Be sure your packaging and shipping methods meet government specifications.
As we have already mentioned,
packaging requirements are a big deal when you do business with the
government. They need to be carefully considered and analyzed, not only
in pricing out a bid, but also in implementing a QA program. To aid your
understanding, we think it would be helpful to define the terms
"packaging" and "packing" the way the government defines them.
Packaging is defined in the Governments Contract Dictionary as:
- "an all-inclusive term covering cleaning, preserving, packaging,
packing, and marking required to protect items during every phase of
shipment, handling, and storage."
- "The methods and materials used to protect material from
deterioration or damage. This includes cleaning, drying, preserving,
packing, marking and unitization." (Unitization is a government term
that defines the "unit" of shipment and refers to a grouping of items
Packing is: "the assembling of items into a unit,
intermediate, or exterior pack with necessary blocking, bracing,
cushioning, weatherproofing and reinforcement."
The reason that we defined these terms is that some companies might
think that if they produce a quality part, all they need to do when they
ship is drop it in a box with some of those "peanuts" and send for UPS.
As the definitions imply, there is more to it; a lot more. To further
illustrate, let's look at what might be required in the packaging of a
part that might be used by the Army.
Assume that your company was contracted by the Army to manufacture a
simple, inexpensive item, specifically a "block" consisting of a metal
piece approximately 2x4 inches made of a specified material that will
withstand high pressure.
So how would you have to package this little block? Under typical
government packaging requirements for such a product, the block must
first be packed into a plastic package. The plastic package must then be
put into another pack that is cushioned and reinforced. A water/vapor
seal is then put over the entire package. The sealed package is then
packed into a shipping container.
Sounds like a lot for just one item, right? Well, that little block
is part of a 155 mm howitzer cannon and is used to fire rounds (those
big pointy things that explode when they land). And although this may
seem a somewhat roundabout and melodramatic way to show the importance
of packaging, the typical civilian usually does not realize how the part
he or she is working on will be used or delivered to its ultimate
destination. The little block might be headed for a 10,000-mile flight,
dropped out of a plane at 5,000 feet, and must be ready to work the
first time, and every time, when it lands.
In addition, as electronic technology becomes more complex, expensive
and sensitive to damage, protecting electronic products and the work
environment is a key government goal. And one place this is reflected is
in packaging standards.
So although packaging requirements on a government contract can
sometimes seem complex and difficult, if you're smart and do your
homework, you can be successful at meeting the challenge.
Packaging Levels and Specs
The government uses 3 levels of packing and protection:
- Level A, Maximum Protection, is used for the most severe shipment,
handling or storage conditions, or for unknown transportation or storage
conditions. Examples: All-wood boxes, sheathed crates, plastic or
metal specialty containers.
- Level B, Intermediate Protection, is used for known and favorable
shipment, handling and storage conditions. Examples: Single-, double-,
or triple-walled, weather-resistant fiberboard, sealed at all openings.
- Level C, Minimum Protection, is used for known and most favorable
shipment, handling and storage conditions. Example: Domestic fiberboard
To give you an overview of what is involved in "packaging," we are
listing three packaging specifications, below. But because this area is
so complex, we recommend that you get an expert to help you.
You can contact the government office administering your contract and
request help from a government packaging specialist. Or, better yet,
you can find a packager that has experience in working with the
government and form a partnership with that company. Then you, the
packager, and the government will all come out fine.