If you talk to most traditional wood crate manufacturers and suggest that wood crates are headed toward obsolescence because wood is no longer an ideal packaging material, you are likely to get a very lively response. For some, the suggestion is that wood crates have functioned well for many years, so there is no need to change something that works.
Your company likely has a preferred wood crate supplier. They have been doing top-quality work for you for a long time, so you have no intention of making a supplier change. However, consider that recent advancements in alternative crating products and methods can better protect your company’s shipments, lower costs, and increase valuable space in your warehouse. As a result, many wood crate manufacturers now offer some of these alternatives.
Why Wood Shipping Crates Are Becoming Obsolete
Our research and experience suggest that as much as 90% of wood crates can be replaced with a better solution. The other 10%? Some niche businesses will likely remain packaged in wood crates because there are certain, very specific, circumstances where wood will still be preferred – but that doesn’t change the fact that wood crates are no longer the ideal solution for heavy-duty protection. We need to better understand the “why” that is driving the change and what alternatives are replacing wood crates.
In Many Cases, Wood Crates are No Longer an Ideal Solution
- Wood crates are heavy, making them expensive to ship and hard to move around. They are not as easily customizable as you might think and customization quickly gets very expensive. These traditional crates are shatter-prone. With as little as one impact from a forklift, they start breaking apart at the seams.
- Businesses that use wood creates can experience workplace injuries and structure damage, both of which are very costly.
- Older wood shipping creates are not forgiving. You have to use additional packaging material to protect your product from your wood packaging. In addition, they are time-consuming to open, close, and pack.
- There is limited reuse opportunity, and they come with expensive disposal costs.
4 Alternatives That are Decreasing the Demand for Wood Crates
1) Heavy-Duty Corrugate / Hybrid Crates
Longstanding, heavy-duty corrugate solutions or a hybrid of wood and corrugate are potential alternatives. Standard corrugate solutions reduce the weight of the shipment and are easier to handle. They work very well in non-stacking, short ship cycle, and closed-loop applications. These are often used for retail distribution, store-to-store, as well as for moving product offsite through multi-step manufacturing processes. In these scenarios, shipping and handling conditions are highly controlled and lower levels of crate performance are needed or expected.
2) Knockdown Pine Wood Crates
Another more recent development is the knockdown pine wood, box style with metal interlocking edges. These are good for products that need more protection compared to a standard corrugated box but do not need the performance of wood crates. This style works well when stacking strength, durability and higher protection levels are not necessary. This style is used for small, heavy, and dense items such as motors and pumps. Presented in a knocked-down format, they are beneficial when storage space is limited.
3) Plastic Bin Crates
Plastic bin crates are a wood crate alternative often used in high-volume operations. These are typically used in bulk food and auto parts distribution environments.This style works well as an alternative to wood crates in a closed-loop, returnable system. The use of plastic returnable bin crates has eliminated the need for wood crates in many high-volume applications. Plastic bins and crates are most often offered in either a nestable or collapsible form for return shipping. They are easy to wash and sanitize, making them a preferred shipper for bulk food.
4) Metal Roadable Racking
Like Plastic, metal reusable roadable racking has replaced another large segment of the wood crate industry. There are many applications where the parts are very large and/or heavy requiring a more robust shipping container than what is found in plastic, standard corrugate, and even wood applications. Also, metal structures allow for the downsizing of the shipping unit from previous wood designs. It takes much less metal than it does wood to construct a comparable shipper. In addition, metal roadable solutions are often presented in a collapsible format for return shipping and are much less susceptible to supply chain wear and tear that so significantly limits the reuse of wood crates.
More Factors Driving Wood Crates Toward Obsolescence
- As we have learned in the pandemic era, wood prices are extremely volatile. They have can swing wildly from reasonable to insanely expensive in a matter of a few short days or weeks. Most experienced buyers know that they cannot depend on consistent pricing in their wood crate purchases and are looking for stable costs.
- Wood is a very heavy material. In some cases, the weight of a wood crate is 2-3x the weight of the product going into the crate. This means that a good chunk of your shipping cost is wrapped up in shipping the crate itself.
- Wood is risky. It is risky to people, structures, and the product being packed inside of it. How might you ask? Wood is very unforgiving. If your people, structures, or product come into contact with it, you have a high probability of damaging something or someone. This is not a new issue; it happens all of the time. Add in the variables associated with building your own crates and the risks escalate exponentially. The performance needed was worth the risk for many years but the risk is no longer acceptable in modern manufacturing and distribution supply chain systems.
- Wood has limited use. A top-tier wood crate manufacturer can do some amazing things and it may appear there are no limits, but this is not true. The performance of a wood crate is directly tied to the materials used, and material choices are very limited. A few thicknesses and a few board grades, available in limited sizes, are all they have to work with, and each choice has performance implications. The tradeoffs between weight/cost and performance are drastic. Want a lighter-weight, less expensive wood crate? Then expect a significant reduction in performance. Want a high-performance crate? Then the crate will be very heavy and costly. There is no middle ground when it comes to wood crates.
Ecorrcrate® is the New and Better Alternative
Resistance to change is one of life’s greatest risks. Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time talking to wood crate manufacturers about Ecorrcrate. So how is it that one wood crate company decides that Ecorrcrate is the crate of the future and the next one says that it will never be a viable replacement for wood crates? We know the second isn’t true because we see the results across nearly all industries. Our solutions are replacing wood crates at rates that suggest it’s the crate of the future.
