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Risk Mitigation for Material Transport: The Impact of Re-Using Shippers

Posted by Laura Brockdorff on Jan 24, 2018 10:00:00 AM

Ensuring your material is stored under appropriate conditions is only half the battle in preserving its integrity. Equally as critical is the precarious process of transporting your material to its destination, safely and in the same condition it was sent in. Maintaining the chain of custody is of utmost importance, and a large component of this is based on the vessel selected for transportation. Cracked Shipper.jpgIn this blog I will share some key items to consider when selecting shippers to transport your high value material.

When preparing your material for transportation, it’s important to consider the necessity of the following:

  • Qualified training in International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations
  • A qualified insulated shipping container (shipper) in good condition
  • A sufficient amount of the appropriate coolant
  • A reliable courier

Maintaining the temperature of your material and preserving its integrity during transit can be an expensive proposition – the cost of the coolant, of the expedited shipping, and of the shipper itself, all while complying with applicable regulations, adds up. Your procedures may allow the re-use of shippers to promote cost savings, but it’s important to consider the sturdiness of the shipper prior to re-use as well as the potential consequences to your material should the shipper fail.

The most commonly used and affordable shippers for temperature-sensitive material utilize two-inch thick inserts of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) in a cardboard exterior. Qualified shippers of this construction are widely available and are more than capable of maintaining the internal conditions required for your material during their initial use. However, EPS is known for its insulating properties rather than its soundness of form, and oftentimes these shippers incur structural damage by the time they reach their destination. Pre-used EPS shippers should be thoroughly inspected for the following:

  • Cracked insulation – Pay particular attention to the corners and edges. Even the smallest of imperfections will exacerbate during transport, leaving gaps that will compromise the internal temperature.
  • Missing/damaged staples – The bottom of the shipper will see the most wear-and-tear. If staples are lost or damaged, or the cardboard around the staples is tearing, then the bottom flaps may become loose, exposing the insulation to damage.
  • Tears and punctures – Any visible damage to the cardboard exterior should be covered with packing tape to prevent warm air from entering the package.

Shippers that may have suffered any of the above damage can no longer act as a seal between the outside environment and the necessary internal environment. This potentially exposes your material to contamination and physical damage, and allows the temperature inside the shipper to begin to equilibrate to the outside temperature. The quality of end-game material storage is irrelevant if integrity has already been jeopardized!

However, the danger in using damaged shippers is not limited to potential compromise of your material. Even as a damaged shipper allows external influences to reach your material, any hazards associated with your package are being released in equal measure. Consider all of the hands that touch the shipper between departure and arrival. Courier services hold the expectation that any hazardous material will be completely contained to ensure the safety of their employees; as a result, those employees may not be properly equipped to directly handle the risks associated with your package, such as hazardous coolant escaping from cracks and biological contamination from your material itself.

Maintaining material integrity at every point of transfer, from collection to transport, is imperative. For the sake your material’s integrity and the health and safety of individuals involved in the transportation of your package, reconsider the re-use of EPS shippers and instead consider the safe, reliable re-use of sturdier polyurethane shippers. Comprised of three-inch thick polyurethane sprayed and sealed into the cardboard exterior, these shippers provide optimal protection and temperature maintenance for your material. Due to the robustness of the polyurethane insulation compared to EPS inserts, these shippers may be reused multiple times without weakening or breaking (although we still recommend thorough inspection). Their initial cost – higher than that of EPS shippers – is mitigated by their potential for repeated re-use that is safe and secure for everything and everyone involved.

The best mode of transportation for moving your irreplaceable material from Point A to Point B may not be one you are familiar with. To learn more about the pros and cons associated with the well-known standard option vs. specialized transport services, download our InfoPoster below!

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