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Air express

Aircraft parts supplier uses "suspension packaging" to guarantee that expensive electronic components make it safely to airline customers worldwide.
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FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy
     

Aircraft parts suppliers often have unusual packaging requirements. Many must ship comparatively small quantities of sometimes delicate always costly components around the globe. And often in containers that must be used again for returning parts. Hamilton Standard Commercial Aircraft Electronics of Colorado Springs CO is a prime example. Part of United Technologies the company builds electronic fuel controls for turbine engines as well as electronic controls to regulate cabin pressure and temperature on most airliners. HSCAE environmental controls are installed on all Boeing airplanes including the new 777. Although they may weigh less than 10 lb and easily fit inside a briefcase these electronic controls are very costly ranging up to $200 per unit. At those prices "a lot depends on how well our products are protected during shipment" stresses Alex Hawkins materials logistics coordinator for HSCAE. "We can't take chances with our packaging." The company recently switched from die-cut foam for packing its control units to Korrvu® suspension packaging supplied by Sealed Air (Danbury CT). The Korrvu system suspends a product in the air space created between two corrugated frames covered by a flexible transparent film. The film is designed to hold the product snugly in place protected from impact even if the shipping container is dropped. Hawkins explains that the custom-designed suspension frames and film provide the security the company needs when shipping sensitive high-value equipment to aircraft manufacturers and airlines around the world. In addition the new system saves a great deal of storage space compared to the die-cut foam packs formerly used. Simplified ordering inventory "The Korrvu packaging can be stored flat so it takes up very little space" says Hawkins. "The foam packs were already formed up when we received them and they took up a tremendous amount of storage space. We've reduced the space needed to store packaging materials by 95 percent." Moreover Hawkins says HSCAE formerly needed 23 different die-cut foam designs to accommodate its line of about 30 products. "Even so some foam cushions didn't always fit exactly right" he says. Since switching to the suspension packaging the company can package all its various control units using just 10 frame and film designs. Because the film is flexible it conforms to slight variations in product size and shape without requiring a different package design. This makes ordering and controlling inventory much easier Hawkins notes. Hamilton Standard ships parts to customers worldwide so the company is keenly aware of international standards for packaging and package recycling. "We needed a packaging system that would be accepted into foreign countries where environmental laws may prohibit certain types of packaging" says Hawkins. "For instance if foam packaging is not considered recyclable the customer may just remove the product and send the container back collect. "Shipping costs are high enough without having to pay for empty boxes coming back. The Korrvu system is totally recyclable so that's not a concern now." Reuse too When a component must be returned to HSCAE for repairs airline customers are often able to send back the old part in the same carton and the same suspension frames in which they received the new part. "This is critical for customers at airports where they rarely have packaging on hand for a return shipment" says Hawkins. "Package designs for our smaller products-those that weigh less than 10 pounds-hold up for several round trips. And we're working on designs for heavier products so we'll be able to use those for three or four trips as well." The suspension frames are easy to assemble and use says Hawkins which is important because HSCAE has no dedicated shipping department. Product packing and shipping may be performed by any of the company's 80 manufacturing technicians certified in packaging. Ease of use is also important for customers who must re-use the shipping container for a return he notes. "Being able to reuse our packaging is not only cost effective for us but helps fulfill our commitment to a sound environmental program" Hawkins says. "We have reduced our packaging material costs by 36 percent saving $15 in packaging costs last year. It feels good when you're able to do what's right for the environment and save the company money at the same time. "If the 'three environmental Rs' are Reduce Reuse and Recycle our new packaging has easily made the grade on all three" Hawkins concludes.

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