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Tech Topics By Andrew Bower, Trans Ocean Bulk Logistics Inc. Flexitanks for a Competitive Shipping Advantage As part of its 2020 Strategic Plan, the NaƟonal Renderers AssociaƟon will conƟnue to focus on the development of internaƟonal markets. This aƩenƟon is Ɵmely given the new realiƟes taking shape for North American renderers: opening of China markets for tallow and poultry products, a demand shiŌ to vegetable diets in the feed industry, and increased use of rendered fats and oils as feedstock for biodiesel, to name a few. Many United States suppliers who wish to survive in an everchanging marketplace must prepare to compete abroad. A presence in foreign markets requires a capable logisƟcs partner and the right modality. For rendered fats and greases, flexitanks are uniquely suited to the demands of internaƟonal transportaƟon, yet the flexitank is only half of the equaƟon. Working with a verƟcally integrated flexitank provider reduces risk, miscommunicaƟon, and the challenges of managing multiple points of contact. Shippers should exercise due diligence in searching for the right logisƟcs partner. As Red Adair, the famous oil well firefighter, said, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait unƟl you hire an amateur.” In that spirit, following is a brief background on the flexitank industry and quesƟons to guide shippers in disƟnguishing between expert and inexperienced, undercapitalized logisƟcs providers. Role of Flexitanks in International Trade From the 1980s to the early 2000s, most flexitanks were reusable rubber tanks that had to be reposiƟoned and cleaned between loads, adding to costs and lead Ɵmes for shippers. This also made them operaƟonally indisƟnguishable from InternaƟonal OrganizaƟon for StandardizaƟon (ISO) tanks. In 2001, the single-layer, recyclable flexitank was perfected using a linear low density polyethylene, thus transforming the market. The primary benefit flexitanks offer nonhazardous liquids, including animal fats and recycled oils, is a reducƟon in unit shipping costs by maximizing product payload. By some esƟmates, as much as 30 percent more product can be shipped per container using flexitanks as compared to totes, intermediate bulk containers, or drums. The safety of product and personnel should not be overlooked. AŌer all, what good is a compeƟƟve freight rate if product is rejected or personnel are injured? The single-layer, single-use flexitank made from virgin polyethylene is kosher, halal, European Union, and Food and Drug AdministraƟon compliant, and eliminates contamination risk from prior products. Unlike ISO tanks, which require repeated washes and someƟmes entry by cleaning personnel, flexitanks are a closed system from manufacturer to supplier to receiver. AddiƟonally, there is no risk of moisture resulƟng from inadequate cleaning pracƟces or condensaƟon due to fluctuaƟons in ambient temperature. Both are common causes for rejecƟon of ISO tanks by loading supervisors. Personnel should not have to manually manipulate the flexitank to achieve a complete discharge. There is a common misconcepƟon that flexitanks must be “rolled like a toothpaste tube” to get all the product out. Shippers are oŌen surprised to discover this is a breach of health and safety protocol. The single-layer flexitank system is designed to be operated externally – no climbing into or on top of the container as with ISO tanks. Translucent material is another benefit of single-layer technology and allows load supervisors to see the product in the flexitank during loading and discharge, something that is not possible with mulƟlayer flexitanks due to an outer layer of polypropylene. No less important than cost and safety is ease of use. Full-service providers arrange for the container to arrive pre-fit at the loading facility. For rendered fats and greases, a heater pad is posiƟoned under the flexitank to promote efficient discharge at desƟnaƟon. What’s more, most singlelayer flexitanks are equipped with the same cam lock valve as ISO tanks. Precursors to the modern day flexitank had a valve on top, but newer designs have reoriented the valve to the boƩom of the flexitank. BoƩom discharge procedure makes for a beƩer experience for receivers. Finally, single-layer flexitanks are sustainably designed. They can be recycled for use in consumer packaging, geomembranes, and other large-scale applicaƟons. Protecting Flexitank Shipments Across the Supply Chain First, shippers should elect to work with globally integrated providers. Most companies that manufacture flexitanks do not parƟcipate in the logisƟcs process and vice versa. Moreover, many forwarders who purchase flexitanks do not have appropriate technical support on a global scale. Second, shippers should know how to shop flexitank providers and disƟnguish between expert and inexperienced, undercapitalized providers. The following quesƟons should help shippers get past markeƟng gimmicks and find a strong partner with a global network. How many wholly-owned factories does the company have? If none, they may have difficulty guaranteeing quality without controlling the means of producƟon. Even joint ventures between logisƟcs providers and flexitank manufacturing companies have proven insufficient to ensure quality. The most expensive flexitank is a cheap flexitank. How does the logisƟcs provider guarantee flexitanks are not sourced from different manufacturers? Quality standards vary among flexitank manufacturers. Shippers should expect the same quality product whether they are exporƟng from South Dakota or South Korea. Further, global inventories are difficult to manage so posiƟoning flexitanks to saƟsfy shipper demand should be handled by a dedicated fleet manager to ensure flexitanks are properly handled and meet uniform quality standards. How many research and development staff are employed by the company? Scale maƩers, as does a collaboraƟve design 28 February 2017 Render www.rendermagazine.com


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