The simple fact is that any wood crate manufacturer can easily make Ecorrcrate. That’s right, our solution is basically manufactured on the same equipment used to manufacture wood crates. So you the customer could purchase a top-quality built, conveniently & superiorly shipped solution from your current crate supplier if they can see how this is a win for you AND for them.
From the ground up, the cost/benefit tradeoff in our material can be dialed into your specific application. Four common structures cover 90% of crating applications and Ecorrcrates are easily customizable to meet virtually any performance criteria.
How Does Ecorrcrate Set Itself Apart from Other Wood Crate Alternatives?
Being a corrugate-based product, it may appear that Ecorrcrate is constructed in a traditional “box” fashion. Our material is actually manufactured with a specialty, cross-laminated corrugate which is a unique proprietary construction. This specialty corrugate has extreme strength and is able to perform on the same level as wood. Its performance takes over where longstanding, heavy-duty corrugate solutions leave off. There is no standard corrugate product or corrugate-wood hybrid, that can perform like an Ecorrcrate. They are not robust enough to significantly impact the use of wood crates, they are simply a niche solution for those that can use this style.
Knockdown Pine Boxes
Although a good alternative to wood crates for lighter-weight applications, pine boxes with metal edges have some downsides. These downsides include injury pinch points created by the interlocking metal edges, a lack of durability needed in hostile shipping environments, and low-level stackability. Although a somewhat lightweight alternative to other wood shippers, this style will still add unnecessary shipping weight to the package. Ecorrcrates are often 15-20% lighter and will also give you much higher levels of performance. Pine boxes are a niche solution, particularly for small items, but the cost-to-benefit ratio is not enough as the size increases.
Plastic Bin Crates
Plastic bin crates are reserved for high-volume use within a very small dimensional range. They are too costly for one-time use so they must be reused to be cost-effective. Plastic bin crates are only available in a small set of standard sizes. Customization is prohibitively expensive in small volumes because of the cost of custom tooling. At the end of use, plastic bin crates head straight to the landfill. On the other hand, Ecorrcrates are easily customizable and have great reuse durability. If one part of our shipping solution is damaged, that single part can easily be replaced. The cost of maintenance is low. And even better, when an Ecorrcrate reaches its end of use, simply place it in the corrugated recycle bin. In this ever-changing world, why get locked into a big investment on a shipper size that will eliminate any flexibility you may need for years to come?
Metal Roadable Racks
Talk about heavy, metal roadable racks are the heaviest in the list of alternatives. Of course, users of metal racks have the perception that heavy is better because they are often shipping heavy products. This perception includes a misconception that Metal roadable racks are invincible. They are manufactured by welding metal pieces together making them readily customizable, but the metal welds do break more easily than you might think. The inflexibility of metal means that any unusual movement causing the weight of the metal rack to twist on itself and then stress the welds has the potential to pop one, metal shippers are expensive to maintain. Metal racks are made from non-renewable resources and have high disposal costs at the end of use. Ecorrcrates are surprisingly resilient, non-brittle, and flexible. Rather than bend and break, Ecorrcrates bounce and rebounds making them an ideal reusable shipper in place of metal roadable racks.
Four Benefits of Switching to Ecorrcrate
1) Cost-effective Customization
In many industries, there are standard-size products that have the lowest purchase price. The size may not be ideal, but you decide it is “close enough” because a custom size is much more expensive. Unfortunately, those extra inches will cost you more in your shipping costs. We streamlined the Ecorrcrate manufacturing process to cost-effectively construct your perfectly sized, custom crate so that you are not punished for buying a custom size.
2) Durable Reuse
Ecorrcrate is very durable, and our customers report high reuse rates. Some customers actually made the switch from a lower purchase price product to our solutions because the reuse turn rates were so much higher that, the cost per use is much lower than the “cheaper” alternative. The flexibility in the Ecorrcrate materials also allows it to absorb shocks and hits, and then rebound back. The cross-laminated materials make our components strong in all directions, a key component in Ecorrcrate durability.
3) Improved Storage and Reuse Transportation Efficiency
All of our products arrive in a collapsed format, ready for set-up and use. This greatly improves storage density prior to use, keeping the crates out of your way until you need them. They can be knocked back down into the collapsed format to be shipped back and reused. The collapsible format reduces shipping costs both on the inbound side and outbound side of your business.
4) Environmental Impact
Ecorrcrates are proudly made in the USA from domestically manufactured materials. The demand for sustainable products has never been greater and so we are also proud to be providing a product that has one of the lowest environmental footprints of its kind. We purpose to improve our world and leave no footprint.
Contact Us or Become a Ecorrcrate Manufacturer
Considering making the switch to Ecorrcrate? Need more information? Want to know who in your industry is using Ecorrcrate? Take a few minutes to see for yourself. Don’t see what you are looking for? Contact us to receive information specific to your market and challenges.
Are you a wood crate builder interested in new technologies to add value to your customer relationships? We are looking for you to be a manufacturer of Ecorrcrate in your local or national market. Reach out to Dean Andree (firstname.lastname@example.org), National Affiliate Network Director to start the conversation.