Jane Gorick of Packaging Services Europe (PSE), the UK’s leading provider of wash, inspect and repair services for plastic pallets, crates and folding large containers, discusses best practice in the management of reusable transit packaging (RTP) – and offers some handy advice on keeping it looking, and acting, its best.
Over the past five years, RTP has seen a significant increase in popularity, thanks to its significant environmental, cost and hygiene benefits. However, if not treated with respect and maintained properly, it can prove to be a costly decision for businesses.
Converting to reusable packaging can represent a major investment for organisations, especially SMEs, but thinking about reusable packaging should not begin and end with the initial purchase. For companies to ensure they are getting the return on investment assumed at the outset, it is crucial that they remember to keep the packaging well maintained.
Indeed, in the same way that MOTs are a crucial part of owning a car, RTP owners should regularly inspect their assets and so make sure they’re getting the most out of their investment.
Best practice in maintenance
As part of the transition to reusable packaging, key dynamics such as asset longevity are paramount within the return on investment debate. Therefore, capturing damage and wear as early as possible is vital before the reusable packaging sustains catastrophic failure.
RTP should be regularly washed, inspected and, where necessary, repaired. If it is unable to be repaired, parts can be taken from damaged equipment which is beyond repair to use in the refurbishment of other units. Finally, should all else fail, the plastic can be recycled and returned to the original equipment manufacturer.
The washing stage is key for effective and safe operations, and should be undertaken regularly, using methods appropriate to the items being cleaned and the contaminants which need to be removed.
Better to be a Sinner than a Saint
As with any other form of washing, there are four key factors: temperature, time, chemistry and mechanical force. The concept was created by Dr Herbert Sinner in 1959 when he was head chemist of the Henkel detergent department. In the case of RTP, mechanical force refers to water pressure.
Dr Sinner’s Circle describes an economical, ideal cleaning process with a perfect interaction of the four parameters to ensure optimum removal of soil and maximum care of the load being processed. The sum of the parts should always equal 100%, meaning that if one parameter is reduced, other factors must be increased to compensate. Here, it really is better to be a Sinner than a Saint!
Factor 1: Action Temperature
Temperature is incredibly important in washing packaging as the process must deal with potential contamination. This is a particular issue if there are fats and proteins present, as proteins are removed at different temperatures from fats. These differences need to be taken into consideration to ensure that proteins are not “baked” onto the packaging.
Factor 2: Chemical Action
This represents the action of an acidic or alkaline detergent solution. The action is increased or decreased by the concentration of pure product contained in the solution (water plus product). In washing operations, this is monitored closely via a titration test.
Factor 3: Time
Most wash systems for re-usable packaging are linear, with a conveyor moving the equipment through various sections including pre-wash, main wash, rinse and a drying section. In a linear washing process, time is based on the running speed of the machine, which is measured in Hertz. Slowing the machine down or speeding it up gives the reusable packaging more or less time in each section of the machine.
Factor 4: Water pressure/ force
This is measured in Bar and invariably there is a balance between a high pressure and low volume of water or lower pressure and high volume of water. Ensuring the correct combination for the product type being washed make a huge difference to the cleaning result.
To access advice on best practice in keeping your reusable packaging in good condition, or a partner who can handle the whole job and develop the best solution for your specific requirements, call PSE.
Tel: 01524 261978