Navy Packaging Innovation Solves Shipping Challenges

Navy Packaging Innovation Solves Shipping Challenges

Navy Packaging2

With thousands of units in the field and commercial development underway, the award-winning Joint Modular Intermodal Container (JMIC) is on the cusp of transform- ing how cargo is packaged for ship- ping worldwide.

The technology was invented by Mark Heinrichs, a Navy engineer with the Naval Packaging, Handling, Storage and Transportation (PHST) Center at Naval Weapons Station Earle, and transferred to NextGen Containers of Birmingham, Ala., by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (IHDIV) via a partially exclusive Patent License Agreement (PLA).

The JMIC functions as a pallet hybrid. Its unique “building block” modular design offers unprecedented flexibility, resulting in a more secure, convenient and, ultimately, lower cost alternative to more than 100 different pallet and container designs now in use by the military and commercial mar- kets.

The JMIC can be loaded from ei- ther the top or the side, then shipped as a single unit or in multiple units locked together on a secured plat- form. Multiple units can also be locked to truck, railcar, ship and oth- er surfaces equipped with interlock fittings.

When not in use for shipping, the containers can be used as secure stor- age units or collapsed to one-third their size and stored.

The PHST Center began working on the technology several years ago to create a better packaging solution for shipping munitions. Little had changed in shipping packaging for more than 50 years, and the inherent challenges in traditional packaging were getting more costly and labor- intensive.

The widely used, inexpensive wooden pallets, for example, handle small and odd-sized cargo; however, they require significant palletizing (wrapping/banding), as well as block- ing and bracing.

In addition, they are susceptible to damage and not conducive to auto- mation. International shipping con- tainers offer the benefits of standardization, but are far too large for most military and commercial shipping.

JMIC, on the other hand, streamlines handling issues and offers the benefits of standardization, such as more efficient shipping configurations.

For example, 16 JMIC units fit into the standard 20-foot shipping container, filling it to capacity. Field use shows that compared to a typical partially full containerload of un-stackable pallets, JMIC delivers a cost savings of 35 percent.

Standardization is also critical for automation and robotics, both key to rapid distribution, whether it is getting technology and equipment to the warfighter in the field as or moving commerce.

Because of the tech- nology’s many advantages, JMIC containers are now being used to ship all types of cargo. More than 6,500 JMIC units are in use throughout the Department of Defense, with thousands more on order. Commercially, NextGen Containers is marketing JMIC prototypes for commercial shipment of ammunition and medical equipment. In the meantime, IHDIV continues to seek licensees for the fields not covered by NextGen’s PLA.