Packing and Crating Professionals in the Spotlight
People in the industry. How they got here and where they're going.
Maybe even a humorous story!
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Outsource Packaging - South Africa
How did you get started in the crating industry?
Hi there, my name is Alex Baisch, the managing Director of Outsource Packaging – South Africa. I have been in the industry close on four years and ended up in the crating industry by default. I bought Outsource Packaging as a going concern from a friend of mine whom I was at university with. On the face of it, it was a great little business offering good returns and showed excellent potential – Our team has managed to grow the business approximately 150% over the past three years.
What was one of the most difficult item you had to crate? Why was it difficult and how did you solve it? (If you have multiple stories, please tell them)
We had to crate and ship two diamond sorting plants on behalf of De Beers diamond mining group. These had to cross the ice roads up to Snap Lake and Victor in Canada. The difficulty in providing to solution to the client was the extreme weather that components would be exposed to during the journey. Would you like to read more about it? Please visit our Projects page
What do you think was your greatest success in the industry?
The crating and containerizing of 115 x 40” containers including over 500 crates in an eleven week period and having all goods arrive in India in good order.
How did you become educated or learn your trade?
I learnt my trade through the people I took the business over from, and by being very hands on in all aspects of our business. It took me approximately 24 months to get a total grip and now things feel like second nature. I am more motivated now to grow the business develop new revenue streams and to have fun in what I do.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I would like to have an efficient and automated crating business on possibly a global basis, and to have enjoyable time doing it. The challenge therein lies to become competitive in order to operate globally
The old saying of "love your job and you will never work a day in your life" does not apply with the crating industry. Seriously though, after 15 years in the crating industry, I can say that I do thoroughly enjoy my work and am proud to serve our customers. My name is Dan McDonald, I am the Vice President of Crate Tech Inc. I have been with Crate Tech for just over 15 years now.
I can remember walking into a prospective customers facility on a Friday afternoon to look at a "special project" that needed crated for air shipment the following week. Pretty standard stuff until I turned the corner and saw a 777 Flight Simulator. As I dove into measuring and taking notes, I was approached by a couple gentleman that pointed out to me that there will be a cargo jet waiting to load these crates at 2:00 on Friday at a rate of $100,000. per hour. That following week myself and Crate Tech's "A-Team" worked around the clock (literally), some of us logging 91 hours that week. On Friday at 10:00 a.m., we began loading the last flatbed of crates. Our crew literally dropped our nail guns and other tools and threw our hands in the air once the last crate got buttoned up. We didn't realize it, but up on the mezemine in the facility, about 20 employees of this company started applauding us for our work! It was really at that point that I realized how much I truly enjoy this industry. It was a week later when I received a call from the customer letting me know that this shipment was the first for them that had ever made it 100% on-time, and without even a scratch. With that shipment, we truly earned a great partnership with this customer and continue daily to meet there needs.
I started out with Crate Tech building crates, moved into a forklift driver position, then into a delivery driver spot. I would return from runs and hand the owner scribbled notes on companies that I saw while making deliveries that had crates in their yard. One day after a few months of doing this, my boss handed me back the piece of paper, and said "here, how about you make the contact for me?" That day, I became the first actual sales rep for our company. I found a positioned that I truly enjoyed. I would tell prospective customers that "I'm not a salesman, I'm an informant", which actually was the case, I didn't know how to sell (still don't) but I did know how to tell them about our products and our services. This is still the manner in which I pass on information. I put on seminars regarding Export Packaging and Inventory control solutions within our product mix, etc. and not to plug Crate Tech, but to just give companies the information they need to process shipments successfully.
My 9 year old son introduces me to his friends or team mates as: "this is my dad, he is a crater".
Nefab - Global
Global Business Development Manager
I’m Carey Smith and I work at Nefab’s North American head office which is just outside of Toronto Ontario in the Global Business Development department… and here is my story!
Ever since I was a little kid, what interested me the most for a career was the opportunities and struggles of being an entrepreneur. The fact that the decisions I could make would result in business, or potential loss of customers, really fascinated me, and still does! In knowing this, I went the route of getting an education encompassing different faucets of business locally/globally. This way, whether I wanted to start my own business or enter into an already existing organization the skills would be transferrable.
