Transportation/Distribution Simulation Services

Transportation or distribution simulation test methods based on ASTM and ISTA standards.

What is a transportation or distribution testing simulation?

Transportation or distribution simulation testing is the process of applying product handling conditions to a packaged product system that are commonly seen in real-world transportation or distribution. The simulation includes environmental conditions, such as temperature and relative humidity, followed by mechanical forces such as drop/shock, compression, vibration, and altitude test. The simulation testing is a key validation requirement for sterile medical devices, defined within ISO 11607. Transportation simulation testing is also performed on packaged pharmaceutical products, nonsterile packaged medical devices, and other packaged products from a wide range of industries.

Individual test methods include:

Climatic conditioning (ASTM D4332, ASTM F2825)

Climatic conditioning is the process used to simulate some of the worst case, real-world conditions that the packaged product may be exposed to during transportation prior to mechanical testing in the laboratory. This process includes exposing final packaged products to specific temperature and humidity conditions for a defined period of time.

Manual handling of loaded containers by free fall (ASTM D5276)

Manual handing (drop test) by free fall is the process used to simulate shock or impact conditions that the packaged products may encounter during handling or transportation. This testing assesses if the packaged product is sufficiently packaged to adequately protect its contents from damage or breakage when dropped from various heights, and can also determine if there is sufficient cushioning around the product to protect it from mechanical forces.

Mechanical handling of unitized loads (ASTM D6055, ASTM D6179)

Mechanical or rough handling is the testing used to assess the integrity of unitized loads or large cases and crates during transportation. This assessment tests the ability of a unitized load to remain intact and protect the product for its duration in the transportation or distribution process. For mechanical/rough handling, unitized loads are defined as units that are secured together as one unit, typically on a large pallet shipping crate.

Bridge impact (ASTM D5265)

Products shipped in elongated packages are susceptible to damage from impact from other packaging with mixed dimensions during shipment. Bridge impact testing is the process used to assess the capability of a long package with a narrow cross-section to resist impact near its center when the package is supported only at its ends, and assesses if the packaged products can adequately protect its contents from damage.

Compressive resistance (ASTM D642)

Compressive resistance testing is used to assess packaging, whether full of product or empty, that may be subjected to a fixed or increasing load to determine the maximum load a unit can withstand during the distribution process. This test simulates vehicle or warehouse stacking forces, which can be based on a theoretical calculated load or to failure.

Vibration testing (ASTM D4728, ASTM D999)

Vibration testing is used to simulate the effects of vibrations from various modes of transport, such as road transportation, air transportation, and sea transportation. This process uses a broad spectrum of vibration frequencies and levels simultaneously on packaged products or shipping containers that are typically encountered during transportation and distribution.

Low pressure (ASTM D6653)

Low pressure or high altitude testing is used to assess the effects of reduced atmospheric pressure that can occur during air transport or ground transport in high-altitude environments. This test is applicable to flexible nonporous/nonbreathable packaging and is used to assess the integrity of the packaging. This is an optional test under ASTM D4169 and can be eliminated based on the specifications of the packaging being used.

Concentrated impact (ASTM D6344)

Concentrated impact testing is used to assess the effects of controlled and localized impact force to a specific area of the package or product. This test simulates an impact from the corner of another shipping unit against the faces of the packaged product. This test provides insights into the packaging design and structural integrity to ensure resistance to punctures or point loads and the package’s ability to withstand concentrated impacts encountered during handling or transportation. This is an optional test under ASTM D4169 and can be eliminated based on the specifications of the external packaging being used.

Packaging material test methods include:

Ink abrasion test (ASTM D5264)

The Sutherland rub test or ink abrasion test is used to assess the effects of rubbing or abrasion forces on printed areas on the package surfaces or on printed labels that could be exposed to during typically handling, transportation or distribution process, or during normal usage.

Transportation test sequences

STERIS AST offers testing in accordance with the following standards:

  • ASTM D4169 (Standard practice for performance testing of shipping containers and systems)
  • ASTM D7386 (Standard practice for performance testing of packages for single parcel delivery systems)
  • ISTA 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1G, 1H (Non-simulation integrity performance tests)
  • ISTA 2A, 2B, 2C (Partial simulation performance tests)
  • ISTA 3A, 3E, 3F, (General simulation performance tests)
  • ISTA 6-AMAZON.COM, ISTA 6-SAMSCLUB, ISTA 6-FEDEX (Member performance tests)
  • ISTA 7D (Temperature tests for transport packaging)
  • ISTA 7E (Testing standard for thermal transport packaging used in parcel delivery system shipment)

Technical Support

Our technical support team also offers guidance toward:

  • Packaging evaluations and concept reviews
  • Risk assessment
  • Identifying suitable standards
  • Test planning and protocol development
  • Evaluating prior validations and gap analysis

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