, Need To Reevaluate Packing Specifications For’ Cabinets, Lockers, And Wardrobes 6-760817 General Serwces Admmrstratlon BY THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES 19x371 COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES WASHINGTON 0 C 20548 B- 160 817 To the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives This 1s our report on the need for the General Ser- vices Admmlstratlon to reevaluate packing speclflcatlons for cabmets, lockers, and wardrobes Our review was made pursuant to the Budget and Ac- countmg Act, 1921 (31 U S C 53), and the Accounting and Auditing Act of 1950 (31 U S C 67) Copies of this report are being sent to the &rector, Offlce of Management and Budget, and to the Admmlstrator of General Services Comptroller General of the United States - 50TH ANNIVERSARY 1921- 1971 COMPTROLLERGENERAL'S NEED TO REEVALUATE PACKING SPECIFICATIONS REPORT TO THE CONGRESS FOR CABINETS, LOCKERS, AND WARDROBES General Services Admlnlstratlon B-160817 DIGEST ---s-n WHY THE REVIEW WASMADE The General Services Admlnistratlon (GSA), in provldlng supplies to Government agencies and other authorized recipients, buys 48,000 differ- ent items and stocks them In its nationwide system of warehouses. Almost all items require some degree of packing so that they will reach GSA's customers In suitable condltlon The cost of packing adds to the cost of the item GSA, beginnIng in 1966, negotiated amendments to procurement contracts for storage cabinets, clothing lockers, and wardrobes to reduce the damages to such items during shipment and storage The amendments es- tabllshed more costly packing speclf?catlons This revJew was made to consider whether the revlslon of the speclflcatlons was reasonable and resulted in the most economical packing method. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS The revised speclflcatlons provided for more elaborate packing than the General Accounting Office (GAO) considers necessary and resulted In ad- dltlonal contract costs of $1 5 million--an increase of 12 percent-- during the first 14 months that the specifications were In use. For subsequent periods through June 30, 1970, GAO was unable to determine what portion of the $14 4 mllllon of contract costs for cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes was attributable to the revised specifications, however, GAO believes that it was substantial (Seepp 7and12) GSA had not made a cost-benefit analysis to determine that the added costs of the new packing specifications would be offset by reduced damages and other benefits (See P 7 r GSA surveyed 1ts warehouses shortly before the speclflcatlons were re- vised and found that the acqulsltlon cost of damaged cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes on hand at that time was $24,156. The slgnlflcance of the damages was not establlshed, since apparently no comparison was made between the cost of the damaged items and the total cost of the cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes received during the period that the damaged items were accumulated The survey did not lndlcate the es- timated costs to repair or replace the damaged items or deduct the Tear Sheet FEB.19,1971 . . .P amount of damages for which carriers and/or suppliers, rather than GSA, were liable (See P 9 ) Most of the damaged items revealed by the survey and by an lnspectlon of warehouse stocks made after the revlslon of the speclflcatlons had been manufactured by one supplier whose workmanship In packing was crltlclzed by GSA inspectors both before and after the specifications were revised. (See pp 9 and 14 ) The consensus of manufacturers and retailers of commercial cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes visited by GAO was that the GSA packing requlre- ments were not economically practical. (See P 15 ) RECO&lMENDA!l'IONS OR SUGGESTIONS GSA should reevaluate its specifications for the packing of storage cab7netss clothing lockers3 and wardrobes. (See p. 20 ) AGENCYACTIONS AND UNRESOLVEDISSUES I GSA did not comment on the GAO recommendation or Indicate that It would ; make the recommended reevaluation. GSA has stated that 1-t agrees to I the merits of the cost-benefit approach and uses it in the development 1 or revision of speclflcatlons when the circumstances permit In the I case of the revised specifications for cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes, I GSA stated that the potential damage and loss--If corrective action had / been delayed--outwelghed any advantages that would have resulted from 1 a cost-benefit study (See app I.) I I GSA questioned the comparison of its packing containers with commercial 1 containers GSA stated that its warehouses handled greater volumes and I more types of stock than were handled by manufacturers and retailers. I GAO believes that the hazards to which items are subJected during I shipment and storage generally are not dependent on the volume or types ; of items handled GAO points out that two large retailers visited I during the review handle many items other than furniture ISee P* 20 ) i GSA agreed that costs increased by $1 5 million under the amended con- tracts GSA said, however, that the increases could not be proJected because In subsequent periods contract costs were reduced as a result of an increase in the volumes purchased. GAO believes that the revised packing speclflcat-tons have resulted in increased labor and materials costs to the contractors and in higher prices than would have resulted under the former speclflcatlons, even though the amount of the tn- creases cannot be determined (See PP* 19 and 20.) 