Returnable Industry: Standard Size Totes With Snap-In Dunnage

FlexTote™, a new series of patented totes from PolyFlex with snap-in custom dunnage and larger interior space, helped an Automotive OEM reduce shipping costs, solve ergonomic issues, increase wash cycle efficiencies and reduce warehouse space requirements. In addition, when the program ends the totes will be reused by simply removing and recycling the snap-in dunnage leaving them ready to accept new dunnage for new programs.


An automotive OEM was shipping engine parts using industry-standard totes with mechanically attached dunnage from its Mexican tier supplier to its mid-south assembly facility. After each use, the totes were required to be washed before reuse.


The parts were positioned in the totes in a way that required multiple hand movements by an assembly associate during retrieval causing wrist and hand injuries. In addition, the dunnage needed to be removed from the tote in order to properly wash the totes. The OEM presented the ergonomic issue to PolyFlex and asked if they could come up with a solution.


PolyFlex application specialists determined that they could not only solve the ergonomic issues, but also provide other unique benefits. Initially they anticipated that a standard tote with riveted dunnage for positioning the parts would be the answer. However, after further study PolyFlex presented a unique option.

PolyFlex recently patented a new series of totes in standard sizes named FlexTote™ that offer many unique benefits. When compared to other standard totes the FlexTote design has an inner dimension that is larger plus its patented snap-in locking feature securely holds dunnage without the use of fasteners. The totes larger inner dimension allowed PolyFlex to design dunnage to hold six parts instead of the previous four.

The dunnage insert PolyFlex designed requires only two movements by a line associate during part retrieval instead of the previous six thus eliminating wrist and hand strains. Directional arrows molded into the dunnage provide visual aids for proper part orientation while slots in the totes accommodate Kanban holders and cards. Benefits the OEM is achieving include:

  • 50% more parts per tote
  • $28,000 per year savings in shipping costs
  • 30% savings in warehouse space
  • Totes are washed without removing dunnage saving additional handling and cut wash cycles by half
  • Reduce line side movements by 50%
  • Reduced quantity of dunnage needed by 50%

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