How much will the protective packaging for your next equipment build or manufacturing project cost? Of course, you want to protect your newly manufactured assets as best you can for over-the-road transit and outdoor storage, but you also want to keep costs contained where possible. So, when calculating the cost of equipment packaging for transport and storage, it’s important to consider all the factors that may impact your bottom line -- not just the cost of the material.
1. Size and configuration of equipment
The larger and dimensionally “awkward” your equipment is the harder and more expensive it will be to package and transport.
2. Packaging installation time
Labor overhead can get expensive quickly. It’s important to consider the time it will take your production employees to install your packaging solution. The packaging process should be simple and easy to understand for all employees. You want to find a balance that works with your production line and avoids bottlenecking and inefficiencies.
If you don’t have a packaging process in place yet, be sure to check out our starter template:
3. Warranty expenses and repair costs
It’s not uncommon for packaging to fail during transportation or become worn down and fail during outdoor storage. If this happens, equipment damage is likely to occur. The type of packaging you use, the distance the equipment will be traveling, and the time the equipment will be stored outdoors, can all increase or decrease the chance of equipment damage that leads to repair and warranty costs.
Along with physical damage, the actual appearance of the delivered equipment plays a factor as well. Customers most often expect an unblemished product upon delivery. Failing to deliver a clean new piece of equipment could result in loss of reputation and affect future orders.
4. Packaging methodObviously, the packaging solution you select will have a big impact on costs. Here are some of the most common packaging methods for heavy and large industrial equipment, and what you can expect to pay.
- Shrink wrap - One of the most common and cost-effective methods for heavy equipment packaging. On average you can expect to pay between $0.10-$0.15 per square foot for a standard 7 mil shrink wrap roll. And don’t forget to add on the cost of tape and other supplies you’ll need to secure the shrink wrap in place.
If your equipment is going to be traveling a long distance, or stored outdoors for a long period, it is common to apply an extra layer of shrink wrap for added protection but beware of moisture buildup as a result.
While shrink wrap is often the cheapest option, its low costs can come with drawbacks. The labor and time it can take to install, along with the variation in quality and consistency of the wrapping job, make it an overall riskier packaging option.
- Tarp or tarping service - This method can save on labor time as it’s usually a one size fits all option that only needs to be draped over your equipment and then secured. You can expect to pay between $.88 - $1.00 per square foot for a PVC cover or similar. This option is usually on the pricier side and doesn’t always provide the most secure fit.
Tarping can also be done by your selected freight company. This method can be an easy way to save on labor and increase your throughput. Expect to pay between $250-$350 per load for tarping protection of your equipment.
The drawbacks of tarping are the high prices and the unwillingness of many drivers to tarp large loads for fear of injury, etc. Also, like shrink-wrap, there can be inconsistencies in the quality of protection when utilizing tarps. Add to that, the likelihood of etching and scratching the equipment’s surfaces are considerable.
- Custom-fit cover - A custom cover is considered the gold standard for protection because it’s made to fit the exact dimensions of your equipment. Using a custom-fit cover for your equipment lends itself to faster installation which will dramatically cut down on labor overhead; a critical point if you’re experiencing labor shortages like so many manufacturers in 2021. A custom-fit means better protection for your equipment too, a tighter fitting cover will keep water and debris from entering while cutting down on etching/scratching during high-speed transit.
Usually, you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $2.00 - $2.50 per square foot depending on the number of covers you have made and the complexity of the cover.
- Crating - Wooden crating, when assembled properly, can provide excellent protection for your heavy equipment, giving the benefit of a pseudo-indoor, sheltered environment. Typically, crating costs can be estimated as a percentage of your product cost; usually around 1%-2%.
Some drawbacks of crating can be the time they take to assemble and install, the large amount of warehousing space they can occupy, and the amount of material waste they cause.
- Conestoga, partial cover trailer – This method of protection is another that depends on the freight company you choose to use. Conestoga and partial cover trailers provide quick protection, like tarping, that can increase your production throughput. The drawbacks of Conestoga and partial cover trailers are their sparse availability and high price tag. And don’t forget size limitations: the inside dimensions of most trailers are 100” wide by 110” tall, and most door frames for rear-loading trucks are only 98” wide. Expect to pay an extra 10% in freight costs to secure a partial cover or Conestoga trailer.
And while you may assume the equipment is safe since the trailer provides a sheltered environment, equipment damage can still occur. For good measure, many manufacturers will apply some form of packaging protection when using a partial cover trailer, typically, a layer of shrink wrap or a basic tarp cover of some kind.
If you’re wondering what packaging solution is best, be sure to check out our helpful guide for finding the best equipment protection solution.
5. Packaging supplies needed
Rarely will you find a packaging option for heavy equipment that doesn’t require extra supplies to secure and fit the packaging appropriately. Think tape, ratchets and webbing, heat tools, propane tanks, hardware, personal protection equipment, etc. This is especially true if you package in-house using shrink wrap, crating, or PVC/vinyl covers. A safe way to factor in the cost of these extra supplies is to add 1%-2% to your total packaging costs.
6. Price tag of protected equipment
The more expensive your newly manufactured equipment, the better the packaging your end customer is going to expect. More expensive equipment usually means more expensive packaging.
About the author
Tyler has been with Transhield since 2006, currently serving the wind energy, HVAC, modular construction, power generation, and transportation markets; developing new business and supporting current clients in these verticals. Previous to his current role, Tyler served the aftermarket and marine industries at Transhield. Tyler is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.