2 t 1 MATTERSFOR CONSIDERATIONBY THE CONGRESS This report IS being submitted to the Congress because of the signifi- cant savings that could result from a reduction in the packing requlre- I ments for cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes i I I t I I I I I I I I I I I I i Tear Sheet 3 Contents ------a- Page DIGEST 1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 4 GSA packing policies and organizational responsibility 5 2 NEED TO REEVALUATE PACKING SPECIFICATIONS FOR CABINETS, LOCKERS, AND WARDROBES 7 Revision to packing specifications prior to September 1966 7 September 1966 revision to packing spec- ifications 9 Further packing problems 14 Comparison of GSA's packing containers with commercial containers 15 Agency comments 19 Recommendation 20 3 SCOPE OF REVIEW 22 APPENDIX I Letter dated September 15, 1970, from the Administrator of General Services to the General Accounting Office 25 II Principal offlcrals of the General Services Admlnistratlon responsible for the active- *ties discussed in this report 26 ABBREVIATIONS GAO General Accounting Office GSA General Services Administration COMPTROLLERGENERAL'S NEED TO REEVALUATE PACKING SPECIFICATIONS REPORTTO THE CONGRESS FOR CABINETS, LOCKERS, AND WARDROBES General Services Admln~strat~on B-160817 DIGEST ------ WHYTflE REVIEW WASMADE The General Services Admlnlstratlon (GSA), in provldlng supplies to Government agencges and other authorized recipients, buys 48,000 dlffer- ent items and stocks them in its nationwide system of warehouses. Almost all items require some degree of packing so that they will reach GSA's customers in suitable condition The cost of packing adds to the cost of the item GSA, beginning in 1966, negotiated amendments to procurement contracts for storage cabinets, clothing lockers, and wardrobes to reduce the damages to such items during shipment and storage The amendments es- tablished more costly packing speclflcatlons. This review was made to consider whether the- r&lslon oi the speclflcatlons was reasonable and resulted in the most economical packing method. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS The revised speclflcatlons provided for more elaborate packing than the General Accounting Office (GAO) considers necessary and resulted in ad- ditional contract costs of $1 5 million--an increase of 12 percent-- during the first 14 months that the specifications were in use. For subsequent periods through June 30, 1970, GAO was unable to determine what portion of the $14 4 million of contract costs for cabinets, lockers3 and wardrobes was attributable to the revised specifications, however, GAO believes that it was substantial (See PP* 7 and 12.) GSA had not made a cost-benefit analysis to determine that the added costs of the new packing speclflcatlons would be offset by reduced damages and other benefits (See p 7.1 GSA surveyed its warehouses shortly before the specifications were re- vised and found that the acqulsltlon cost of damaged cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes on hand at that time was $24,156 The significance of the damages was not established, since apparently no comparison was made between the cost of the damaged items and the total cost of the cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes received during the period that the damaged items were accumulated. The survey did not indicate the es- timated costs to repair or replace the damaged items or deduct the amount of damages for which carriers and/or suppliers, rather than GSA, were liable (See P 9 ) Most of the damaged items revealed by the survey and by an Inspection of warehouse stocks made after the revlslon of the specifications had been manufactured by one supplier whose workmanship in packing was criticized by GSA -inspectors both before and after the speclflcatlons were revised (See pp 9 and 14 ) The consensus of manufacturers and retailers of commercial cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes v~slted by GAO was that the GSA packing requlre- ments were not economically practical (See P 15 ) RECOMMENDATIONS OR SUGGESTIONS GSA should reevaluate its speclflcatlons for the packing of storage cablnets$ clothing lockers, and wardrobes. (See p. 20 ) AGENCYACTIONS AND UNRESOLVEDISSUES GSA did not comment on the GAO recommendation or indicate that it would make the recommended reevaluation GSA has stated that 