Crates, unlike many other industrial products, place high expectations on the buyer. The company has to make critical measurements of the item to be packaged, the pathway to the freight truck, and have numerous tools to actually pack and assemble the crate. This article will cover the basic tools that most industrial buyers will need. We will walk through an example of a small industrial company needing to crate a large water pump for shipment to a customer.
Before the order can be placed for the crate, a series of measurements must be taken. This requires a quality tape measure. Buy one from a local home improvement store. Look for a tape measure at least 12 feet long. The longer the tape measure the more expensive, heavy, and bulky it becomes. Choose one that best fits you needs. Buy from a major brand like Stanley, Dewalt, or Milwaukee. Cheap tape measures do not last and may not work very well. The tape measure will be used for a variety of measurements. A crate builder needs to know how large of a box is needed. Also, if any bolt holes or supports are needed, accurate measurements must be taken and communicated to the production team. Perhaps the most important measurement is to check that the doorways between the pump and the freight truck are large enough to fit a crate through! We have built crates for customers where there was only a half inch margin for fit.
Although a special tool won’t always be necessary, the weight of the pump needs to be calculated or measured. Both the crate maker and your shipping company need to know how much the finished and loaded crate will weigh within ~10%. If the weight ends up being much more than 2,000 pounds most freight carriers will require a forklift to load the crate into the truck if not using a loading dock.
Once the crate has arrived you will need some additional tools. First, you will need some way to lift the pump and put it into the crate. Whether you order a crate as just the panels or as fully assembled you need some means of lifting the pump into the air to put the base under it. A crane or forklift will likely be necessary for anything weighing much over a couple of hundred pounds.
Depending on how the crate was packaged, you will need some tool to open the lid of the crate to allow it to be packed. It may be secured with simple straps, in which case a utility knife or tin snips will be ideal. Screws may also be used. In that case, a screwdriver or a cordless impact will be ideal. Talk with your crate builder to ensure that the lid is held in a way that you can remove.
Once the pump is lowered into place, some bolts or screws should be used to attach it to the crate to prevent it from shifting in transit. A socket set or a cordless impact driver should be used depending on the exact fasteners. An impact driver is used for screws and lag bolts, a socket set is used for normal bolts.
Closing the crate can occur in multiple ways. There are proprietary fasteners like Klimps that snap into place, locking the top down. These are attached using a purpose-made hammer, although a regular hammer will work. Screws, lag bolts, construction staples, or nails are more common. Which method you want to use should be communicated to the crate builder to ensure that the crate is built with the closure method in mind. Crates can be designed to be reusable which would allow the top to be attached and removed with minimal damage. The cost increase is typically small so be sure to ask your crate supplier for this feature if you think there is a chance that the crate will be used again.
Finally, you need some means of moving the loaded crate to the truck for transit. This typically means either a pallet jack or forklift. If you are using a loading dock and the crate is very close by, most LTL drivers will be able to use their pallet jack to move the crate onto the truck. Otherwise, you will need either a pallet jack or a forklift. Some crates are built in ways that do not allow loading by pallet jack. Be sure when you are ordering that you communicate to the crate builder if you need forklift or pallet jack access.
Ordering a crate and packing it requires a significant amount of tools. Everything from basic material handling to the final assembly of the crate requires tools. These tools are simple, however, and are typically already in the inventory of most manufacturing companies. If not, these tools all have a variety of uses which make them helpful for a wide variety of business interests.