Thinking inside the box
The Transportation Security Administration's requirement that half ' and next year 100 percent ' of all cargo shipments tendered to passenger airlines be screened is complicated by the agency's definition that a shipment equals a box.
That means a multi-lot shipment of 100 pairs of shoes does not count as one container or pallet for screening all at once, but as 100 separate boxes that must be individually screened. The requirement makes it more difficult to use consolidated shipments because freight forwarders and airlines must remove shrink wrap from pallets or unload containers, deconsolidate the boxes for screening and then put them back together.
Some shippers are getting around the restriction by redesigning their packing process.
Albert Saphir, a logistics consultant in Marietta, Ga., has three or four clients who have abandoned shrink wrapped pallets in favor a large cardboard box with a removable side or lid. The box is commonly referred to as an 'over-pack,' a 'D-container' or 'Power Pack.'
The boxes are custom made for the product and the lower deck size limitations of passenger aircraft. They are stapled and banded to the skid for extra stability.
The self-contained box allows the shipper to declare the shipment as one unit that only has to be screened once, saving money on screening facility charges, Saphir said.
The box costs a bit more ' about $8 to $15 apiece ' but users save time and money from shrink wrapping and can expect fewer lost, stolen or damaged items because no extra handling is required. Saphir said one customer has already gotten rid of its shrink wrap machine.
A large pharmaceutical and healthcare products manufacturer has used a similar process for years, and is now benefiting when it comes to participating in the Certified Cargo Screening Program. The company shrink warps its pallets and then puts a fiberboard shroud over it, which allows everything inside to be defined as one piece. (A source for the company requested that the corporation not be named in any article because of uncertainty over management's reaction to the coverage.)
The TSA considers an 'over box' an acceptable method for compliance if the air waybill shows the shipment as one piece headed to a single destination, explained Ed Kelly, the agency's air cargo chief. Shippers frequently pack several components boxes, such as for computers, in a large box. But putting loose cardboard pieces on each side of a pallet with multiple shipments to make it resemble a single box is considered cheating, TSA officials said.