1-t agrees to the merits of the cost-benefit approach and uses it in the development or revlslon of speclflcatlons when the circumstances permit In the case of the revised speclflcatlons for cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes, GSA stated that the potential damage and loss--if corrective action had been delayed--outweighed any advantages that would have resulted from a cost-benefit study (See wp 1 1 GSA questioned the comparison of Its packing containers with commercial containers GSA stated that Its warehouses handled greater volumes and more types of stock than were handled by manufacturers and retailers GAO believes that the hazards to which Items are subJected during shipment and storage generally are not dependent on the volume or types of items handled GAO points out that two large retailers visited during the review handle many items other than furniture (See PO 20 ) GSA agreed that costs increased by $1 5 mllllon under the amended con- tracts GSA said, however, that the Increases could not be projected because In subsequent periods contract costs were reduced as a result of an increase in the volumes purchased GAO believes that the revised packing speclflcatlons have resulted in increased labor and materials costs to the contractors and in higher prices than would have resulted under the former speclflcatlons, even though the amount of the in- creases cannot be determtned (See PP 19 and 20 ) 2 MATTERSFOR COiVSlDERATIONBY TRE CONGRESS This report IS being submltted to the Congress because of the slgnlfl- cant savings that could result from a reduction in the packing require- ments for cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes. CHAPTER1 INTRODUCTION The General Accounting Offlce has reviewed the actions taken by the General Services Administration (GSA) to re- duce the damages to certain types of furniture during ship- ment and storage. The review was concerned primarily with revisions to the packing specifications for storage cabinets, clothing lockers, and wardrobes; it should not be considered as an evaluation of GSA's packing specifications for other items. The scope of our review is shown on page 22. The prin- cipal officials of GSA responsible for the activities dis- cussed in this report are listed in appendix II. The Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, as amended (40 U.S.C. 4711, made GSA primarily re- sponsible for providing an efficient and economical system for procurement and supply of personal property and nonper- sonal services needed by Federal agencies and Government- related organizations. The Federal Supply Service operates GSA's supply system, under which supplies are made available through (1) a stores system, (2) Federal Supply Schedule contracts, and (3) nonstores direct delivery operations. The stores system was established with the obJecti've of providing agencies with supplies having a repetitive de- mand at prices lower than those that the agencies could individually obtain from suppliers. GSA stocks supplies in 16 warehouses and 10 annexes located throughout the United States and publishes a Stores Stock Catalog which lists the items available. As of June 30, 1970, 48,000 line items were included in the stores system with a warehouse inventory valued at $253 million. During fiscal year 1970 sales from warehouse stocks amounted to $494 million and direct shipments of stores items from contractors to agen- cies amounted to $34 million. Many of the supplies needed by agencies cannot be eco- nomically supplied through the stores system. When such items are available from suppliers through their own dis- tribution systems, GSA arranges for agencies to procure 4 their requirements through IndefInite quantity contracts (Schedule contracts) that are published by GSA in Federal Supply Schedules. Under such contracts, agencies may order their requirements directly from contractors at the prear- ranged terms, conditions, and prices. Schedule contracts cover more than 700,000 items, and purchases under such con- tracts amounted to $1,400 million during fiscal year 1970. GSA's nonstores direct delivery operations include (1) procurement of agencies' requirements that are In ex- cess of the maximum order limitations of Schedule contracts, (2) admlnistratlon of contracts under which agencies place orders through GSA for direct delivery, and (3) assistance to agencies that do not have adequate capabilities for pro- curing items that are not available from stores stock or Schedule contractors. Purchases through nonstores direct delivery operations amounted to $293 million during fiscal year 1970. GSA PACKING POLICIES AND ORGANIZATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY GSA's policy states that all supplies shall be packed to the degree required to prevent deterioration or damage due to the hazards to which they may be subJected during shipment and storage. GSA defines packing as the exterior shipping containers; the assembly of items or packages in the containers; and the necessary blocking, bracing, cush- ioning, and weather proofing. The primary responslbillty for GSA's packing activities 1s divided between the Office of Standards and Quality Con- trol and the Office of Supply Distribution, as described below. Office of Standards and Quality Control (Packaging and Packing Branch) --Develops basic packing specifications. --Maintains knowledge of new developments in packing and ensures effective appllcatlon to supply programs. --Makes analyses and provides technical advice and as- sistance on packaging problems. 