18 Apr

ISTA 3-Series Standard: What You Need to Know

For over 70 years, the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) has been supporting businesses to optimise packaging design and minimise product damage. The member-based, not-for-profit organisation works across the entire packaging supply chain. That’s from initial packing and inventory management to product arrival at a customer’s front door.

The ISTA 3-Series is their collection of general simulation tests which help packaging manufacturers and goods suppliers to better understand the risk of damage to a product. It’s a standard that’s growing in popularity, particularly in the UK – and it’s one we’re keen to assist customers to meet!


What are ISTA standards?

The ISTA is headquartered in the US, but their standards are referenced and recognised worldwide. If you’re early in the design process and want to test the integrity of your latest packaging design, you’d be looking to meet the ISTA 1-Series standard. And if you’re confident in the reliability of your package but you’d like to see how it stands up to a pattern of environmental hazards, you’d be testing against the ISTA 4AB-Series.


What is the ISTA 3-Series?

The Series goes all the way up to number seven, but today we’re focussing on the magic number three. The ISTA 3-Series is a group of tests that simulate the typical hazards you’d find in a specific shipment type. It helps you choose a package that meets your requirements and gives you the desired outcome. Usually, that’s a product that arrives at its end destination in the same condition it left the production line, with minimal (if any!) damage to the packaging itself.


Where does ISTA Standard testing take place? 

Packaging manufacturers should all have processes in place to test the effectiveness of their products. Whether that’s for a standard range of packages or a highly bespoke packaging design, having packaging that’s up to scratch should be the minimum! When packaging is ISTA 3-Series compliant, that minimum becomes a maximum.

To meet the standard, packages are put under testing so rigorous that there are only 14 ‘laboratories’ in the UK. (Facilities that meet ISTA testing requirements are known as laboratories.) These labs put packages through their paces, testing them against hazards that manufacturers simply can’t replicate at their own facility. Or, may not even be aware of!


What does the ISTA 3-Series test for?

So, what do these hazards look like? To achieve the ISTA 3-Series standard, packages go up against simulations of factors that can impact the transit environment and cause damage. These include:

  • Motions – like how a package responds to a random vibration
  • Forces – e.g. testing a package’s resilience to different drop heights
  • Conditions – seeing the impact of weather, temperature, and humidity on a package
  • Sequences – from the number of times a package is handled to the effect the type or route of the vehicle has on it

The testing acts as a predictive tool for manufacturers and product suppliers, giving them a better idea of the current risk of damage to both the package and product inside.


Which procedure is right for my packaging or product? 

Seven procedures make up the ISTA 3-Series. Each one has been deigned to account for the range of package designs and packaged goods that are transported along supply chains.

For example, procedure 3A is for standard, small, flat, and elongated packages that weigh 70kg or less. These packages need to be distributed by air or ground and are tested for their suitability to pass through a parcel delivery system.

On the other hand, procedure 3K is for FMCG goods that are shipped through Europe’s multiple-retail supply chain environment. The test method applies to packages that can be either shelf-ready or non-shelf ready, where store-specific mixed loads are shipped in roll cages or as mixed pallets during retailer operations.


Why is ISTA Standard testing important?

If a product comes out of testing undamaged, in-tact, and meets your minimum conditions, then you’re onto a winner with its packaging! Meeting ISTA standards is no mean feat – and it should give you confidence that your products are going to get from A to B to C just as you intended.

But that’s just the tip of the benefits. Less product damage equals less returns, less unhappy customers, less cost (and so on). Brand loyalty is boosted, because customers trust that the products they’ve ordered from you are going to arrive on their doorstep in the quality they expect. Whilst customers aren’t making returns, loyalty breeds customers that will return to order and purchase from your brand. So, your profits go up, too.

When damage is minimised, there’s also a considerable reduction in waste. One of the biggest biproducts here is sustainability, and a supply chain and distribution cycle that makes a less negative impact on the environment. What’s not to love about that?


How Greyhound Box supports the ISTA 3-Series standard

At Greyhound Box, we’re able to provide our customers with products that meet the ISTA 3-Series standard (where required). Plus, we can assist customers with the stages involved with exporting goods to the US – somewhere that places a high focus on meeting the standard. From developing the packaging’s concept to arranging its ISTA testing, we’re here to support customers looking for success in new markets.

Is your packaging up to the ISTA 3-Series Standard? Speak with our team to find out how we can carry out a full packaging review to help you get the most from your packaging!

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