My crating career began through a friend of mine. She worked at Nefab and told me stories of how the industry as a whole was one big opportunity that an entrepreneur could thrive in! Instantly I was intrigued and began researching how I could fit. With little to no carpentry skills (and I mean little!) or knowledge of packaging as a whole, I knew I would be behind my peers in the industry… the learning started. From reading books, different website information and internal Nefab info as a whole, I was able to gain a good initial grasp to approach the industry. Wet behind the ears I began in the market research dept, and then moved on to sales and with some steps sideways, into the position I have today.
Throughout the years I have overcome many challenges or at least tried to turn those challenges into experience. I recall one of my first sales visits to an aerospace manufacturer. I was so excited when I got my foot in the door that when I did make the sales call, I ended up with what we call “mouth diarrhea”, where I began to promise things that I or the crating itself simply couldn’t do… After all, we have to remember that different materials each have their place in packaging, as crating is a very niche market and is for niche applications. In any event, as time went by I got some hands-on experience and learned to listen to the customer vs. admire my own voice and sales started to happen! Another challenge I faced early on was the “you’re too young” mentality of my peers. To explain; I would go into an operation that made crates ‘in house’ by the hundreds to meet with all of their carpenters and procurement people, who questioned me solely on my age (age = no knowledge to them) vs. the opportunities I could see to be a fit. Luckily, I suppose my method of thinking shone through because not only are they a big customer of mine but are now a huge part of my referral network!
If I were to recommend one thing to both crating companies and to crate users/purchasers it would be to be open minded. Not everything is black and white and the ways that worked 20+ years ago may not be best suited in today’s economical times. A crate doesn’t have to be built like a cement house to do the job. People who see your operation can be sources of information as they might be able to see things you may not, simply due to you being stuck in your company’s way of thinking – embrace it. The saying “we can learn a lot from those who think differently than we do” has never been truer than in today’s workplace. Working together will produce far more results than doing the same thing that has been done for years simply due to fear of change. Remember, “nothing changes when nothing changes” so if you’re looking to reduce costs or looking for crating that offers benefits your existing solution may not – don’t fear change. After all, change isn’t always a bad thing… be unique, care for your customer, and offer an amazing crating solution and the rest will take care of itself!
Make it a great day!
Diane Gibson has 24 years of experience in the packaging and shipping industry. As president and founder of Craters & Freighters, Ms. Gibson is responsible for the operations and strategic direction of the company and its franchise locations across the United States.
Ms. Gibson created the specialty freight industry with the launch of Craters & Freighters in 1990, and established a nationwide bricks and mortar network of packaging, crating, and shipping centers offering a wide variety of solutions for businesses and consumers with unique and specific shipping needs.
Following the success of Craters & Freighters, Ms. Gibson formed Craters & Freighters Global Logistics in 2005 to meet the unique packaging and logistic needs of national and international companies with high-value, time-critical and multiple pick-up and delivery requirements around the world.
Ms. Gibson is a member of the International Franchise Association, a nationwide organization for franchise company owners and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. She also serves as a board trustee for Providence Network, which provides transformation-housing programs designed to fight homelessness in Denver, CO.
Specialized Shipping - USA
Q: How did you get started in crating?
A: My experience with crating goes back to when I was a Merchant Marine Engineering Officer working on oil tankers. We often had machined parts from equipment on the ship that would need to be sent shore side for service work. Most of this equipment was machined to such high tolerances that the smallest amount of damage would render it useless. The crates that I built for those parts could practically survive a fall off a high rise building.
Specialized Shipping entered into crating industry essentially due to repeated requests from our customers that we packaged their other shipments. We had a request to crate several dozen locomotive batteries that finally made us make the move towards crating. Combining some past experience with crating and using Deploy Tech's Crate Pro 5 the shipment worked out perfectly.
Q: Do you have an interesting story about a unique or difficult product you’ve crated?
A: Aside from crating which is just one of the services we provide, dangerous goods packing consists of 99% of the projects we perform. Between my partner and myself we have almost 40 years experience handling and preparing hazardous materials for transportation. The company we form has been in business 3 years and we have prepared for transportation some very unusual items. We had a series of gas turbine shipments consisting of 2 to 4 gas turbines each valued at 2.4 million dollars, a human umbilical cord for an emergency heart surgery, equipment from a Scramjet engine and an endless list of exotic cars some of which are not even in production yet. The oddest request for a packing project involved a liquid that was reportedly secreted from a voodoo statue that made people ill. The customer requested the sample to be sent to a laboratory for further testing. Needless to say we declined the project.