5 Office of Supply Dlstrlbution (Preservation and Packing Operations Branch) --Provides advlce on the technrcalbaspects of packrng, outloadlng blocking and bracing, unrtrzatron, and contalnerizatlon. --Administers programs for the detectron and reporting of packing defrciencles, evaluates reported lnade- quate or excessive practices, and lnltlates correc- , tive action as necessary. --Evaluates the effectiveness and the performance of packaging and packing to determine the extent to which they meet establlshed crlterla and requirements. --Provrdes representation on Industry and Government packing boards, committees, task groups or liaison teams, as directed. Maintains llalson with industry and the Government In the development of new or im- proved preservation and packing methods, technrques, aids, and equipment. 6 CHAPTER 2 NEED TO REEVALUATE PACKING SPECIFICATIONS FOR CABINETS, LOCKERS, AND WARDROBES GSA revised the packing specifications for certain types of storage cabinets, clothing lockers, and wardrobes, wzthout, in our opmion, an adequate evaluation of the ne- cessity for the more elaborate packing or a determination that the resulting benefits-- such as reduced damages and im- proved handling and storage-- would offset the increased pro- curement costs resulting from the revised specifications. In our opinion, the revised packing specifications provided for more elaborate and, therefore, more costly packing than necessary. Our review indicated that the problem of damages to the above items, which was the basis for revising the specifica- tions, was limited primarily to one supplier whose worlcman- ship in packing was criticized by GSA inspectors both before and after the specifications were revised. The revised specifications, however, were incorporated into contracts with several suppliers and resulted in addi- tional contract costs of $1.5 million during the first 14 months that the specifications were in use. REVISION TO PACKING SPECIFICATIONS PRIOR TO SEPTEMBER 1966 GSA Central Office officials, who were aware that cer- tain items of furniture were being damaged during shipment and storage, began in 1964 to accumulate data to identify more specifically the items damaged and the causes of the damages. The data was to be obtained by requiring that warehouse reports of damages1 be forwarded to the Central Offxe in Washington for analysis. 1GSA procedures require that reports be prepared whenever there is a discrepancy m a shipment of items. The reports are usedfor processing claims against carriers and/or sup- pliers. Th;~s requirement resulted in the receipt during calen- dar years 1964 and 1965 of 123 reports concerning damage to cabmets, lockers, and wardrobes. GSA had purchased 345,000 of these items during the 2-year period; however, the reports involved shipments of only 10,058 items, of which 407, or 4 percent, were damaged. The Acting Director, Engrneerzng and Storage Division, by memorandum dated November 23, 1965, to the Director, Qualrty Control Div1slon, summarized furniture damage re- ports for the perrod January 1 through August 31, 1965, and commented as follows: *'**-k This does not represent 'all reports' pre- pared III the varaous regions but includes only those covering (1) damage to furniture, and (2) where it appears that a packaging or packing de- fxlency has occurred. tr*** The type of deficiency most often reported (percent of total indicated) IS, as follows: Improper blocking and bracing (50%); Overages and Shortages (10%); Shiftxng Loads (6%); and Miscel- laneous and Undefined (34%)." Durang the period June 1964 to July 1966, GSA made four revisions to the packxng speclflcations for cabinets and lockers and two revisions for wardrobes. The net effect of the revlslons was to upgrade the packsng requirements. 