How to get rid of IBC Totes?
In the manufacturing and logistics industry, intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) are used to transport large quantities of material efficiently. They were first used in 1992 to replace 200-liter (55-gallon) drums, which were the primary bulk storage solution. Throughout the years, these containers have quickly evolved into the primary method of transportation and delivery for companies around the world.
Here, we’ll explore intermediate bulk containers’ design, maintenance, and transportation. The information in this guide is general and applies to all IBC designs. In the market, there are thousands of variations of IBC configurations to meet the needs of different kinds of companies and use cases. To ensure that reusable IBC totes are properly returned, we have also provided some helpful guidelines and tips.
In this guide, we’ll discuss:
- IBC Tote Definition
- Types of IBC Tote Containers
- IBC Totes Fittings and Attachments
- IBC Totes: Common Applications
- IBC Totes: Storing and Shipping
- Identification and tracking of IBC crates
Different Types of IBC Tote Containers
IBCs come in thousands of different types, sizes, and configurations, and we will cover the common types, sizes, and configurations of IBCs in logistics. It will help you understand what’s available on the market and how IBCs are used in various circumstances if you read these descriptions of the various types of IBCs and their characteristics.
In general, there are six main kinds of IBC containers used for transporting materials. Materials to be transported and environmental factors are often taken into account when selecting these design types.
Metal IBCs – This type of container has a metal body (typically aluminum or steel) and is collapsible when empty.
Flexible IBCs – Made from cloth, plastic, or paper, they are also collapsible and operate like metal IBCs with a less rigid design.
Fiberboard IBCs – Made of fiberboard, these containers maintain their shape regardless of whether they are filled or empty.
Rigid HDPE Plastic IBCs – These containers are constructed from a variety of plastics and cannot be collapsed.
Composite IBCs – A composite design uses a single outer structure that can be rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible.
Wooden Pallet IBCs – Most IBCs typically have a wooden or metal pallet base.
IBC Tote definition
Intermediate bulk containers are defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as primary packaging that meets the following criteria:
- The capacity of the tank should not exceed 3 cubic meters (3000 liters).
- Detachable or integral devices can be handled mechanically
- There is a liquid, a paste, or a solid in it
- Transport and handling stresses are not a problem for this material
Although these guidelines do not define a minimum size, the ISO points out that IBCs smaller than 0.25 cubic meters (250 liters) may require specific testing to determine suitability. IBCs can be used as returnable vessels that can be refilled multiple times or as single-use containers that must be disposed of after use. In addition to the outer wall of the IBC, an IBC may also contain a liner as a protective layer.
Additionally, these definitions apply to IBCs used for transporting non-hazardous materials. Additionally, IBC totes containing hazardous materials are subject to additional regulations regarding their integrity and safety. It is possible to find a good summary of these considerations in 49 CFR 173.35 – Hazardous Materials in IBCs.
Dimensions and size of IBC totes
The size of an IBC ranges from 110 to 550 gallons, with a base dimension of 45 inches by 45 inches. Containers of this size can easily be transported with other logistics shipments due to their matching base size to pallets. Depending on the volume of the IBC, the height will vary from container to container.
They are evenly divided into 55-gallon drums, which is the next standard size down for bulk material storage, the most common sizes are 275 gallons and 330 gallons. Forklifts or pallet jacks can also access each IBC in two, three, or four directions.
A Guide to Choosing an IBC Configuration
A review of the safety and handling requirements for the material to be transported is often the first step in selecting an appropriate IBC. It may be possible to use multiple IBC types for a particular application in some cases. When deciding how to ship IBCs, manufacturers, distributors, and logistics partners should consider the following factors:
- Distance from source to destination
- Transport method (air, sea, land)
- Local Climate conditions (temperature, rainfall, etc.)
- Your Requirements for packing and storing
- Quantity and logistics requirements (stacking, etc.)
- Requirements for container fleet (returnable vs. one-time use)
As part of a routine supply chain loop, an IBC configuration can often be used for several years. With IBC containers, you can transport a relatively large amount of material with fewer containers than with smaller vessels.
