On the Road with Your Inventory - AvNetwork.com

On the Road with Your Inventory

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Road cases are key pieces of the equipment puzzle that many of us take for granted. While not as fun as shopping for a new lighting console or plasma display, cases protect your assets from the rigors of the road, and deserve your serious attention.

There are many benefits to using road cases instead of other options:
Reusability. Cases are designed to be reused and shipped over and over again. Cardboard boxes are designed for a single shipment and conventional wood crates only survive a few shipments. Replacing wood crates time after time will cost more than a reliable case.

Time and Handling Efficiency. Instead of bubble wrapping or repackaging items each time, a properly designed case with compartments can save hours of time.

Ease of Set Up. Custom cases can be a plug and play set up for the user. Well-designed cases and racks can save time for demo, rental or trade show set up. They can even add to the look of the display.

Peace of Mind and Security. Quality cases will ensure that when your equipment arrives, it will arrive safely and in working order. Locks can be added for security.
Save Truck Space. Cases are often manufactured using truck pack or semi pack dimensions to save space while transporting in a truck.

Key Considerations
Why is it so important to consider how and where your equipment is being shipped when ordering road cases? One key reason is that all modes of transportation-vehicle, train, truck airplane and jet-contribute to vibration to varying degrees, which will influence the type of case and packaging best suited for the mode of transport being used. Items susceptible to vibration may require case within a case construction and custom packaging so that they are not coupled to the external case. Geographic location is another important factor. Exposure to sunlight can heat internal temperatures dramatically, and humidity can result in internal condensation. To protect your assets, it is important to use cases that enable the product to retain its integrity with minimal change over temperature and climate variations.
So what is sufficient protection? Products exposed to the rigors of shipping go through many extremes, which constantly test and re-test the integrity of the packaging. Considerations to determine sufficient protection and ensure utility include:
You may trust your own employees with your gear, but will others be handling the gear?
What accessories must be shipped in the case to avoid on-site issues?
What about handles? Locks? Any external graphics?
What are the manufacturer recommendations for the equipment?
What is the life cycle of the item? This determines whether the cost of the case is justified.
Does the case manufacturer offer any performance guarantees?

Weve all heard of ATA spec road cases, but many people are not aware of the ATA and how it relates to shipping cases and containers. The ATA (Air Transport Association) was founded in 1936 by a group of 14 airlines, and is the only trade organization representing the major U.S. airlines. ATAs areas of responsibility include safety, costs, technological improvements, government relations, industry regulations a

But how does the ATA relate to road cases? ATA has a number of categories under which cases could fall based upon materials used to construct them. Road cases are supposed to be built to ATA Spec 300 Category I, which requires that the cases be made of metal, plastic or fiberglass. Other requirements include the method of opening and closing, thickness of foam that can be used, ability to repair a case, the type of handles and catches that are to be used as well as their position. While many of the requirements are important to the way a case manufacturer designs and manufactures a case, other specs are of little or no importance to the typical ATA case. For example, in order to meet ATA Spec 300 Category I, the case must be white. Ill bet the case manufacturers wish they only had to make one color case!

There are also many test requirements that a case must pass in order to achieve its rating as an ATA case. Procedures such as drop tests, water spray, vibration and preservation packaging are the most obvious relating to our product. But be aware that the ATA does not certify or approve shipping containers or designs as being in compliance with their specifications. The only way a case manufacturer can prove they meet the spec is by having their product tested by an independent lab, though the need for this certificate of testing has been abolished about 12 years ago. Due to this fact almost all case companies do not have an actual certificate of testing, yet still make their cases to meet or exceed the ATA standards.

I spoke with Joe Calzone, founder and president of the Calzone/Anvil Case empire, and a gentleman who knows a lot about packaging. I asked Joe about how his company is differentiating themselves from their competitors, and if Asian imports were having any effect on their business. Joe said, The Asian imports have affected us in the MI/retail area--for example, in turntable cases. To respond, we have recently released the Anvil I line. These cases are manufactured in China to our specifications and are inspected by us to assure quality. But unlike other imported cases, we have our factories here to support them. So we dont have to ship them back if its necessary to repair or modify a case. In the OEM area, we have also seen competition from China, but service is the key advantage we offer to OEMs, and China is a long way away. I dont think well ever stop making cases here in the States -we can build as many of whatever custom cases you want within two weeks. Plastics guys and overseas manufacturers just cant compete in that timeframe, and there will always be people in need of a quality custom product in a hurry.

Something else that is new is what we call Anvil Wraps. With Anvil Wraps (which is a proprietary technology), any graphic image you can imagine can be imbedded into a case. Kind of like those buses or vans that are covered like a billboard. Imagine that on a bunch of cases. So you now have a bunch of rolling advertising, and it makes the containers more valuable by being able to selling them off at the end of a tour for charity, for example. Also, its a great way to ID your cases. Its about 30 percent more than a standard case, but its worth twice the price in value. These days Anvil has to offer more than just a case, and in this instance we offer the additional payoff on the packaging investment via an excellent marketing opportunity. Cases are working 24 hours a day--now, they can have your message working 24 hours a day too.

Bigger Is in
Steve Burkey, founder of Cabbage Cases in Columbus, OH, does mainly custom cases, but according to Burkey, in 2000 we started making what we call stock sizes, which have sold well. Theyre not really geared toward entertainment or lighting specifically, they are more like trunks. But the trend for us has been toward bigger caseswith small containers, its hard to compete on price. So weve focused on bigger cases, cases that people cant buy pre-made. For example, we shipped a case yesterday that was as big as a dumpster! We can make and ship that kind of case within five days.

We are making a lot of plasma cases, continued Burkey. Fujitsu contacted us early on and provided specs that seemed nearly impossible at the time, but somehow we were able to meet them. Plasmas are big, expensive, delicate and hard to ship. Fujitsu was very happy with the cases we supplied them and the word got out. Since then weve been very busy building plasma cases for the last four or five years, and we spend a lot of time updating product information. As I said before, products are always changing and evolving and we have to keep up. I have to say the customers and manufacturers are very helpful in this regard, but its still ultimately our responsibility to get it right.
Customers in the rental and staging industry are a bit more demanding about the appearance of personnel and equipment than the average rock show, and well-designed and manufactured road cases are a key element of meeting those customer demands. Even when its rolling equipment around a hotel, a good-looking case says a lot about your company and protects your investment in equipment. Talk to your case vendor and let them help you find the right match of weight, cost and size for your application. You will be glad you did when your new lighting console shows up on the gig with a big scratch on the case instead of on the console!

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