice, we made some minor modifications to the chamber and have a much more efficient chamber, which has resulted in much shorter charge times, significantly saving 40% in fuel costs and reducing scheduling issues. All this was provided to us for no extra cost, simply because we are a PRL customer.

            I would highly recommend PRL to anyone who is in the ISPM 15 certification program or interested in becoming ISPM 15 certified.

Sincerely, Tim Middlekauff, Pres. - Conner Sawmill


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