• What is the size of shelves, carts, conveyers, etc. that
must store or move the tote?
• What is the part size
or variation of sizes and
weights that will go into the
• Is there a certain part
orientation in the tote
that is ideal?
• Do the containers need to be
stacked? If so, how high?
• What is the minimum part lot
size, if any, per container?
• What is the maximum load that
can be manually handled?
• Would using the tote vertically or horizontally be an
advantage to save space?
• What is the best placement of hand holes for manual lifting to reduce awkward bending or reaching?
• Are hand holes enclosed for Faraday cage protection?
• Will the components be bagged? How will they be separated? By dividers or slotted guide systems?
• What is the component or part sensitivity to shock or
vibration? Is there additional need for static protective
foam inserts and dunnage?
• How is accompanying paperwork handled? Are document
• Does the container need to be identified or tracked? Will
it need to be labeled repeatedly?
• Does the tote have loose parts and can they be minimized?
Time frame and quantity of totes needed
To get an idea on how long an order will take, ask for a conservative lead time estimate from suppliers. For custom totes,
consider lead time to complete tooling. Also consider country
of origin to allow for any extra shipping time.
When trying to determine quantity needed for returnable “closed loop” containers, consider how many containers
needed in your facility, in transit, and for outside vendors or
customers. Some time allowance may be required for damaged
and lost containers.
Sample prototype and testing
Ask for prototypes and samples from the supplier to confirm
that the tote will fit the components and process.
Also confirm that the totes will fit on shelves, carts,
conveyors, etc. as planned. A common mistake made when
designing or selecting the container is that one may think
in terms of inside dimensions and forget the effect that
the outside dimensions may have on the material handling
We recommend getting a small quantity of containers for
a realistic ship test. Confirm that the container will hold up in
shipping and the contents will be undamaged. Use a surface
resistivity meter to check if the surface resistivity is within
For custom orders, consider tooling and other onetime
non-recurring costs. Also, consider what type of tooling is
required and how long the manufacturer will store the tooling. For returnable shipping containers, plan for replacement
costs. It is common that some will be damaged in shipping
or lost by outside vendors or customers. Some companies
plan for a loss of approximately three percent of the quantity
of the returnable shipping containers in use per year.
Also consider return freight costs for returnable containers.
This cost is frequently overlooked but can be reduced by using
collapsible designs if feasible.
End of life
Many manufacturers have “take-back” programs that will
pay a set amount per pound of container weight. Some companies specialize in buying used totes to refurbish and resell.
The last alternative is to have the totes recycled, disassembled or collapsed to make the regrinding and recycling
process easier. Most ESD protective plastic is made from
polypropylene, typically marked as a number 5 resin recycling code.
There is much to consider when packaging ESD-sensitive
items. One faces options involving surface resistivity and
material choice, along with the possibility for customization.
Considering purpose, frequency of use, contents, variation of
size, and the effect of outside dimensions are all essential in
terms of packaging such components. This makes possibilities
broad and finding the perfect fit a realistic goal.
1. Dangelmayer, G. Theodore. ESD Program Management: A
Realistic Approach to Continuous, Measurable Improvement in
Static Control. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1990.
Mills Industries is a third generation family owned and operated