Published on the Packaging World Web site
| January 31, 1995
Multiple materials protect international shipments
Amsco integrates fabricated and molded foam, corrugated and plywood to protect $35ꯠ medical sterilizer. Along with absorbing shock and providing cushioning, the new pack also provides an assembly base.
After doling out roughly $35 and waiting weeks for delivery of a machine to sterilize medical devices the last thing a healthcare institution needs is shipping damage. Thanks to a combination of molded and fabricated foam corrugated paperboard and plywood packaging materials the inital 100 170-lb sterilizers have arrived intact and ready for installation and use worldwide. American Sterilizer Co. (Amsco) manufactures sterilizers surgical lights tables and other healthcare equipment. The Pittsburgh PA-based company introduced its VHP100 endoscope sterilizer and began shipping it in the second quarter of '94. It uses a Vapor Hydrogen Peroxide (hence the VHP prefix) process to sterilize flexible and rigid endoscopes that are inserted into the human body for diagnostic purposes. To date all VHP100's have been sold as exports-primarily in Canada but also to Brazil Spain Taiwan China Japan Italy the United Kingdom Portugal Germany and Korea. Amsco plans to offer the machine in the U.S. once it receives Food & Drug Administration approval for its sterilization process; Amsco anticipates approval will come later this year. Most endoscopes are currently sterilized by hand with water and soap. "We've shipped about 100 units worldwide" notes J. R. "Dick" McCallum senior buyer for Amsco's Apex NC division that assembles and packs the new sterilizers. "With the delicate technology that goes into this kind of equipment we cannot afford to put it in packaging that will damage the product before it gets to the customer. We've never packaged the VHP100 in any other configuration and we haven't had any damage problems." McCallum was instrumental in making material decisions for the sterilizer. "A lot of consideration goes into the packaging for these sterilizers" he notes. "We talked to many suppliers that could provide some of the packaging components but not all of them. We wanted a vendor that would be a full-service supplier." After contacting another buyer at Amsco's Erie PA division McCallum learned that Tuscarora (New Brighton PA) was providing corrugated shipping cases for different types of sterilizing equipment manufactured at the Erie plant. "Tuscarora representatives came to our plant in Apex observed our application and came back with a quote saying they could supply all the packaging components" he recalls. Tuscarora secures from outside vendors those materials it does not manufacture. "By relying on one supplier it's a lot easier for us" says McCallum. "And price-wise I'd estimate that by using one vendor we save nearly $20 a year." Matching multiple materials Amsco ships the majority of its new sterilizers by surface transport one instrument per customized slave pallet. The product usually takes four to six weeks to get to the customer. An optional cart for the sterilizer is shipped separately. During transit the palletized sterilizer must withstand considerable handling. To meet international shipping standards and what McCallum calls "worst-case scenarios" Amsco protects the sterilizer in a package that includes a pallet designed specifically for this application pieces molded from Arco Chemical's (Newtown Square PA) polyethylene/polystyrene copolymer Arcel® as well as fabricated pieces of expanded polystyrene masonite wood corrugated and plastic strapping. Tuscarora assembles the slave pallet whose footprint measures approximately 39 1/2" L x 30 5/8" W. The base of the pallet is formed by two masonite panels that run the entire length dimension and are approximately 7" W. An L-shaped piece of Arcel is glued on top of both masonite panels to help absorb shock. Next a 28 5/8" x 37 1/2" plywood "deck" is glued to the tops of the Arcel foam pieces with an adhesive. Extending along the length dimensions on top of the deck are two 3"-H molded Arcel pieces that the sterilizer actually rests upon. A wooden cross support fits between these two Arcel pieces. Centered on top of this wood support is a 3 1/2" W x 5" L x 1 1/2" H EPS "block." The top of this block reaches the same height as the two molded Arcel pieces to help hold the sterilizer. The Arcel provides strength and characteristics that enable the unit to support the sterilizer's weight throughout the packing and shipping process. Integral manufacturing Tuscarora ships slave pallets and related materials for the sterilizer to Amsco's Apex plant where one or two operators assemble and pack one sterilizer every in 30 to 45 min. The sterilizer is secured to the pallet via a threaded bolt and washer that is pushed through holes bored through the plywood deck the wood support the foam and into the frame of the sterilizer. Once locked into place the unit will not slide left to right or front to back. Besides protecting the new sterilizer the package configuration plays a role in Amsco's manufacturing process. Integral manufacturing McCallum explains involves assembling the pieces of the VHP100 on the pallet as it's being packaged on a series of stations. As one portion of the assembly is completed the pallet is forklifted to other stations for additional sterilizer components. Once the instrument is assembled operators position two Arcel end caps that fit onto each of the unit's two sides protecting the sterilizer from top or side damage much as a bumper does for an automobile. A fabricated EPS insert fits precisely between the two end caps to provide a flush top cushioning surface above the sterilizer. This provides cushioning from top loading (which is not recommended) and side impact. The operator then opens a knocked-down half-slotted corrugated case and places it over the top of the unit which gets covered with a plastic sheet. The case telescopes down the four sides of the unit fitting into recessed areas on the L-shaped foam pieces just outside of the plywood deck. Plastic banding is then wrapped around the cased unit fitting into recessed areas on the underside of the L-shaped foam pieces at the base of the pallet. The extended portions of the "L" accommodate the forks of lifting equipment. Amsco conducts drop testing for each ready-to-ship pallet. "Our domestic shipments will go in the same packaging configuration" says McCallum "when we get FDA approval. We've been very satisfied with the packaging components. They fully integrate into our manufacturing process let us single-source all the packaging materials and get our new sterilizer to the customer without damage."
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