One such vendor is Orbis Corp. which, for the past several decades, has helped various automakers become zero landfill by supplying their Tier 1 suppliers with reusable containers. These containers help the suppliers significantly reduce the amount of disposable packaging they use when shipping auto parts for assembly to General Motors, Subaru of Indiana, BMW and other automakers. Among the parts shipped are mirrors, air bags, steering wheels, center consoles, aerodynamic spoilers, shifters and exhaust pipes.
“Our containers help Tier 1 suppliers eliminate the need to buy expendable packaging over and over,” says Bret Carlson, engineering services director of Orbis Corp. “The containers also lessen the need for suppliers to break down and handle the packaging.”
Tier 1 suppliers use Orbis’ proprietary and custom reusable containers, as well as interior dunnage products. Proprietary products used include reusable plastic pallets, hand-held containers, top caps for containers and bulk bins.
Carlson says hand-held containers are an economic, environmental and efficient alternative to corrugated boxes or cases and protect products during assembly, processing, storage and distribution. Suppliers use various types of Orbis bins, boxes and totes that come in straight-wall, stack-n-nest and collapsible styles. These containers also are 100 percent recyclable.
“Each pallet load consists of 4 or 5 layers, each of which holds six multiple containers,” says Carlson. “The top cap covers the pallet, maintains uniform weight distribution for secure load stacking, and protects it from dust.”
Orbis offers top caps in injection-molded, structural foam or single sheet thermoformed versions, with footprints from 20 by 28 to 44 by 56 inches. The top caps also eliminate the use of banding, stretch wrapping and associated machinery.
The bulk bin is an integrated pallet with side walls that fold down, says Carlson. Made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, bulk bins are available in footprints from 32 by 30 inches to 78 by 48 inches, with heights of 16 to 50 inches. Model number HDR4845-34 is popular with Tier 1 suppliers.
“Custom containers are used when a supplier has a product that’s a bit longer than usual,” says Carlson. “These include cut-and-weld containers, which are two containers that have been cut and welded together.”
“Some parts, like center consoles, require part to part protection and use dunnage,” says Carlson. “Others, like exhaust pipes, don’t need the protection.”
Tier 1 suppliers, and their automaker customers, use Orbis products in areas such as stamping and body shops, trim and assembly. Orbis has manufacturing plants throughout North America, with several located in the Midwest states like Ohio and Kentucky. Containers and dunnage products are shipped to the suppliers from the closest Orbis plant.
“Our engineers maximize the number of parts in a container so as to optimize the number of containers needed by the supplier,” says Carlson. “Some of our containers can be used for up to 250 round-trips. Others have been in use for 20 years.”
Carlson says Orbis sales engineers meet regularly with Tier 1 suppliers and automakers to discuss their needs related to upcoming new car launches and refreshing their product lines. Engineers also get feedback on the products their customers would like to see Orbis offer-and let their customers know about the new innovations Orbis is working on.
“Automakers have packaging standards that Tier 1 suppliers must follow,” says Carlson. “We help suppliers meet and exceed those standards in a ‘green’ way.”