8 SEPTEMBER 1966 REVISION To PACKING SPECIFICATIONS GSA continued to experience damages to furniture items. In August 1966 GSA conducted a nationwrde survey of its warehouses to determine the extent of the damage problem at that trme for several items of furniture, including cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes. In September 1966 further revi- srons were made to the packing specrflcations for these items. The history of damages was the primary consideration In arriving at the decision to further revise the speciflca- tions, however, the August 1966 survey was GSA's only effort to identify the overall damage problem prior to making the further revisions. The survey indicated that the acquisition costs of damaged wardrobes, cabinets, and lockers on hand at that time were $22,775, $1,158, and $223, respectively--a total of $24,156. We found no indication that a comparison had been made of the cost of the damaged items with the total cost of the cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes received dur- lng the period that the damaged items were accumulated, to determine the srgnlficance of the damages. Furthermore, the survey did not identify the actual loss to GSA because it did not indicate the estimated costs to repair or replace the damaged items or deduct the amount of damages for which carrrers and/or suppliers, rather than GSA, were liable. In the absence of information on the full extent of losses under the former specifications, we believe that GSA was not In a position to use the cost-benefit approach because that approach would have required a comparrson of the estl- mated additional costs with the savings resulting from the revision. Damage problems with one supplier Our analysis of the data gathered in the August 1966 survey showed that 94 percent of the identified damaged cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes had been manufactured by one supplier, which we shall refer to as supplier A. ThlS supplier produced about 13 percent of GSA's purchases of these items during 1966. 9 GSA representatives had made a number of inspections of packing operations at supplier A's plant during the summer of 1966, prior to the survey. Following an inspection at the plant during the period July 19 to 21, 1966, the Direc- tor, Quality Control Dlvlsion, In a memorandum to the Assist- ant Commissioner, Standards and Quality Control, concluded, in part, that: '*Poor production planning of packing and crating set-up cabinets. Improper methods being used, Containers are not being sealed prior to crating. Securing of crated members is not being accom- plished uniformly, orderly or effectively.'@ The Director recommended that. "The Packing Specialists should be encouraged to visit the contractor's plant to work with the [quality control representative] and the Contrac- tor's representatives and to familiarize themselves with current automated production processes. In this regard, the new packing requirements has ef- fected a change over from a contractor procuring a ready made wood cleated container to a pack he has to fabricate himself which had only increased the problems of controlling quality and has not achieved the desxred results of a better pack."? GSA representatives again visited supplier A's plant during August 8 to 11, 1966, after which the Director, Qual- ity Control Division, advised the Assistant Commissioner, Standards and Qualxty Control Division, that: I g%elative to the pack of other items of furniture reviewed by our Packing Specialists, their obser- vation appeared to support * previously ex- pressed contention that the new crated container requirement appears to be an unrealistic require- ment when measured against a manufacturer capable of producinglupw8rds of a thousand cabinets a day and crating cannot be accomplished at this pace, A prefabricated pack similar to that utilized on prior contracts, which appeared to be an adequate pack should be utilized and if necessary, modified if better protection is desired." The Commissioner of the Federal Supply Service and other GSA officials visited supplier A's plant on August 19, 1966, to examine into the packing of cabinets and wardrobes. Subsequently, supplier A was instructed to cease productlon of these items for purchase by GSA, pending advice on a change in packing specifications. On September 20, 1966, GSA provided supplier A with two sets of revised packing specifications--one set for ward- robes and one set for cabinets and lockers. The specifica- tions provided for a more elaborate pack for wardrobes; i.e., an outer wood crate In addition to the fiberboard container. Suppller Ass contract for wardrobes was amended on Octo- ber 13, 1966, to include the revised packing specificatrons and provided for an increase of $5.65 In the price of a wardrobe, from $47.13 to $52.78. The increase in prrce was for additional labor, materials, freight, overhead costs, and the supplier's cost to scrap the former specifrcatlons packing components that could not be used under the new spec- ifications. Supplier A's contract for cabinets also was amended in October 1966 to include revised packing specifications. Changes to the specifications Included --an increase in the minimum wood dimensions from a nominal l-inch by 3-inch to a nominal l-inch by 4-inch, --replacement of two diagonal l-inch by 3-inch wood strips by SIX l-inch by 6-inch cross members, and --addition of strapping around the top, middle, and bottom portions of the wood crate. The revised packing specifications for cabinets also resulted in the supplier's increasing the prices of the cab- inets for additional