Large plastic bins provide an economical replacement for wire baskets

Paul Boughton

Modern production principles are difficult to reconcile with metal containers, which are still used in many organisations. This is because, in order to meet the requirements of lean production principles, there is an ever increasing demand for containers which - in contrast to wire baskets, for example - are light, stable and available in sizes that are optimally matched to reduced batch sizes. Plastic bins offer clear advantages over wire baskets as well as a tremendous savings potential for manufacturers, writes Edward Hutchison, managing director of BITO Storage Solutions.

Logistics processes in production and assembly are in a state of change: assemblies and components are required in ever-smaller series and batches. Large wire baskets, which are used commonly, often only get partly filled, which reduces the storage space optimisation within a given floor area.

More and more manufacturing operations are therefore replacing their long-serving steel wire baskets with euro pallets (800 x 1200mm in dimension) and smaller, lightweight bins with external dimensions of 800 x 600mm. The demand for smaller bin sizes is increasing, particularly in C-part management and the dimensions for plastic bins take this trend into account. Take, for example, BITO’s two fork-entry-shoe type bins with base dimensions of 800 x 600mm: The SL heavy duty bin has a load capacity of 500kg and the XL Euro stacking bin can hold up to 200kg. Although they are a little more expensive to buy, the investment is soon amortised. Plastic bins can also be fitted with divider systems, which enable them to be perfectly matched to the particular storage and transportation task.

In manufacturing logistics it is important to ensure a high availability of containers, however wire baskets require frequent repairs. For example, stacker forks can easily bend or pierce the wire frame when the container is transported, which makes it difficult to fit trays. Defective wire baskets must then be sent to external workshops for rewelding or to have the bases repaired. This leads to high downtimes and in the worst cases, wire baskets can be damaged beyond repair and reuse.

Plastic bins, on the other hand, are very robust.In many cases, load carriers must protect stored goods against dirt or unauthorised access. Plastic bins can be sealed with a clip-on or flip-top lid for this purpose. Flip-top lids can be hinged – and therefore captive – or strapped and secured with lead seals. This also makes them appropriate for the storage of pharmaceuticals or foodstuffs. This is because these products have to be protected very carefully and reliably, for example against environmental influences such as dust and moisture.

The characteristics of a container’s material must often match the goods that are being transported within it. With foodstuffs for example, the boxes must not give off any harmful substances. The materials must also be resistant to grease, oil and paints or chemicals as well as to UV and X-radiation.

Clean and hygienic bins are not only important for pharmaceutical articles or foodstuffs, production departments also often need to keep stored products free from contamination. Components such as turbines, bearing or compressor housings must be stored in a clean environment to enable them to be fitted later in an optimum manner. No easy task for wire baskets, which rust quickly and are unhygienic because they are very difficult to clean. In the automotive industry wire baskets have the greatest ingress of dirt in the assembly shop whereas hardly any dirt is able to collect on the smooth and closed walls of the plastic bins – and even if it does, they can be cleaned quickly.  

Even when empty, large wire baskets are heavy, unwieldy, and often cannot be moved at all without auxiliary equipment such as stacker trucks. A metal wire basket weighs in at 60 to 90kg; a plastic bin with base dimensions of 800 x 600mm weighs less than 20 kg. In addition, wire baskets exhibit rather poor running characteristics on conveyor sections. A fork-entry shoes makes bins ideal for use on driven or gravity roller conveyors, allowing the kanban principle to be easily be implemented for heavy parts.

BITO’s manufacturer clients in Germany, where BITO manufactures its container, provide numerous practical examples of how plastic bins are proving their value in place of wire baskets. Wire baskets were used over a long period in the production facility of Schneider Electric Energy, a global specialist in energy management in Regensburg. The company needed different container systems with special requirements to rationalise its manufacturing process. The containers needed to be capable of carrying a 200 kg payload, have a flap on the front and be stackable. It was also important for the user to be able to handle the empty containers without auxiliary equipment. A further requirement related to the size of the boxes, as it had to be possible to use the wire basket grid in the supermarket sector with the new containers; two containers had to be capable of being placed next to one another in this grid. BITO bins are now used in the kanban main store for the assembly line and for pre-assembly of the components. These bins make it easy to pick components through the viewing window and can be run in contact with one another during operation. In the empty state are easy to carry.

At automation specialist Tünkers GmbH in Ratingen, BITO plastic bins ensure reduced throughput times and shorter material dwell times at the workstation. They also allow the storage system to be located close to the production line. Changing from the unwieldy wire baskets to plastic bins with fork-entry shoes has enabled the number of container types to be reduced and the material throughput times to be significantly shortened.

For more information, visit

Recent Issues