Cepac’s six-stage process for creating corrugated packaging to United Nations standards

UN Packaging is a relatively complex area with no room for interpretation. Everything we do at Cepac is engineered to meet to a specific requirement, standard or in the case of UN Packaging: a legal requirement.

Maintaining a constant, agreed specification is critical. Corrugated box production, and UN certified corrugated boxes in particular, is a wide-ranging and complex area - a box is most definitely not simply a box!

Each new UN Certified 4G packaging design goes through the following six-step process and we can help guide you through each point:

  1. Plan

The first stage is understanding the requirements of the packaging. Here the specific Government agency provides us with guidance and support for each area. Explain your product details to them and they will guide you through the standards your packaging must achieve in a test environment.

  1. Design

From a corrugated packaging perspective, design will typically involve drop height and stacking tests. So, in the real-world application what will happen to the contents of a box (perhaps directly filled / packed into for example a 5ltr plastic container) if the packaging was dropped from a height? Would the box split and allow the container to come into contact with a hard surface? Would this impact then cause the product to spill everywhere? Would the outer box allow the transference of impact to the container packaged and cause damage? Would the corrugated boxes collapse when stacked? What are the box contents? Do they require any divisions or crumple zones? And so on and so forth. Implications of packaging failure will result in poor performance during transit.

When the required box parameters are identified, as a corrugated manufacturer we can determine a suitable board grade (which can comprise single or double wall corrugated board) and then progress to performance testing.

  1. Test

 Based on the pack requirements specified we will conduct drop tests on the pack from a required height and orientation (corner, side, etc.) to ensure the pack performs to the required standard for the box end use. If there is any splitting of the corrugated box or damage to inner packaging, this is can be deemed a failure and may lead to a retest.  At Cepac we have in-house drop testing equipment in order to ensure the product will perform in consistent and comparable laboratory test conditions.

  1. Certify

When all tests are satisfactorily passed and finalised, a report is submitted to the relevant Government agency for final approval and, subject to acceptance, a unique UN number is allocated.

  1. Manufacture

Corrugated board is reliant upon correctly specified papers being used in production. The corrugation process bonds the papers together using a starch based adhesive. Critical variables must be taken into account throughout the process. If the board is too damp or if the board is too dry (brittle) it will not perform as required and if too little or too much starch is applied the corrugated board and final box performance can be adversely affected. At Cepac we test every UN Certified box at the point of corrugation to ensure performance meets the required specification. It is vital agreed standards are adhered to in order to ensure the safe transportation of dangerous goods. 

Some critical issues to be aware of when sourcing UN packaging are:

  1. Kraft papers used in corrugated manufacture being substituted with lower grades where Kraft paper is the specified material. Laboratory inspection of the paper liner would highlight this variation.
  2. Corrugated boxes being manufactured against expired UN standards.
  3. Boxes being produced without adherence to the quoted specification.
  4. Lack of traceability on manufactured corrugated UN boxes where the boxes are sold via a stockist / re-seller. Traceability is critical.
  1. Maintain

It is vital the component variables of the corrugated board and box are closely monitored at all times in the production process to retain the required specification of a UN Certificate. As a responsible manufacturer we must remain within tolerance of the UN certificates in order to continue to supply compliant packaging. Annual certification fees must be paid to avoid the risk of certificates being cancelled by the administering body. As a manufacturer we retain copies of all documentation, including our own and our customer-owned certificates. We also supply reminders for revalidations which are sent out to our customers to help ensure records and certifications are always up to date.

If you would like to discuss your UN Packaging requirements and find out how we can help you, contact us as hello@cepac.co.uk. 

This article by Nigel Hobson, Cepac sales and commercial manager appeared in the BADGP (British Association of Dangerous Goods Professionals) monthly publication.