Product destruction professionals share their suggestions for successfully protecting a client’s brand identity.
Identity protection is not only a concern for online shoppers. Companies are equally concerned about protecting their brand identities and are looking to product destruction as one means to do so. The release of proprietary technology or of overstock or faulty products can water down a company’s profit margins or harm a brand’s image. To counter act this risk, manufacturers often call on secure destruction operations to securely destroy this material.
Companies like American Shredding Inc., Reno, Nev., Total Product Destruction, Spartanburg, S.C., and Cintas, headquartered in Cincinnati, have learned several best practices that help to keep their customers protected.
When it comes to protecting brand identity, just about any product could be considered for secure destruction, according to Nick Wildrick, founder of Total Product Destruction.
“If you are a large tennis shoe company, you don’t want overstock or mistakes showing up on the market place,” Wildrick says. If these products are disposed of in a landfill without being destroyed first, they could find their way to the market, costing a brand money and perhaps its reputation.
Manufacturers also should consider the possibility of products finding their way back to the U.S. from foreign markets. For instance, a manufacturer may ship off-spec or discontinued merchandise to a Mexican border town to sell at a deeply discounted price, Wildrick says. However, this merchandise may make its way back into the U.S. to be sold at flea markets, Wildrick says, harming the brand and the retailers who sell the sanctioned products. He adds that manufacturers don’t want inferior or overstock products flooding the marketed and hurting their retail partners.
Jamie Samide, director of marketing for emerging business at Cintas, says, “We handle destruction of paper, cardboard, hard drives, printer materials, uniforms, sneakers, playing cards, poker chips, lotto cards and media tapes. Not everyone realizes the importance of destroying non-traditional items, including uniforms, but it’s a crucial step to prevent them from landing in the wrong hands.”
Wildrick says manufacturers do not want to see products that have street value or proprietary value ending up in a foreign country where they can be demanufactured and copied.
While product destruction arguably is more desirable then sending products to a landfill, manufacturers may not be able to recoup a lot of their costs through the process. Products like pants or handbags do not have much value once shredded, especially compared with other products that produce materials that can be recovered for recycling and help to offset destruction and transportation costs.
“Let’s say I’m shredding blue jeans,” James Bell of American Shredding says. While he says the shredded material can be used in wall insulation, the value of that material is “pretty minimal.”
Other valuable materials are not commonly shredded to protect brand identity.
“There is silver in X-rays, and you can in essence get money for the silver that is in the X-rays,” Bell says. The value of the silver allows a destruction firm to give its client a rebate, reducing the cost of the overall service, he says. “Both parties end up getting some money back because of the high cost of silver,” Bell says of the destruction firm and its client. “But that is not the same for a T-shirt that has very little value once it is shredded up.”
Product destruction providers also say they often deal with commingling of materials in these situations, and there can be little value in recycling in those instances. Often clients find it is more important to know that their products have been destroyed securely than to risk the material making its way back on to the market.
Wildrick says that from time to time Total Product Destruction will demanufacture products so they can be recycled more easily, “but, if it is a high-dollar product, a real high-end name, then no [we do not].” He says such clients are “more concerned with their products being destroyed and not showing back up on the market.”
Wildrick adds, “Some have a no-landfill policy company-wide, so in those cases we do waste to energy.”
Bell and Wildrick both recommend off-site shredding for product destruction jobs. Product volumes can be quite high, they say. “If you have 10 pallets, or 10,000 pounds, of material, off site would be better,” Bell says. He says it not only eliminates factors like weather, but shredding off-site can help to maintain positive client relationships.
“It can take a long time to shred, and the trucks are loud,” he says.
Samide says Cintas has found its customers prefer on-site shredding because they can see immediate results. However, he acknowledges off-site destruction is a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable option.
“If you’re doing this off site, you are using more electricity than gas,” Bell says, “so it’s more environmentally friendly to shred at a facility than it is to do it at someone’s location.”
Wildrick says products vary in size and shape as well as by material, which can make using a shredding truck difficult.
“To me, there is no advantage to doing it on site, because of the mess that it makes,” Wildrick says. “It’s not like paper, where you have a uniformed size. When you run it on your truck, you run the risk of contaminating your next load.”
He adds that the jobs are often large as well, saying, “typically everything we do is a tractor-trailer-load quantity.”
He adds, “We do certificates of disposal if it contains any liquids or if it has to go to a landfill.”
When providing off-site service, many destruction firms say they prefer to arrange transportation of the products to their shredding facilities.
“We would securely load it on to our truck, lock it down ad then transport it back to our facility,” Bell says.
“They can come to your facility, bring the material to you and watch it get shredded, but most people do not.”
A lock-and-seal system should always be in place when transporting material, Wildrick says. Companies get into the most trouble when they lose track of the chain of custody, he adds.
While Total Product Destruction often uses its own trucks to transport products destined for destruction, Wildrick adds that if the company uses a third party for transporation, Total Product Destruction staff usually will arrange the transportation then send a lock and a seal for its client to put on the truck after loading.
Some Maintenance Required
“Product destruction tears up everything,” Wildrick says. “It dulls the knives. If you are a document destruction company, plastic is going to dull the knives. There is a high risk of damaging your equipment.”
To reduce potential damage to equipment, Wildrick recommends that product destruction firms call the manufacturers of the products they are destroying before putting them through a shredder.
Wildrick recalls a job that involved destroying headphones. The company did not make such a call to the manufacturer prior to processing the headphones. “Well, inside headphones are magnets, and we did some pretty heavy damage to some of our equipment,” he says.
Experience will help product destruction firms determine which shredding equipment is best suited for processing certain products, but putting a call into the product’s manufacturer could help a company avoid a lot of headaches, expense and equipment downtime.
“The reality is there is no one machine that will do it all, because different products feed through different machines in different ways,” Bell says.
He adds that housekeeping also is an important consideration in product destruction. He advises destruction firms to thoroughly clean out their equipment when changing infeed material to reduce the risk of fire.
The author is assistant editor of Storage and & Destruction Business magazine and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.