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Packaged-Products for Shipment in Known Distribution Channels

Web-Based Software Application that Generates Enhanced Simulation Test Plans


Enhanced Simulation is defined as an extension of General Simulation, covering all typical distribution hazards in a realistic way, and in addition incorporating one or more elements of Focused Simulation. ISTA Project 4AB is a web-based software application which generates Enhanced Simulation Test Plans. Released in October of 2006 as version 1.0.0, Project 4AB closely ties the tests and sequence to a user-defined pattern of distribution, and includes a broad range of current and quantitative information on distribution environment hazards. The Focused Simulation elements are therefore test-tailoring to individual situations, and usage of up-to-date and specific hazard profiles and parameters. Unlike Focused Simulation, however, 4AB does not require the user to make quantitative field measurements and translate those into laboratory tests. Measurement-derived test protocols are included as part of the simulation. Once the item to be shipped and the distribution system, means, and configurations are defined, a test plan is generated without further input.

While generation of a 4AB test plan is easy from the user’s point of view, the web-based program involves considerable “behind-the-scenes” complexity. For example, at this point it includes 11 different package types, 4 handling types, and 7 types of load-carrying materials or combinations; included are more than 50 handling tables and 15 vibration spectra (with more being added); vibration test time is related to user-specified transit time; vibration tests are accelerated (time-compressed) yet incorporate pragmatic limits for stroke and Grms; compression test compensation for time, temperature, humidity and stacking pattern is calculated from data-based formulas; compression tests can accommodate load-sharing packages; any hazard (test) element may be assigned one of three intensities; and inputs and test plans may be in English or metric units.

Enhanced Simulation and Project 4AB test plans may require relatively sophisticated laboratory testing equipment. As a maximum, the required equipment may include several types of appropriate drop test apparatus, a random vibration test system, an inclined impacter, compression test apparatus, conditioning chambers, a lift truck, and – if rail transport is involved – a horizontal impact test machine.

Program Availability

The Project 4AB program is available free to all ISTA members through 2007, via a link on the “MemberCenter” page of the ISTA website. Non-members may contact ISTA members to have them demonstrate the program and/or produce a 4AB Test Plan.

Project 4AB Sponsorship Program

The creation of Project 4AB and the Data Depot (see below) involved considerable effort and the commitment of significant resources. A Sponsorship program was created to support this important work; ISTA gratefully acknowledges below the organizations who generously provided both economic and technical assistance. Click on the logos below to visit the sponsors' web sites.

The "Data Depot"
Part of Project 4AB is the commitment to a continuing effort of data collection. If the 4AB distribution hazard parameters are to be kept current and meaningful, latest information must be continuously available. For some time, technology has supported the accurate and appropriate measurement of distribution shock, vibration, compression, and atmospheric data. Efforts are continuously underway to obtain as much of that information as possible, analyze and compile it appropriately, and use it within 4AB. These efforts are called ISTA's "Data Depot". Individual records will be leveraged by combination with similar data to increase statistical significance and confidence. Persons and organizations willing to contribute distribution environment information to the Data Depot are encouraged to contact Bill Kipp at ISTA,

Overview of the Project 4AB Program
Briefly, program operation involves description of the product and package, and then creation of a user-defined “Distribution Sequence”, characterizing the modes, means, and details of how the test item is distributed. Once the sequence is complete, a corresponding laboratory test plan is generated.

Features and functions of the program are too extensive to be fully presented here. But, as a demonstration example, consider a distribution as follows:
• Initial shipment as a unit load on a pallet
• Transport by rail to warehouse
• Storage for 30 days
• Shipment from warehouse as individual package
• Transport by truck to customer

When the program is begun, a blank Distribution Sequence “Tree” is shown at the left side of the screen, and the user is asked to enter information about the product (filled in here with some contrived information as an example):

Next the user is asked to provide information on the package. Since the initial configuration of the demonstration example is a unitized load on a pallet, the user selects that package type from the first drop-down list. This automatically sets the handling to Mechanical. The user then chooses the correct load-bearing material and supplies other information as shown.

The example distribution starts with transport by rail to a warehouse, but first a handling operation is required to place the unit load in the rail car. The user clicks Add Handling and specifies the details.

When Add Transport is clicked, the user is asked for information regarding the transportation method, the vehicle used, the load configuration, and other details. Rail transport and other example information is shown here.

Another handling element is added to simulate removal from the railcar, then Add Storage is clicked and details of the warehouse time and conditions are specified.

At this point in the example, movement of the unit load from origin to warehouse has been described, and the “Tree” at the left side of the screen above summarizes the hazard elements involved. Now the package changes from unit load to individual package, so the user clicks Add Package and specifies the new configuration.

The example process continues with a handling operation to load the truck, transport by truck to the customer, and unloading at the customer location. The example Distribution Sequence is now complete, and is summarized by the “Tree” on the screen below. The Sequence can be edited or re-ordered at any time by highlighting and using the appropriate buttons.

Clicking the TestPlan button will now generate a test plan based on the “Tree”, with all details defined by the associated dialog boxes. The test plan is in .pdf format, suitable for printing and/or saving, and editable for the adding of notes and additional data. If the Compact checkbox is unchecked, the test plan will be an exact representation of the “Tree”, with the hazard element tests in the user-defined order. If the Compact checkbox is checked, the test plan will contain all the user-defined hazard element tests, but grouped into a sequence of Handling, Transportation, Storage, Transportation, Handling. This could streamline laboratory testing operations, but might not be the most accurate simulation.

Test Plan
Following are some excerpts from the demonstration example test plan.

First handling test (in the demonstration example, there are two handlings in the unit load configuration and two in the individual package configuration):

Vibration test from the “individual package” configuration:

Compression test to simulate warehouse storage:


Further Information
For further information about Project 4AB, contact Bill Kipp at