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Fruit Crates

Where Every Centimeter Counts

Designing superior food grade plastic injection moulded bins within a competitive industry where every centimeter impacts the bottom line.

Background

We have all seen fruit bins being transported on trucks, and from afar one might seem to be as simple as the next. However, the design of a fruit bin is laden with complexities.

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The Problem / Opportunity Statement

When our client approached us, a significant amount of money had been invested in a first design iteration of a bin that is different from competitors. The design did not meet TEGO’s strict performance criteria and SKEG was asked to assist. In the context of fruit bins, differentiation mostly pertain to volume gain within strict structural constraints. In this game, every centimeter gain translates to significant logistical savings. Skeg took on the challenge to deliver a design that is set to shake the market.

Product Development Process

Discovery

As with most development roadmaps, we embarked on a Discovery exercise to gain an in-depth understanding of the market and the state of the current technology (design quality). This implied benchmarking and performing comparative studies to ensure that the next generation of design would outperform the current market standard.

As such, bins were reverse engineered to assess their functional and structural performances to establish a performance baseline. As an example, functional performance is assessed through measurements of the bins and visually identifying different features in the designs, their functions and injection mould implications. Analysis methods would include:

Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) to analyse the volumetric packing performance of the bins.
Finite Element Analysis to review structural performance under load.
Mould-flow analysis to understand how specific features in the bins influence the moulding process and cycle times.

Detailed (Alpha) Design

Internal volume capability is critical to the performance of a fruit bin. The larger the volume, the more produce the bin can hold. As such, this was a key parameter through detailed analysis to ensure the marketability of the new bin.
Design analysis also looked at:

  • Stacking load transferal to the bottom bins, and how the top bin is retained during stacking.
  • Forklift entry is a critical part of the bin’s performance during transportation. These areas are most prone to impact, and it is necessary to understand the lead-in.
  • Drainage is an important feature in the bins to ensure the water and chemicals are not retained after drenching and washing cycles of the produce and bins. Adequate coverage of all fruit in the bins during drenching process is required, as well as adequate airflow into the bins when stored in cool rooms.

Finite Analysis is a computerised method for predicting how the bin compare in deflection under loads, and where their stress points are. By analysing the bins, we can use this as a benchmark to compare the new design’s performance to the current bins.
The cost of tooling for such a design is significant, and as such the design needed to work the first time. The only prototyping which was done was a “mock-up” to give stakeholders a practical view of the final design before proceeding to make the capital investment in tooling.

Project Status

The design proved to work and offer performance as expected, which gave our client a clear differentiation in the market. The product is currently being manufactured in volume.