Web Articles   Digital Editions
Digital Edition Archives

Saving Your Customers Money is Easier than You Think! Systems-Based Design Becomes a Reality with Best Load Software
Best Load: Packaging and pallet design expert, Dr. Mark White talks about his new software that makes systems-based design for unit loads a reality. He explains how this tool in the hands of trained designers will revolutionize unit loads and how your customers want to save cost and improve efficiencies.

By Chaille Brindley
Date Posted: 5/1/2014

                The world of unit load design may never be the same. Imagine the ability to squeeze even more cost savings out of the pallet, packaging and materials handling systems. What if you could achieve up to 20% savings in packaging costs. Well, that is exactly what Dr. Mark White, a globally recognized expert in the area of unit load analysis and pallet design, hopes that many companies start doing using his Best Load® software.

                Until now, Best Load was only available to consulting clients of White & Company, the design firm that White leads. But the software is now available to demo or purchase from the company’s website.

                Based on the scientific principles of systems-based design, this software enables users to analyze and design the unit load, including the pallet, package and shipping and systematically reduce packaging waste while maintaining the performance of all three components.

                Excited to share this major development, White recently sat down with Pallet Enterprise to discuss Best Load and all the potential it holds for pallet and packaging suppliers and users.

                For more information or to download the demo version of the software, visit http://www.whiteandcompany.net/ or call 800-942-7943.


Pallet Enterprise: Why are so many companies hesitant to jump into systems-based design even though you have been a major proponent of it for years?

White: It’s a combination of factors primarily revolving around the way that companies have traditionally built the supply chains. It is a function of who is doing the designing. When the various participants in the system don’t talk to each other, we get what we have today. Whereas, systems-based design looks at all three components – the packaging, pallet and materials handling systems and looks for the best ways to reduce costs while limiting damage and other inefficiencies.

                This is an evolutionary transition. We need new professionals who cross over the different disciplines from packaging, pallets and the equipment. And they must have tools that model out how the components interact, and that is Best Load. Virginia Tech and the Rochester Institute of Technology are both using Best Load to teach students about proper design.


Pallet Enterprise: What is the key measurement that Best Load analyzes?

White: The best metric is packaging mass. If you can reduce packaging mass per use, reusable packaging has its value. If you reduce packing mass per use, you are going to render your supply chain more sustainable. If you look at the scorecard for Wal-Mart, packaging mass is a huge part of that score and valuation. The science is the easy part; the politics is the difficult part. We have to get more people out there who understand the value of systems-based design. Changing the way that companies design their packaging is an evolutionary design.


Pallet Enterprise: All green comes down to money. Saving on packaging is easy to identify. What are some of the hidden costs savings that Best Load can identify and help to utilize?

White: Packaging spend is an easy measure, isn’t it? The indirect savings are hard to measure, such as improving the safety of the supply chain. How do you put a dollar value on that? Twenty five percent of injuries or accidents in supply chains occur in materials handling operations. Can we reduce that with systems-based design? Yes, we can.

                Environmental impacts – we are moving packaging over the road. If we reduce the amount of packaging in that trailer and we are paying the transportation company per load mile and reduce the amount of packaging and increase product, we decrease energy consumption. If we can recycle, and can reduce the mass per use, we reduce solid waste. There are other less measureable benefits that come out of systematic design. And that includes thing such as handling efficiency. This is the speed with which we can handle product. If we take a more systematic approach, we can indeed improve efficiency.        

                Movement is the largest cost in any warehouse operation. If we look at designing warehouses to reduce travel time per unit mass and we design that to occur, we may have to change the pallet or packaging to extract those efficiencies.


Pallet Enterprise: Are there savings when it comes to helping to reduce hang ups of unit loads in automated retrieval and material handling systems? 

White: Best Load does that. But what it does more than that is it allows you to manipulate the pallet and the packaging together to optimize the design of the entire unit load. That is the main deal here. We can use existing technology in the Pallet Design System™ (PDS) or Best Pallet software to make the pallet fit the system. We are missing an opportunity unless we look at the packaging and the pallet together. After all, the unit load is the form by which loads move through the supply chain and is what automated guided vehicles are moving, let’s look at how we optimize the entire cube. You have to remember that the cost of packaging on top of the pallet is 10-30 times greater than the cost of the pallet itself.

                If we take a tool like Best Load, which models how those components interact, now we can extract all those opportunities. The amount spent on corrugated, bottles, pales and packaging is huge compared to the pallet. We use the pallet to reduce the cost of the entire unit load.


Pallet Enterprise: Give me a few examples of the savings that you have achieved with Best Load?

White: We worked with Mapei and Chevron to reduce their spend on plastic pales. They spent $300 plus per unit load compared to a $9 pallet. We were able to change the pallet design and reduce the compression stress on the pales. This allowed the customer to move from a 90 mil pale to an 80 mil pale. Mapei saved 25 cents per pale, and there were 36 pales per unit load. We put an extra $1.70 into the pallet to improve the design, but we saved overall $9 in pales. We were able to produce $7.30 savings per unit load. Actually, Mapei got to a 75 mil pale. It was so cool to do this working with the pale and pallet vendors.