labor, materials, and other costs. A listing of the increases follows. Previous Revised Descrlptlon price price Increase Comblnatlon storage and ward- robe cabinet (knockdown) $35,19 $38.84 $3.65 Combination storage and ward- robe cabinet (setup) 49.96 54,61 4.65 Storage cabinet (knockdown) 33.59 37.24 3.65 Storage cabinet (setup) 48.32 52.97 4,65 Purchases under the amended contracts with supplier A totaled $1,033,000. Because of the revised packing spec- ifications, contract costs increased by $98,000--11 percent of the orIgIna contract prxes. Revised packing specifications applied to other suppliers At the time that GSA amended supplier A's contracts, six other suppliers held GSA contracts for the supply of cabinets and lockers; however, the six suppliers were per- mltted to continue packing their products in accordance with the previous specifications for the remaining period of their contracts. Of these six contracts, the contract period for five ended on November 30, 1966, and the con- tract period for one ended on July 14, 1967. The revised packing specifications were not included initially in the cabinet and locker contracts awarded for the period December 1, 1966, to November 30, 1967; however, GSA negotiated amendments to these contracts to incorporate the revised specifications. Purchases under the amended contracts totaled $5.5 million. The increased costs result- ing from the amendments totaled $613,000, or 13 percent of the original contract prices. Similar actions were taken for wardrobes. Purchases under the amended contract for the period December 1, 1966, to November 30, 1967, amounted to $7.2 million. The in- creased costs resulting from the amendment totaled $831,000, or 13 percent of the original contract prices. 12 Thus on puTchases of $13.8 mullion under the revised specificatrons, the total additional costs for packing amounted to about $1,5 million--an increase of 12 percent above the orlginal contract prices--during the first 14 months that the specificatrons were in use. During sub- sequent contract periods from December 1, 1967, to June 30, 1970, GSA purchased 343,218 cabinets, lockers, and ward- robes, at an estimated cost of $14.4 million, under the re- vised packing specifications. Although the additional costs for packing under these contracts could not be determined from the bids or contract prices, we believe that they were substantral. 1From September 1966 to November 30, 1967, total purchases under the revised specifications amounted to $15 million; however, p urchases of $1.2 million were excluded from our computation because packing costs were not separately identified in the contracts. 13 FWRTHER PACKING PROBLEMS A GSA packing specralist vrsrted the GSA supply depot at Middle River, Maryland, on February 2, 1967, to inspect the packing of cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes. Items man- ufactured by six suppliers were Inspected. Except for sup- plier A's products, which were packed under the revised specifications, the items were manufactured prior to Decem- ber 1966 and were packed under the previous specifications. The specialist's report indicated good workmanship and adequate packing of cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes pur- chased from the five suppliers under the previous specifi- catrons but stated that supplier A's packing of the items, although packed under the revised specifications, showed evidence of damage and poor workmanship. The report con- tained the following comments regarding this supplier's packing of the items. Storage cabinet (setup) "This is a new revised pack which [Supplier A] was permitted to use. Container of 275 test fiber- board, with top cap and bottom tray. The lumber looked of a poor quality, the metal strapping was loosely applied, and the stapling of wood members was very poor. Very poor workmanship." Wardrobe "This is the new panel pack fiberboard contarner, with wood frame on edges and 6 cross battens. The center strap was missing - no evidence of having been applred. Generally poor workmanshrp through- out. " Storage cabinet (knockdown) "New pack ***. Poor workmanship - strap not ap- plied over batten, very poor stapling, and much misalignment of battens with end wood members." It appears that workmanship problems with supplier A's packing subsequently were corrected because in February 1970 14 a GSA offlclal stated that GSA was experlenclng no damages to cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes, COMPARISON OF GSA'S PACKING CONTAINEXS WITH COMMERCIAL CONTAINERS We vlslted SIX office furniture manufacturers to obtain lnformatlon about their methods of packing cabrnets, lockers, and wardrobes. We also visited four retailers of office furniture-- two large and two small--to obtain lnformatlon regarding their experience with the packing of cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes. The lnformatlon obtained during these vlsrts lndlcated that the items delivered to retailers were subJected to handling condltlons slmllar to those to which the GSA Items were subJected and that the packing con- tainers were less elaborate than those required by the re- vised speclflcatlons for the GSA items . Representatives of office furniture manufacturers ad- vised us that It was their practice to pack cabinets, lock- ers, and wardrobes In fiberboard strapped containers, With regard to the use of wood strips or wood crates required by GSA packing specifications, we were advised that wood was considered too costly and therefore not practicable for use under competltlve market condltlons. Photographs of GSA and commercial packing containers follow. 