Last week PCL hosted the West Michigan Institute of Packaging Professional’s (IoPP) quarter event. This event included package testing demonstrations and an exclusive presentation from Eric Hiser, the Technical Vice President of ISTA (International Safe Transit Association). It was truly a unique experience seeing Eric speak about standards while standing right next to a complete transit simulation set up!
Some of the key takeaways of Eric’s presentation included packaging optimization, new standards, and ISTA organization initiatives. He taught us how ISTA goes about certifying labs and the processes that go into making sure everything is performed to a “T.”
Eric spoke about the standard revision process and new standard creation method. It was interesting to hear how everyday labs can influence the creation and modification of existing standards. Some of the more recent notable changes included ISTA 6, ISTA 3H, and the addition of a test for reusability. All of these standards have undergone ISTA’s evaluation process and since changed and created to fit the needs of the packaging community. This type of collaboration is what has made ISTA so innovative within the package testing field.
ISTA has found that this type of innovation has become paramount in an ever-changing shipping environment. Eric explained how in the past the shipping chain was quite simple. The traditional supply chain would have suppliers, retail distribution centers, the storefronts, and customers. This simple path made for fewer transit testing methods and also more predictable “worst case scenarios” within ship testing. Nowadays , with the adoption of ecommerce, the supply chain is direct to consumer and much more difficult. Packages can go through an array of avenues, ranging from overseas suppliers, to local fulfillment centers, to RideShare services, to eventual drone transportation. Additionally, the constantly changing mix of items that ship from companies like Amazon make it incredibly difficult to predict the worst-case packaging configurations that an item can be shipped in. This complex system has called for a more rigorous set of standards that adapt with the market as shipping environments advance.
When it comes to innovation, it was obvious that ISTA is on the cutting edge. Eric also touched on how ISTA is developing interactive protocols which help labs plan the test and automate the test report for fast and efficient testing. This would also simultaneously collect the data from the studies and report it to ISTA so that they can analyze everyday testing for packaging failures, as well as needs for new methods.
Overall, Eric’s presentation stressed how the optimization for packaging remains key for ISTA and the industry. ISTA’s goal is to utilize the right test for each specialized situation for optimal results. It was evident that the best motivation forward is to leverage the community for the most effective means of keeping up with an evolving supply chain.