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A Swiss in Singapore

Hello. My name is 000,001. I am a special grey container consisting of plastic, with various sub-dividers, and I’m used for automated warehousing systems. I became famous in Switzerland in 2012 when an online retailer put its automatic warehouse into operation.

My ancestors consisted of the basic material HDPE, also known as polyethylene. I now consist of PP or, if you prefer the written form, polypropylene. The temperatures are to blame that my molecular structure has changed. They subjected my ancestors to incredible hardships until I came into being. But let me tell you the whole story.

A company in Asia built an automated warehouse in Singapore under the direction of a Swiss general contractor. They needed a total of 68,003 containers in which they could store their goods until these were picked. The Swiss general contractor assigned the production of these containers to the company Georg Utz AG in Bremgarten, who was already very experienced with this type of container.

So far, so good. But Singapore isn’t Switzerland. Transportation from Switzerland to Asia on a container ship is no walk in the park. Temperatures in the transport containers can easily climb up to 70°C. It's like cooking your Sunday roast in the oven at low temperature. There are more pleasant temperatures, believe you me.

Roger Käser, product manager at Georg Utz AG, wanted to know exactly how a container made of the basic material HDPE changes under heat, so he placed one of my ancestors into a climate cell. Roger Käser switched temperatures from 60 degrees to 80 degrees and back again, and that for an entire whole month. Because that’s roughly how long the voyage on the container ship takes. Although my ancestor survived the torture, he became deformed. This deviation was too great for automated warehouse management, where every millimetre counts - even the smallest deformation can jeopardise the entire system.

So, what now? Roger Käser and his colleagues asked themselves the same question. The material must be of similar density but must not deform at temperatures of up to 80 degrees. This is how I came into being: a plastic container made of PP. My birth was hot and took place under high pressure. Literally. I was formed at 230 degrees with 1000 bar pressure and a robot (I affectionately call him Daddy) took me out of the injection moulding machine and cooled me down quickly. Afterwards I was brought into the perfect shape on an additional cooling gauge. I was christened 000,001 and marked accordingly on the rim of the stack.

Then they put me through my paces. The high temperatures in the climate cell didn't give me any problems - I like slow-cooking. I stayed in shape and Georg Utz AG was given the production go-ahead. A complete success, because now my brothers and sisters, all 68,002 of them, were produced in series.

A Logistics Centre became our new temporary home before we were finally able to start our journey to Singapore. We reached our destination after one month. The trip wasn't exactly luxurious, but I didn't expect that either. Here in Singapore I can finally follow my destiny. I am home to various goods until they are picked. That’s great fun and I’m always on the move.

Finally, I would like to thank my manufacturer for my creation, the interesting journey and the many new impressions. He enabled me as a plastic container to represent Switzerland in Singapore. There will be no transportation to Asia in the future. All other plastic containers for the Asian region are manufactured in China by Georg Utz Materials Handling (Suzhou) Co., Ltd. This reduces the carbon footprint which, in turn, benefits the environment.

Warm regards from Singapore,
Your Utz container 000,001

(Storytelling with businessmind.ch)