15 CKIN6FORKNOCK-DOWN CABINETS ANDLOCKERS REAR CROSS MEMBER WOOD CRATE REAR CROSS MEMBER FRONT THREE CROSS MEMBERS ( REMOVED) ROSS MEMBER ONE OF 3 METAL STRAPS (REMOVED) 16 c WBBCABINET Accordrng to GSA offrclals, GSA's packing containers are more elaborate than the commercral containers because (1) GSA Items are handled more often than are the commercial items durrng the supply process and (2) the GSA containers must be of sufflclent strength to permit stacking for maximum utlll- zatlon of warehouse space. GSA offrclals considered the fl- berboard containers used by commercial firms suitable only for direct delivery from the manufacturer to the customer. Representatives of the four retailers that we vlslted advlsed us that the typical supply plpellne for such items as cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes involved handling four times-- transport from the manufacturer, placement rn the warehouse, removal from the warehouse, and transport to the customer-- the same as the typical GSA supply pipeline. As at GSA, the retailer's items were often stacked In ware- houses. The retailers stated that their damage experience, for the most part, had been mlnlmal. The consensus of the re- tailers and manufacturers was that the protection afforded by wood crates for cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes was not economically practical and not necessary. AGENCY COMMENTS In a letter dated September 15, 1970, the Administrator of GSA, commenting on a draft of this report, informed us that GSA agreed to the merits of the cost-benefit approach and utilxzed it in the developmentorrevislon of speclfica- tions rn all cases in which the circumstances permit. He stated, however, that, If corrective action had been de- layed, the potential damage and loss that would have oc- curred to cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes outweighed any advantages that would have resulted from a cost-benefit study. GSA estimated, on the basis of the 4-percent damage rate derived from an analysis of 1964 and 1965 damage re- ports (see p. 81, that, of the 341,000 items received from September 30, 1966, to November 30, 1967, about 13,600 items would have been damaged if the packing specifications had not been revised. We do not agree to this estimate. The 4-percent damage rate, as noted on page 8, applied to 10,058 cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes in those shipments during 1964 and 1965 on which damage reports were forwarded to Washington. GSA drd not accumulate any data regarding the damages, if any, to the balance of the 345,000 items purchased during 1964 and 1965. Also, the data accumulated by GSA regarding the 10,058 items did not show whether the 407 damaged items were a total loss or could be repaired or whether the sup- pliers and/or the carriers were liable for the damages so that the damaged items would involve no direct loss to the Government. If the 4-percent damage rate is projected and if we assume that all items damaged were total losses to the Gov- ernment and that no damages occurred after the packing speciflcatlons were revised in September 1966, the follow- xng comparison could be made. During the period Septem- ber 30, 1966, to November 30, 1967, 341,000 items were pur- chased at a cost of $15 million. Four percent of this amount is $600,000. The identifiable increased costs re- sulting from the revised specifications totaled $1.5 million during the period, or about $900,000 more than the estimated losses based on the 4-percent damage rate. 19 Also, GSA questloned our comparisons of Its packing containers with commercial containers and stated that, al- though the handling condltrons may be the same (1) the vol- ume of furniture In GSA warehouses was far greater than that In commercral furniture warehouses and (2) GSA warehouse personnel handled all types of stock, whereas commercial furniture warehouse personnel were experrenced In handling furniture. Since the condltlons or hazards which the items are subjected to during shipment and storage generally are not dependent on the volume and types of items handled, we be- lleve that GSA's comments are not relevant, In any event the two large retailers that we visited handle many items other than furniture; one of the retailers handles about 150,000 different Items with annual sales amounting to $8.9 