Wednesday, 20 August 2014

08:30 – As of this morning, we’re down to only 14 chemistry kits and four biology kits in stock. At recent run rates, that’s maybe a two- or three-day supply, so I’m building more kits today, starting with a batch of 30 biology kits.

15:15 – As always at this time of year, I start thinking about how we could do things more efficiently. I was particularly thinking about that as I was building 30 boxes for biology kits. I use a total of 22 strips of tape to seal a box. To begin with, I invert the box and seal the bottom with four short strips of tape along each short side seam, one strip of tape along the long middle seam, and a long strip of tape across the short dimension in the middle of the box. That’s ten strips so far. I then seal the glued side seam with two more short strips, for a total so far of 12 strips. When I seal the box for shipping, I tape up the top of the box the same way I taped the bottom, ten more strips, for a total of 22 strips of tape per box. No wonder I go through a metric boatload of packing tape.

So I started wondering if I could substitute spray adhesive for the tape. I turns out that I could, but doing so would be extremely expensive and probably no faster than taping. So I started reading up on proper packing methods. It seems that the standard packing method is the two-strip method: one strip down the long seams on the top and bottom of the box, and nothing else. The alternative–recommended by USPS, UPS, and FedEx–is the so-called 6-strip or H-method. The long middle seams on the top and bottom of the box still get one long strip each, that runs 2″ to 3″ down the side of the box. Then each short side seam gets one strip laid down parallel to the seam and folded over the side. Four more strips, for a total of six. I just now shipped my first kit using the H-method on the top of the box. It still makes me nervous, but the people who should know say it’s very secure even using 2″ rather than 3″ packing tape. We’ll see. In my own defense, the boxes I receive from vendors are usually taped more like my former practice. On particularly large/heavy/dense boxes, I swear sometimes they must use most of a roll of tape to seal that one box. Packing tape is cheap; returns and damaged shipments are expensive in more ways than one. But the labor to apply 20+ strips of tape versus only six is also a factor. My engineering nature tells me I should try taping up sample boxes with both methods and then test them to destruction to see how much difference, if any, there really is.