AIAG publishes new returnable container performance testing guidelines

Smithers Pira technical director Michael Kuebler chairs the Container Standardization Team formed by AIAG to research and update guidelines for returnable containers in the automotive industry.

Returnable shipping containers - plastic palletsThe Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) supports the automotive industry supply chain by addressing challenges facing OEMs and suppliers. Through involvement from its members, teams are formed to collaborate and develop recommendations or guidelines for a variety of quality or supply chain management issues. Recently, Smithers Pira Technical Director, Michael Kuebler, was chosen to chair the Container Standardization Team in an effort to research and update guidelines for returnable containers in the automotive industry.

The goal of the AIAG Container Standardization Team was to evaluate the RC-9 Container Performance Guidelines document for opportunities to improve the evaluation techniques. The guidelines were originally developed to provide OEMs and suppliers with techniques to evaluate the various returnable packaging options available on the market for use in their supply chain.  Many of the procedures focused on simple pass / fail types of evaluations and lacked quantifiable data that could be used for comparison. Also, updating the testing procedures to account for changes within the supply chain was required.

The result was the revised RC-9 Container Performance Test Guidelines, which will assist packaging manufacturers as well as the users of these containers with test procedures designed to best compare packaging types. The tests included are intended to challenge the containers with forces that are related to the hazards present in typical handling environments.  The procedure is broken into three types of containers and evaluates the following performance characteristics:

1. Large Bulk Containers (i.e. pallet boxes requiring mechanical handling):

  • Side wall strength when horizontal forces are applied (changes included variable speeds during impact testing)
  • Side wall strength when vertical forces are applied
  • Base strength in a dynamic situation (added base deflection measure as a part of the vibration testing)
  • Base strength in a static situation
  • Robustness of integrated container legs (added a vertical movement stop criteria)

2. Small Bulk Containers (i.e. hand totes that can be moved manually):

  • Corner and base strength when dropped (created a more consistent drop sequence)
  • Side wall strength when vertical forces are applied
  • Base strength in a dynamic situation (added a base deflection measure as a part of the vibration testing)
  • Base strength in a static situation

3. Pallets:

  • Resistance to bending during forklift movement
  • Resistance to bending during a warehouse racking situation
  • Overall strength when vertical forces are applied
  • Robustness of integrated container legs (added a horizontal movement stop criteria)

“At Smithers Pira, we commonly have to evaluate the full effect of the supply chain from dock to dock,” explains Michael Kuebler. “The automotive industry has a unique set of supply chain challenges that we had to consider during this process. The result was an improved set of guidelines that will help OEMs and suppliers moving forward.”

The new standard can be purchased at the AIAG website by both members and non-members.