bllllon. The Admlnlstrator agreed that costs increased by $1.5 mlllron under the aqended contracts. He stated, how- ever, that this was the total amount which could be attrib- uted to the revised packing speclficatrons and that in- creased costs could not be projected into subsequent con- tract periods, inasmuch as prices In most cases were actu- ally reduced because of the large quantities purchased dur- ing these periods. We agree that the negotiated price Increases for the revised packing specifications cannot be projected to sub- sequent contract periods; however, this does not mean that there have been no increased packing costs under subsequent contracts. We believe that, regardless of the quantltles procured, the revised packing specifications have resulted in increased suppliers 1 labor and materials costs and in higher contract prices than would have resulted under the former specifications. RECOMMENDATION Accordingly, we recommend to the Administrator of Gen- eral Services that GSA reevaluate its speclflcatlons for the packing of storage cabinets, clothing lockers, and ward- robes. 20 The Admlnlstrator did not comment on this recommenda- tion In his letter of September 15, 1970, or indicate that GSA would make a reevaluation. Our inquiry of the Assistant Commissioner, Office of Standards and Quality Control, In January 1971 with respect to this recommendation indicated that GSA had not taken any action to reevaluate or revise the speclflcatlons. 21 CHAPTER 3 SCOPE OF REVIEW We examined Into GSA's revlslon of the packing specs- flcatlons for domestic shipment and stofage of cabinets, lockers, and wardrobes to evaluate whether the revlslon was reasonable and resulted In the most economical method of packing such products. Our review also included an examl- nation of pertinent GSA documents and records and dlscus- slons wrth GSA offlclals. The review was performed at the GSA Central Offlce In Washington, D.C. Also, we visited the GSA supply depot at Middle River, Maryland, and SIX office furniture manufac- turers and four retailers of office furniture. 22 APPENDIXES 23 APPENDIX I UNITED STATES OF AMERICA GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION WASHINGTON, DC 2wo5 SEP 15 1970 Honorable Elmer B staats Comptroller General of the Unlted States -General Accounting Offlce Washington, D C 20548 Dear Mr Staats We are glad to have the opportunity to comment on your proposed report "Cost-Benefit Approach Needed in Establishing Packing Requirements" The $1 5 million figure appears to be reasonable. However, this 1s the total amount which can be attrlbuted to the increased packaging requirements It cannot be projected into future contract periods, inasmuch as prices in most cases were actually reduced due to the large quantities of items purchased during those periods. The report correctly states that 10,058 items of cabinets, ward- robes, and lockers were received during 1964 and 1965 Of this amount 4% or 407 were damaged However, durrng the period when the packaging speclficatlons were being revised, September 30, 1966, to November 30, 1967, approximately 341,000 Items of ward- robes, lockers, and cabinets were received. Applying the same 4% of this amount, about 13,600 items would have been damaged if the packaging speclflcatlons had not been upgraded With reference to the section "Comparison of GSA's Packing Containers with Commercial Containers", while the handling con- ditions may be the same in commercial furniture warehouses, the volume is not The volume in the GSA warehouses is far greater than in commercial furniture warehouses In addition, GSA warehouse personnel handle all types of warehouse stock, whereas commercial furniture warehouse personnel are experj.enced in handling furniture items. We agree on the merits of cost benefit approach and utilize it in the development or revision of our specifications in all cases in which the circumstances permit. However, in this instance we belleve that the knowledge of the potential damage and loss that would occur in the expanding procurement of the items if we delayed to take corrective action outweighed any advantages that would have resulted from a cost benefit study Sincerely, K-l*l RobertIt. K-i8 Administmtor I &‘e+ FreedomJn Your Future Wtth US SavingsBonds 25 APPENDIX II PRINCIPAL OFFICIALS OF THE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ACTIVITIES DISCUSSED IN THIS REPORT ,Tenure of offlce From To - ADMINISTRATOR OF GENERAL SERVICES: Robert L. Kunzxg Mar. 1969 Present Lawson B. Knott, Jr. Nov. 1964 Feb. 1969 COMMISS1ONER, FEDERAL SUPPLY SERVICE: H. A. Abersfeller Mar. 1970 Present Lewis E. Spangler (acting) Dec. 1969 Mar. 1970 Arthur F. Sampson June 1969 Dec. 1969 Lewis E. Spangler (actlng) %Y 1969 June 1969 H. A. Abersfeller %Y 1964 &Y 1969 U S GAO Wash , D C 26
Need To Reevaluate Packing Specifications for Cabinets, Lockers, and Wardrobes
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-02-19.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)