As for difficult shipments, we have had our fare share. One assignment Specialized Shipping undertook consisted of over 430 individual dangerous goods shipments each to a different consignor to be packed, prepared, and documented and out of our facility in a matter of 36 hours. Another notably difficult shipment was a laboratory packing project. By the time the shipment was completed our dangerous goods declaration consisted of 112 different UN numbers, 328 entries and was 46 pages long. The shipment was checked by the airline with three people and went off without a hitch.
Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for new craters getting into the industry?
A: The best advice that I can offer to anyone entering into the industry as well as those already in it is really do whatever it takes within reason to meet your customer’s needs. This is the type of industry where everything needs to be completed yesterday, so any delay in service is an opportunity for a competitor to move in. Dealing mainly with air cargo, most flights are set for Saturday so come Thursday and Friday our 9 to 5 operation becomes 5 to 9, its just part of the business. The key to our success has been that we have been able to deliver when others could not.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: It is really hard to say where Specialized Shipping as a company will be as well as myself in 10 years. That’s one of the great things about life there are some many possibilities and surprises along the route. I would hope to see Specialized Shipping in other strategic locations. Along with expanded locations, an increased number of services and products to assist our customers would definitely need to be developed. I would hope to see myself as a more knowledgeable person for the experiences and be able to pass along that education to others.
Specialized Packaging Solutions - USA
An industry veteran, Paul has worked in the packing and crating arena for 34 years. In fact, when buyers for major corporations or government sub-contractors have a question on crating and design, they turn to Paul for advice.
His no-nonsense approach and exceptional industry experience spurred Intel to hire Paul as the author of the corporation’s “Packing and Crating Manual,” the standard Intel requires their employees and vendors to follow. Paul also collaborated with Jeff Duck on the new Crate-Pro
crate design and costing computer program.
For the past 10 years Paul’s career has developed as Director of Engineering for Specialized Packaging Solutions, Inc. located in Newark, California. Specializing in the aerospace and commercial fields, Paul’s designs range from the largest container at 40-feet long, by 9-feet wide and 10-feet tall to more intricate designs that use foam floater decks, ramps, racks and other creative options to ensure safe product transportation.
Evolving from old-school pencil-and-paper drawings to today’s efficient CAD designs, Paul has been able to advance crating projects to consider all aspects of the container’s lifetime, from in-use to transport environment..
“There will always be a need for wooden crates,” explained Paul. “Yet, I see so many poor crating designs that forget best practices and industry standards. It always gets me when a client will deliver a $100,000 product that was destroyed by bad crate design. Then they ask me to fix it. Take the correct steps the first time around, work closely with the designer and ask a lot of questions before committing to a crate design.”.
After studying at San Jose State University, Paul continued his education with packing and crating classes, focusing on military specs, through the Institute of Packaging Professionals and test data interpretation at the Lansmont Test Center in Monterey, California. He also was instrumental in helping Specialized Packing Solutions receive Lockheed Martin’s AS9003 certification and is the company’s quality manual supervisor.
Chick Packaging - USA
Bob is currently located in Los Angeles, California.
Chick currently has eleven locations in the US and one in Germany.
How did you get into the crating business?
A close friend referred me to a local packing company shortly after I graduated from High School
How long have you been in the business?
Beginning January, 1977 I started as a general helper packing items for the military as well as replacement parts for the Alaska pipeline. After learning the basics, I started moving up the ladder within the company to shipping and receiving. From there I became the Military Packaging Manager. In 1989 I accepted the Purchasing Manager role while still keeping the Quality Control Manager Title. In the packing business, you learn to wear many hats. Spending several years in various types of middle management has given me great experience to perform my current role as General Manager for LA California division. I have been employed by Chick Packaging for over twelve years.
What’s the most interesting thing you ever crated?
The company I’ve been working with for over ten years has packaged a lot of items for Disney. Having the warehouse full of the “Tower of Terror” items or measuring items in motion at Disney so once they pass quality control, they are immediately packed for airfreight to any of the Disney amusement parks around the world.
Also, having to replace dry ice around a penguin being shipped to the Smithsonian.
Shipping a seventy foot Christmas tree on a dedicated 747 to Singapore.