IBC Totes Fittings and Attachments
Filling or emptying an IBC tote is an important part of the transportation loop that involves attaching the tote to other equipment. There will be a tap at the bottom of each IBC where the material can be transferred. There are several different fittings available to materials handlers, including male cams, female cams, hosetails, NPT threads, and BSP threads. In order to determine which fittings and adapters to use for your specific application, review the design schematics for your IBC tote.
IBC totes are commonly used for a variety of purposes
Almost any industry that transports large amounts of materials uses IBCs. Moving material between manufacturing, warehouses, and end users is convenient, safe, and reliable with an IBC. There are usually several IBC configurations in service at any given location, due to the unique nature of each sector. IBCs are used in the following industries:
- Industries that manufacture chemicals
- Manufacturing of semiconductors
- Generating electricity
- Fuel, lubricant, and hydraulic processing
- Construction Companies
- Water treatment plants
- Oil fracking
- Agriculture and Pesticide Companies
- Food and beverage
- Biotech and pharmaceuticals
Shipments of bulk materials in IBCs offer many benefits and economies of scale to these organizations. A company can maximize quality control, operational costs, and transportation efficiency by using fewer shipments at higher volumes.
Cleaning and Care
It is common for IBCs to be used for multiple shipments, such as when shipping food ingredients. In order to ensure the quality of the next filling, reusable vessels must be cleaned after each use. Cleaning can be done either in-place or out-of-place. Clean-in-place (CIP) is more commonly used. This simply refers to whether the container is moved to another location to be cleaned or will have mobile equipment attached to complete the process.
The following are CSI Designs’ best practices for cleaning and maintaining IBC totes:
- Guidelines for regulatory inspections should be followed
- Overfilling should be avoided
- Be careful when moving and lifting totes
- When appropriate, hire professional cleaners
- Be careful when removing packaging and lids
- It is possible to use IBC totes continuously for several years with proper care and regular inspections. Increasing the vessel’s useful life reduces transportation and handling costs.
Shipping and storing IBC totes
It has already been noted that most IBCs can be stored on pallets and shipments that typically take up the same amount of space. It is imperative to keep a heightened sense of awareness and focus on safety when dealing with these large containers. Before moving an IBC, make sure all hoses and attachments are disconnected and that the forks of the pallet jack or forklift are aligned properly underneath it.
By following recommended best practices, IBCs can be stored safely. When using IBCs, always consult their documentation and storage recommendations. Here are some general guidelines for handling IBC shipments and storing them.
Check the U.N. markings. Every UN/DOT marking on an IBC determines the maximum weight that can be stacked with the vessel. Based on available load tests, this is the most important data when making decisions regarding storage or shipment.
Height of nesting and stacking. Totes can be nested in different configurations, such as two on two, and should be arranged according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. It is common for IBCs to be stacked up to four containers high. Some IBCs are design to stack up to two containers high. A greater quantity is usually acceptable when it can be packed in a collapsed vessel or a vessel designed specifically for this purpose when it is empty and collapsed. For transportation and storage, you will also notice different stacking quantity guidelines.
Container security. It is extremely important to secure these containers properly since they often contain liquids and other materials that could leak out. In the event of a leak, secondary containment areas are often designed into warehouses where materials are stored. During storage or transport, special precautions should be taken to prevent movement and damage to the vessels.
Warehouse Space available. Stacking IBC containers may be limited by the amount of space available in warehouse areas or transportation vessels. An IBC container stacked four high and two wide can fit comfortably on a semitrailer. Based on the container volume and recommendations from the IBC manufacturer and logistics partners, parties who plan to ship IBC containers can calculate the amount of potential space.
These are just a few of the many topics that must be considered when choosing an IBC shipment and storage plan. During any evaluation, safety should be the main priority, and regulations, best practices, safety data sheets (SDS), and manufacturer’s guidelines should all be consulted.
Identification and tracking of IBC crates
Tracking the location of each IBC container is one of the biggest challenges of maintaining a fleet. In order to improve the chances of their return, many material suppliers rent returnable IBCs to their customers. Empty vessels must often be returned in a timely manner by the supplier by following up with the customers regularly. It can be costly for a manufacturer to invest in additional totes if returnable IBCs are lost during the process.
Given its large size and durability, IBCs are valuable and often relatively expensive pieces of equipment. Manufacturers and transportation partners can reduce logistics costs by tracking these IBC assets properly.