Intermediate bulk contains or IBCs as they are popularly known, are a common way of storing and transporting granular, viscous, or liquid goods. These totes are some of the most cost-effective ways of storing such products and are used throughout the world for such applications.
The International Conference of Plastics Packaging Manufacturers (ICPP) that’s responsible for establishing standards for IBC totes, has provided excellent information on best practices to help you and your employees use the totes effectively and safely.
The brochure that the ICPP produced on IBC handling is specifically geared towards the European market, but the advice contained therein is suitable for anybody handling IBC totes anywhere in the world.
The following is a quick breakdown of the brochure as well as how its contents can help you work with IBC totes more efficiently and safely.
How to Choose the Type of IBC Tote You Need
The International Organization for Standardization has identified 2 main types of IBC totes:
– Rigid IBC: Usually made of wood, metal, or fiberboard and are designed as a complete one-piece unit that does not require any extra support when filled
– Composite IBCs: Consist of a rigid cage that not only protects but also supports the weight of a flexible inner liner; and the 2 parts are considered to function and act as 1 unit.
The brochure and article focus primarily on advice and best practices for composite IBCs. Qualified suppliers of IBC totes can help you determine what kind of IBC is right for your needs. Here are some common requirements:
– IBC totes intended for the storage of products for human consumption have to be classified as food-grade to avoid chemical interactions with the product.
– Liquids that have low flashpoints (at or below 60°C/140°F) have to be stored in an explosion-protected IBC.
– Filling materials may sometimes require a composite IBC that has a permeation barrier in case the material usually diffuses through plastic under some conditions.
For IBC totes that are used in hazmat transit, the compatibility of the filling material with the tote material needs to be tested. American and European tests are somewhat different, but they likely include testing against cracking, swelling, and material breakdown.
The tests are used for determining which tote material is best suited to your application. It is important to allocate enough time for testing to be done; some of the tests required may take several months.
Best Practices for Handling and Filling IBC Totes
The guidebook recommends a 3-step procedure when it comes to filling IBC totes:
– Make sure that the outlet valve is closed.
– Fill at atmospheric pressure, without exceeding a temperature of 70°/158°F. The pressurizing of composite IBC totes isn’t recommended.
– Allow for venting of the inner receptacle as it cools to prevent vacuum deformation. Then, screw the cap back into place and tighten it.
– If you are using a forklift or pallet jack to move IBC totes, always make sure that the forks reach all the way underneath the pallet.
– Ensure that all IBC totes are properly secured to prevent damage and movement while in transit. Check the brochure for a diagram showing the acceptable positioning of IBC totes in shipping containers.
– Don’t attach ropes to any part of a composite IBC tote when trying to move it.
– Check the U.N. marking on the identification plate of the tote for its stacking test load to be sure that it can be stacked safely.
– Proper nesting is important – always 2 on 2, not 1 on 3.
– Only stack IBC totes 2 layers high during transport
– Whenever possible, an IBC tote should be emptied through the lower outlet valve.
– Open the top lid and vent the tote before emptying to prevent vacuum collapse.
– If emptying the tote via a pump or pipe, ensure that it is independently supported and doesn’t touch the cage. You can easily damage the tote if you use the cage to support a pump or pipe since it may cause vibrations.
The guidelines provided here might be small, but they are vital steps to supply chain optimization. Implementing the best practices, however, is just part of the picture. You also require a relationship with a supplier of IBC totes to provide you with the right service and selection.