                Another good example is Cargill meats, which ships on a B grade pallet. What can I do about redesigning a B grade pallet. Cargill was getting a great price on the pallet. But they were experiencing compression damage on the corrugated boxes. This was bruising the meats. The DC was complaining about the compression damage. There was no way I could convince Cargill to switch to a higher grade, new pallet. But the client had an automated palletizer in it facility. Using Best Load, we were able to figure out how to change the stacking patterns of the corrugated boxes and to reduce the compression stress. This added no cost to the unit load and solved the majority of the compression problems. All Cargill had to do was reprogram its palletizer.

                Shaw Industries, the carpet company, has been exporting a lot to Europe in cargo containers. But the company was getting just a mess in these containers. With Best Load, we can look at dunnage and loading patterns to predict stability. We modeled the freight container and gave Shaw a dunnage loading system. It solved the problem beautifully.

                Trex wanted to sell to The Home Depot, but there was a problem. The retailer wanted Trex to ship on a unit load that allowed the distribution center to pick off smaller portions of the unit load using a forklift and no manual destacking. With Trex, we redesigned the unit load into what we call sub-bundles. You see the breadth of analysis that we can do now with Best Load. It is simply amazing what this tool can do.


Pallet Enterprise: It seems like systematic design might encourage more customization of pallets. Do you think that is true?

White: I think there will be some. We all know about the wood availability issues right now. Putting that aside, if you look at a more normal market, I think we will convert some people from B grade to new pallets. To achieve some of the success that I am talking about, we have to control the pallet specification. And you are not going to do that on used pallets.

                The example that I gave you of B grade with Cargill, we did some work there. What did we achieve? Not a lot. We gave them some improvement for free. But to achieve the kind of results that we saw with Mapei, there is no way you are going to see that with B grade pallets. You have to use a specific pallet design. I agree that there will be more customization and more dedicated pallets for specific applications. The industrial side of the supply chain is going to be an easy application for this concept. Will we get into consumer goods in foods? In some cases, yeah.

                But if you are going to ship your load on a B grade and a CHEP pallet, you are stuck. You are going to have to design the packaging to withstand the rigors of the B grade. Packaging designers must develop packaging based on the worst case scenario. Best Load can still have an impact on those unit loads. But we can’t have as great of an impact on total costs unless we use a customized, quality pallet.

                Bending strengths are a key for pallet design. Packaging is different; the focus on it is the compression strength of the box, the pale, the bottle. My point is let’s use the pallet to reduce the compression strength on the packaging, and here are the savings when we do it. But you must have control over the pallet design to do that. So yes, I think we are going to convert some shipments from used pallets to new to extract a large net savings. And we will see a lot more customization.

                I can take a pallet, and it has 25 lbs. per square inch, and I can move a deckboard a few inches and can reduce the compression stress from 25 to 16 psi. But you have to use the right pallet if you want that savings in the packaging.


Pallet Enterprise: Will this lead to fewer 48x40s being used or the development of another major pallet footprint in the market?

White: These concepts can be applied to whatever size pallet you use. I am not saying that this will be a transition

in size of pallet. We can take that size and modify the design to reduce the packaging.


Pallet Enterprise: What is the target market for this software? And what do you say to pallet suppliers who may be angry that this technology can be licensed to users?

White:  Our largest market will be pallet users by far. That is our target market. But we do believe that many pallet and packaging suppliers will be interested as well. The pallet is the key because it is the interface. All the stresses that cause damage go through the pallet. What we are doing is using the pallet to reduce the stress on the packaging because the greatest cost is the packaging and not the pallet in a unit load.

                I understand the concern of the pallet vendors in losing some control here. But on the flip side, there are many times when the relationship between the pallet supplier and its customer improves when you have a better educated customer. I understand the fear of the pallet vendor. But I think they are wrong because pallet buyers just don’t understand pallets today, and we need to train buyers about pallets.


Pallet Enterprise: When will Best Load be available? How much will it cost? And what kind of tech support can customers expect? 

White: Customers can download the software for trial or to purchase on May 1, 2014. An annual license costs $3,995 per license for Best Load. If a customer buys multiple licenses, the cost per license goes down.

                Best Load comes with complete 24/7 tech support via email and a toll free number. We will also offer over the phone training and webinars. We can come to you and do on-site instruction, all we ask is for our expenses to be covered.

                Also, we will be issuing updates on a periodic basis as well as some new versions. In a year or so we plan to release Best Load Pro. And that version will allow you to design primary packaging, such as bottles. Right now we only go down to the corrugated boxes.

                Best Load Pro will allow users to design everything that goes into the brown box. Best Load already will analyze any kind of pallet. However, the current version does not do a trip analysis like PDS does. That will come later. We will increase the power of our models over time.

                Right now our focus in terms of pallet analysis will be the principles of strength and deflection. Best Load will do both new pallets and pallets with used components. It will analyze repaired pallets though because there is so much variation between A, B or C grade material that we weren’t going to try to attempt to predict it.


Pallet Enterprise: Is there any training this summer on the software and your systems-based design approach that interested pallet suppliers should attend?

White: I still work with the Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design at Virginia Tech. And we use Best Load in the Unit Load Short Course, which is coming up in May. This course is held May 13-15th in Blacksburg, Va. For more information, visit http://unitload.vt.edu/

                Whoever licenses the software will automatically get private training. For example, we did a private webinar for Lindt Chocolate’s staff.

Do you want reprints or a copyright license for this article?   Click here

Research and connect with suppliers mentioned in this article using our FREE ZIP Online service.

Software to Optimize Unit Loads Now Available