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3 Types Of Crates And Their Uses

June 2, 2023


Did you know that “crate” comes from the Latin word “cratis,” meaning wickerwork or lattice? It evolved into the Dutch word “krat,” meaning basket, in the 16th century. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in 1790, with its verb form introduced in 1871.

Despite much of its origin still being shrouded in mystery, crates are an AUD$7.5 billion industry with modest growth projected over the decade—and for good reason. Wooden crates are low-cost (depending on the wood used), sturdy, and reusable. They’re a ubiquitous sight in a product’s journey, from the factory floor to the client recipient.

Any wood packaging manufacturer can produce crates for specific packaging needs. As for said needs, they depend on the type of product a business wants to keep intact during shipping. Here are the different types of crates and their applications.

  1. Open crates

    The simplest way to categorise crates is with their open or closed designs. As the term implies, open crates have gaps between the wooden planks used in their construction. These crates are designed for holding products that won’t be at risk when exposed to the elements as well as those that won’t spoil when they are exposed during shipping.

    A common example is a crate used to ship and hold produce. The gaps between the planks, on top of the timber’s breathability, allow the ethylene gas that some fruits and vegetables emit to escape. As ethylene gas is responsible for ripening fruits, open crates can prevent a fruit on the verge of ripening from spoiling the entire batch.

    Open crates use less wood than their closed counterparts, especially produce crates (they usually feature an open top), helping businesses cut packaging costs. However, this also makes them less suitable (but not entirely unusable) for stacking, lest they risk crushing the goods.

  1. Closed crates

    Closed or sheathed crates are built using whole boards that enclose the contents on all sides. This design protects the contents from the elements and is built sturdy enough to be stacked on top of each other when necessary. Inorganic items like tools and machinery are best shipped in closed crates, where anything from water to accidental impact can ruin them.

    These crates are versatile enough to be transported by any means, including airlifts since cargo planes don’t allow open crates. They can hold up to 30,000 kg of goods, seeing extensive use in factory and military logistics.

    That said, being built for heavy-duty use requires more wood, adding to a business’s packaging expenses. Opening a closed crate warrants a crowbar and enough elbow grease, as it must be nailed shut to ensure safety and stability during shipping.

  1. Ply crates

    One variant of closed timber crates is the plywood or ply crate. These crates are built smaller than closed crates because they’re made for shipping situations where weight is a major issue, namely the weight of the crate itself.

    What distinguishes these crates from standard closed crates is that they’re made from plywood instead of treated wood. Comprising several layers of cross-grained wood veneer glued together and laminated all around, plywood provides enough sturdiness and protection from shrinkage or other forms of external damage.

    Ply crates are ideal for shipping goods quickly, such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). These include, among other things, ready-to-eat meals, beverages, cleaning products, and office supplies—all expected to be bought as soon as they arrive on the shelves. They can also be used to ship fragile items, provided protective packaging wraps them inside.

ISPM-15 certified

Crate manufacturers expect their crates to be used for both domestic and international shipping. However, countries are aware that invasive organisms can hitch a ride onto the crates’ wooden surfaces and put entire ecosystems at risk.

In light of this, the United Nations-overseen International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) in 2002 adopted the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measure No. 15 (ISPM-15). This standard establishes requirements for wood packaging materials with thicknesses of over 6 mm to resist pest infestation. Australia fully adopted ISPM-15 in 2010.

Every ISPM-15-certified crate sports a marking printed or engraved onto the crate surface. The marking contains the IPPC logo on the left and an alphanumeric code on the right that specifies the manufacturer’s country of origin (using country codes as per ISO 3166-2) and the type of treatment applied to the wood.

Using certified crates is never a bad idea, whether your business ships goods within or beyond a country’s borders. They allow businesses to tap into more markets, mitigate the risk of delays in customs, and show customers that they are committed to preserving the environment.


Wooden crates will most likely remain in widespread use in the foreseeable future, owing to their cost effectiveness and resilience against most forms of damage. No matter what you need to ship to another location and how far, crates can get the job done.