What was the largest and heaviest items you’ve packed:
Box Length: 112 feet – Oilwell Drilling Equipment – Destination - Korea
Fabricated in Orange, California
Box Width: 17feet – Radio Telescope – Destination – Chile
Fabricated in Pasadena, California @ Caltech
Box Height: 21 feet – Compressors – Destination – Saudi Arabia
Fabricated in Torrance, California
What are some of the challenges because of the size and weight?
Engineering the best method to pack and protect the item. Many countries receiving large items we ship to do not have the equipment located at major US ports. This sometimes requires us to over build items to insure they are protected when instructions are not followed.
The box was a 70,000 pound press and was stenciled that a spreader bar must be used when lifting with a crane. It was lifted by a crane with a single hook pressing the cable against the top edges of the box.
Other challenges include permit restrictions where loads can not travel during heavy traffic times or on weekends
What was the smallest/ most fragile thing you’ve crated?
Static sensitive electronic parts for the military. Operators have to wear wrist straps and boot straps to discharge any static build up that could weaken or burn out critical electronic components.
What is the farthest you’ve traveled for work?
Bechtel in Frederick, Maryland was responsible for overseeing the installation and fabrication of a coal fired power plant and wanted all parties responsible for transporting the unit to travel the route of the freight.
Is there anything humorous you want to share about your time in crating or about crating?
When a person called to ask for a quote to crate a 19” television. When I asked her for the dimensions the response was, what part of 19” don’t you understand?
What advice could you give to people who want to get into crating?
Apprentice under someone who has years of experience. The beauty with export packing is you are always designing a package for many one of items. It does not get boring. The key point is to educate customers not to cut corners that jeopardize safety or the product being shipped. Spending a few more dollars insures the product arrives at the destination in the same condition it left the shipper.
The other piece of advise would be to always consider what the receiving party has to go through to unpack the product. Design to minimize the effort in unpacking such as using a simple solution as drywall screws on artwork or other fragile items instead of closing with nails.
. Crate Pro 5.
It allows my sales staff to generate a bill of materials and labor estimate to develop quotations without long handing it out every time. There is no need to train them how a box is designed; the program takes care of that aspect.
Peter Hyde is the Production Manager for Rojay World Freight Ltd, based in the UK approximately 35 miles outside of London in a Town called Aldershot “ Home of the British Army”,
I have been involved in packing for the past 36 years, for the first 20 primarily packing British Ministry of Defense items, to suit long term storage of up to 5 years, for the Army, Royal Navy & Air Force.
But that work has decreased and we now specialize in bespoke packing & project work.
The largest item that I have been involved with in recent years was a Challenger 604 aircraft that crashed at Birmingham airport in 2002 and after investigations had been completed by the Air Accident Investigation Branch at Farnborough, we were asked to crate it and ship it back to the USA via Sea/Air to Chicago.
The wings, engines, tail section & interior were crated; the fuselage was wrapped, blocked & strapped to a 40 foot trailer.
The variation of items we have packed over the years is too long to list, but as an example over the past 2 days I have been working on
- A Large Ceramic Vase going to Korea for competition
- Large curved glass panels for a new building frontage in Singapore, 40 tonnes over next 2 months .air and sea transport
- Food X ray machines for the USA & China.
- A 5 metre long filtration unit weighing 4 tonnes to India by sea.
The thing I like about the case supply & packing industry is the variation of products to be packed + the individual approach you have to take with each ,taking into account, size, weight, fragility, humidity, loading/unloading & delivery here and in country.
Nothing is the same you always have to think on your feet, you do not get a second chance, the item must arrive safely.
But after all your efforts it can still go wrong, we packed a special project of very large single cell batteries, going by sea to Bangladesh the cases were over 1500 kg each, after safe arrival at port, they were loaded onto a small boat to ship them to site, they loaded the boat to capacity, but decided to put one more on, it immediately sank to the bottom of the sea.
I am on my final lap of working life with only 8 years to go until my retirement at 65, so my priorities are to pass some of my knowledge and methods onto the next generation of case makers and packers.
Thanks to WoodenCRATES.org, we have a new international customer. They didn't understand barrier bagging or ISPM requirements and needed a crating company that could take care of their international crating needs. Now they're going to be a repeat customer. WCO gave us exposure that we couldn't have had otherwise.