Less than four years after opening, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia Inc. (KMMG) celebrated the assembly of its one millionth vehicle on July, 11, 2013. With an annual production of 360,000 Sorento crossover utility vehicles and Optima midsize sedans, the plant will produce its 1.5 millionth vehicle this year.
To reduce waste and increase efficiency, parts are delivered to the West Point, GA, facility in reusable bulk containers made from plastic. More than 100 different components and subassemblies are shipped to the plant daily in these containers. When the containers are empty, they’re sent back to the suppliers to be refilled.
KMMG has used BulkStac collapsible containers since 2009, when the 800,000-square-foot plant opened. James Cox, production control specialist in packaging for KMMG, says the plant uses between 3,000 and 5,000 BulkStac and other bulk plastic containers. BulkStac containers are made by SSI Schaefer.
“The containers carry products for our assembly lines, paint shop and welding shop,” explains Cox. “We are a fork truck-free plant so [the containers] come stacked single- or double-high on a dolly with tow bars and hitches. All the containers are connected together: 24 per truck if single-stacked, and 48 if double-stacked.”
The containers have a raised height of 25 to 48 inches and a collapsed height of 12.75 to 29 inches. Cox says all of them withstand a lot of abuse, particularly their door hinges and release latches, and bases. However, he says that the BulkStac units’ high-strength plastic is better able to withstand the harsh manufacturing conditions.
According to Cox, KMMG especially likes that the containers are easy to erect and collapse. They feature recessed hinges that maintain a straight, flat wall inside the container, rather than exposed hinges that are subject to constant abuse. In addition, the containers are lightweight to ease handling and lower shipping costs.
Tier 1 supplier HS Automotive Alabama Inc. (HSAA) is another manufacturer that uses many BulkStac containers. HSAA produces rubber weather stripping, tubing and high- and low-pressure hoses for Kia, Hyundai, Chrysler and Mitsubishi. Throughout 2014, HSAA purchased 1,300 BulkStacs to replace triple-walled corrugated bulk containers.
“We move approximately 1,400 containers a week just to Chrysler, so we wanted to expand [our] inventory of reusable plastic containers,” notes Lee Hendricks, assistant manager of logistics for HSAA. “The corrugated containers usually had to be discarded after just one use.”
Hendricks likes the collapsible containers’ durable handle. He says that the other containers HSAA tried before BulkStac featured a spring-loaded handle that often fell apart.
“Inevitably, we would lose a spring, and the handle would no longer lock in place,” says Hendricks. “This required continual repairs to keep the containers operational.”
Along with a strong handle, the BulkStac features a periphery runner that improves stability and eliminates the need for a center foot, which can damage product in the container below. Curved, rather than straight, corners increase container strength and lessen the chance of the plastic splitting.
The container also has molded-in finger tabs on the walls for quick setup, snap-in release latches and a flat deck that optimizes usable internal cube space. Access doors on all four sides are optional for 34-, 42-, 45- and 50-inch-high containers.