What is bulk packaging?

Both things are somehow inconsistent: bulk and packaging.

According to Wikipedia:

“Packaging is the technology of enclosing or protecting products for distribution, storage, sale, and use. Packaging also refers to the process of designing, evaluating, and producing packages. Packaging can be described as a coordinated system of preparing goods for transport, warehousing, logistics, sale, and end use. Packaging contains, protects, preserves, transports, informs, and sells.”

The Business Dictionary defines it as:

  1. “Processes (such as cleaning, drying, preserving) and materials (such as glass, metal, paper or paperboard, plastic) employed to contain, handle, protect, and/or transport an article. Role of packaging is broadening and may include functions such as to attract attention, assist in promotion, provide machine identification (barcodes, etc.), impart essential or additional information, and help in utilization. See also packing.”
  2. “Practice of combining several related goods or services into a single offer. See also bundling. In the early years of mankind, the first packages used the natural materials available as baskets of reeds, wineskins (bota bags), then the wooden boxes, pottery vases, ceramic amphorae, the wooden barrels, woven bags, glass and bronze vessels, etc.”

On the other hand, according to Dictionary.com, bulk is a noun that means:

  1. “magnitude in three dimensions;
  2. the greater part; main mass or body;
  3. goods or cargo not in packages or boxes, usually transported in large volume, as grain, coal, or petroleum…”

There are many other meanings: it can be used as an adjective or verb, too. But, for the sake of this blog post, these 3 definitions suffice.

Hundreds of years ago, most merchandise was moved manually or with very rudimentary of lifting equipment that required smaller packaging.

Most goods were packed into barrels when liquid, or into crates, sacks or bales.
With the advent of bigger and more reliable lifting equipment, the packages increased in size, bulk cargo vessels were constructed, ports were improved to receive deeper draft vessels, and so on.

The standard for bulk transportation was then established as bulk cargo vessels, bulk carrier trucks, bulk carrier train cars and have remained as such for a long time.

Malcolm McLean created and patented the ISO marine container in 1956 after working in the transport business for many years. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that this type of component was largely used in the transport industry.

The advent of the ISO marine container standardized the industry and also opened up new possibilities. Hence, the intermodal freight transport was born.

The intermodal concept carries loose bulk solids in the containers, loaded and pre-fractioned at the origin (plant, farm, storage, etc.) to be delivered to each customer, instead of sending large amounts of product that is transferred several times before it reaches the destination.
Some big problems were the air tightness of the system. The container would spill out some fine powders all along the transport operation. It could also contaminate the container and the surroundings, depending on the type of product being carried or if the bulk solids were for human or animal consumption.

This is when human ingenuity came up with a simpler and more efficient solution: pack the solids or liquids.

The first developments were the big bags, the IBC’s, and palletization systems. The idea was to pack in bulk since the goal was to avoid by using standard containers to pack individual goods.
This is how the flexible tanks (a kind of liner to contain liquids) and container bulk liners were initially conceived to package products in bulk, inside containers, for handling.

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell University defines bulk packaging as:

“A packaging, other than a vessel or a barge, including a transport vehicle or freight container, in which bulk solids or liquid materials are loaded with no intermediate form of containment. A large packaging in which those materials are loaded with an intermediate form of containment, such as one or more articles of inner packaging, is also bulk packaging.

Bulk packaging presents:

  1. A maximum capacity greater than 450 L (119 gallons) as a receptacle for a liquid;
  2. A maximum net mass greater than 400 kg (882 pounds) and a maximum capacity greater than 450 L (119 gallons) as a receptacle for a solid; or
  3. A water capacity greater than 454 kg (1000 pounds) as a receptacle for a gas.”

Bulk solids – Past, Present and Future

In the beginning, the way to transport bulk solids in the mid 1970s (when maritime ISO containers started being used at a larger scale), big bags were stuffed inside the maritime ISO containers.
Those big bags had to be loaded from silos or ducts at a special loading station, strapped to a pallet, carried by forklift trucks, and accommodated inside the containers, limiting the total net capacity of a 20’ container. Depending on the bulk density of the material, no more than 20 to 22 tons of material were loaded and unloaded using large amounts of labor that consumed a lot of time.

The first improvement to the bulk liner bags was to use woven materials that did not have a 100% tightness. This limited their use to only some types of products. But, as time went by, other solutions came up as well as materials, bulkhead designs, sleeve designs, air bags, and so on.

There is a countless number of solutions for packaging in bulk. Most include small deviations that change from one supplier to the next. On the other hand, there are novelties in the market to test the possible efficiency gains that they can bring to the process.

At Bulk-Flow, we consider those novelties as part of the industry’s the future and we are ready to offer them to our customers for improved efficiency.

Check out some of our recently realeased real solutions!

The fluidizing liner and the tilt-less unloading systems will soon be the standard in the industry.

Do you need to transport bulk solids?

Try our bulk packaging solutions!

Request a demo for hard-to-flow materials

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Posted by Team Bulk-Flow

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