SKF comercial packaging.A box may seem a simple and logical way of packing products such as bearings, but when SKF bearings needed a new packaging design for its SKF Explorer spherical roller bearings, it decided to go back to basics. It assembled a project team to identify what the requirements were for the design of a new packaging solution that could be used to pack a large number of bearing sizes, that could be used for automated packing and facilitated handling, that was environmental responsible and protected the contents and those handling the boxes and that had labelling that supported SKF’s strong brand values.
Following a review of its packaging for larger bearings, SKF decided to embark upon the development of an improved design that would meet demands for robustness, safety and recycling and would reflect the high quality of the contents.

Both customers and SKF staff were involved in the consultation process and first evaluations of a new packaging solution, the SKF ProofBox, which took place in Sweden in mid 2000. The design team developed a set of broad criteria for the new packaging that covered safety, environment, product protection, handling, production and branding.

The project was a learning curve for all concerned, with testing and refinement until a packaging solution was arrived at that could meet SKF’s strict criteria. The result has been the successful introduction of the SKF Proof Box, which can be used to pack and ship 45 different bearing sizes on automated packing lines.

The design needed to take into account movement and storage, including the ability to transport the package using a forklift truck, to load it efficiently on a half pallet, and to stack packages both symmetrically and asymmetrically. It had to be possible for the bearing to be safely lifted out of the packaging by using, for example, a lifting strap.

The packaging needed to clearly show whether someone had opened it, and it had to be difficult to re-seal. The solution was a box divided horizontally into two halves in the middle. These halves overlap and the slit is sealed with tape. The tape cannot be removed without it being destroyed. To make it even more difficult for an unauthorized person to open the packaging, the product labels were placed across the tape. To make sure that the packaging could not be opened unintentionally, four straps were placed crosswise around the packaging.

With the new packaging it was envisaged that a packaging line with robots could be introduced. When samples became avail-able, it was possible to prepare production for the introduction of the new packaging.

Before the SKF ProofBox was launched, an intensive test programme was initiated:

Rust protection in climate chamber.
Transportation tests (truck, train, boat and aeroplane).
Loading tests.
ASTM handling tests by external packaging and transportation institute.

The success of the SKF ProofBox can be attributed to the fact that SKF set up a project group at an early stage and brought in expertise from different sectors, adding creativity to the process. SKF invested in tools to test whether the packaging idea functioned in reality. With the aid of the sample packaging, all the weaknesses could be traced and rectified before costly investments were made.

The SKF ProofBox is design protected in most industrial countries.