Volume 42, Issue 9 - September 2007

Buyer's Block
Racking Up New Ideas
How Crating Glass Can be Troublesome
by Paul Bieber
Pick the true statement:
  1. Fish need bicycles; 
  2. Low-calorie anything tastes good;
  3. Crating glass generates profits for everyone; or
  4. None of the above.

The correct answer is 4. Yes, crating glass is a cost that brings little value to a glass job, but it is unavoidable in our business. Let’s look at some ways to save money with crating glass.

Everyone who can is shipping and receiving glass on steel returnable racks. This should be your first objective. Racks take up more floor space and outdoor storage space, and require a crane or forklift, but they are worth it. I did a quick survey of some fabricators in the Eastern United States and the average cost of a 1,500-pound crate is $90. A low estimate of the cost of unpacking and wood disposal is $40. A used 4,000-pound propane fork truck, with a boom, averages around $13,000, with $3,000 per year operating costs. The breakeven on cost is 125 crates in one year, or 75 crates per year in two years.

By using racks you also will save your crew for more productive work, significantly reduce possibilities for accidents and have less breakage and replacement. If you have the maneuvering room and budget for a forklift, you should make the switch as quickly as you can.

Working with Crates
When you do need to order with crates, make sure your vendor uses Tip N Tell indicators on all crates. These labels cost about $1 per crate and indicate if the crate has fallen. Fully inspect any crate with visible damage or with a Tip N Tell that registers a fall. If your vendor doesn’t use Tip N Tell, insist that they do so.

Most fabricators have a weight limit on their crates. Ask the weight of the shipment and confirm the cost and the number of crates being used ahead of time. If your vendor has a 1,500-pound weight limit, and your order comes in at 1,600 pounds, most computerized order systems will say the order requires two crates. Make sure you talk with a customer service person to override this. You can usually add about 500 pounds.

Most fabricators charge a premium for oversize crates, but there is no standard as to what defines oversize. For some it is 50 square feet, for others it will be anything over 130 inches. Make sure you know your vendor’s policy if you are quoting a job with crating.

If you have special or jobsite unloading needs, confirm them with the shipper before you place the order. If you order glass shipped by floor or building location, figure out if you are spending more for the extra crates. Many times a customer would order two crates when weight and size would have allowed one. If you have a job with multiple crates, plan glass sizes within 20 inches in size of each other. Packing large pieces and small pieces together is a formula for breakage.

In addition, make plans for the disposal of all crates. If you are at a jobsite, there may be a premium charge to use the job dumpster. It could be cheaper to bring the wood back to your shop. Before you put up a sign that says “free wood,” talk with your insurance agent. In many states you are creating an “attractive nuisance” that simply states you are at fault without exception if someone taking your free wood is injured. You may still put up the sign, but you should know the possible outcome. 

the author: Paul Bieber has 30 years in the glass industry, including nine years with C.R. Laurence Co. Inc., and 21 years as the executive vice president of Floral Glass in Hauppauge, N.Y., from which he retired in 2005. Mr. Bieber’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine..

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