Title:
Combination shipping container and display rack
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A combination shipping container and display rack has a body with a top, a bottom, and two sides forming one or more sub-container cavities, each cavity is accessible from the front and/or the rear of the rack. The rack also has one or more sub-containers within the cavities, one or more closure panels to shield the sub-containers during transport, wheels for rolling the rack across a surface, and a pair of forklift tine receptacles for lifting the rack. The rack and/or the sub-containers may have electronically and/or optically readable identification tags. The rack may use a battery and/or an external power source to power light elements and/or a refrigeration unit. The rack may include supports with attachment points for hooks, brackets and/or shelves to support the sub-containers. The closure panels and/or the sub-container may be constructed of wire mesh, transparent material, or stainless steel.



Inventors:
Assmann, Martin C. (Bremen, DE)
Application Number:
10/970746
Publication Date:
05/26/2005
Filing Date:
10/21/2004
Assignee:
ASSMANN MARTIN C.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/116, 312/236, 312/249.11, 62/371
International Classes:
A47B77/04; A47F1/12; A47F3/00; A47F3/04; A47F5/13; B65D25/10; F25D3/08; F25D11/00; F25D23/00; F25D25/00; F25D27/00; (IPC1-7): A47F1/04; A47B46/00; A47B49/00; A47B77/08; A47B97/00; A47F3/04; A47F7/00; F25D3/08; F25D11/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WALTERS, JOHN DANIEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LATHROP GPM LLP (Boulder, CO, US)
Claims:
1. A combination shipping container and display rack, comprising; a body having a top, a bottom, and two sides forming one or more sub-container cavities, each cavity accessible from at least one of a front and a rear of the rack; one or more sub-containers for placement within the sub-container cavities; a closure panel for overlying at least one of the front and the rear of the rack, to shield the sub-containers during transport; wheels being mounted to the bottom for rolling the rack across a surface; and a pair of forklift tine receptacles mounted to the bottom, for lifting the rack by a forklift.

2. The rack of claim 1, further comprising at least one identification tag.

3. The rack of claim 2, the identification tag being attached to one or more of the body and one or more sub-containers.

4. The rack of claim 3, the indentification tag being one or both of electronically and optically readable.

5. The rack of claim 1, each sub-container having a front panel divided into an upper portion and a lower portion, the upper portion being one of movable or removable to provide access to goods within the sub-container during retail display

6. The rack of claim 1, further comprising at least one locking device for affixing at least one of the sub-containers to the body.

7. The rack of claim 6, at least one of the locking devices comprising one or more of: (a) a hook and a corresponding eyelet; (b) a hasp; (c) a latch; (d) a snap; (e) a bolt; (f) an electromechanical device; (g) a magnet; and (h) an electromagnet.

8. The rack of claim 1, the closure panel being moveable between a shipping position and a display position, in the shipping position the closure panel overlying at least part of one of the sub-container cavities, in the display position the closure panel permitting access to at least one of the sub-container cavities.

9. The rack of claim 8, the closure panel being foldable.

10. The rack of claim 1, one or more of the sub-containers having a mesh.

11. The rack of claim 1, further comprising at least one containment lip wherein a sub-container is removed from the rack by being lifted over the containment lip.

12. The rack of claim 1, one or more sub-containers being accessible from two sides of the rack.

13. The rack of claim 1, at least one of the sub-containers being accessible from only one side of the rack.

14. The rack of claim 13, at least one other of the sub-containers being accessible from one other side of the rack.

15. A combination shipping container and display rack, comprising: a body having a top, two sides, a bottom and a plurality of dividers, the body forming a plurality of sub-container cavities; a plurality of sub-containers for placement within the sub-container cavities such that the sub-containers are accessible from one of the front and rear of the rack, each of the sub-containers having a front panel divided into an upper portion and a lower portion, the upper portion being one of movable or removable in order to provide access to goods within the sub-container during retail display; electronically readable identification tags mounted to at least one of (a) the body and (b) one or more of the sub-containers; at least one locking device to affix one or more of the sub-containers to the body; one or more closure panels being positionable in a shipping position and, alternatively, a display position, in the shipping position the closure panels overlying at least part of one of the sub-containers, thereby protecing the one sub-container during shipment, in the display position the closure panels permitting access to the one sub-container; wheels mounted to the bottom such that the body is rollable across a surface; and a pair of forklift tine receptacles mounted to the bottom, for lifting by a forklift.

16. The rack of claim 15, wherein each sub-container comprises wire mesh.

17. A combination shipping container and display rack, comprising: a body having a top, a bottom, and two sides, the body forming one or more sub-container cavities, each of the sub-container cavities being accessible from at least one of a front and a rear of the rack; one or more closure panels that cover at least one of the sub-container cavities when positioned in a shipping position and that exposes the at least one sub-container cavity when positioned in a display position; one or more sub-containers, each of the sub-containers being configured to fit within one of the sub-container cavities such that goods therein are accessible when the closure panels are in the display position; wheels mounted with the bottom, and forklift tine receptacles mounted with the bottom.

18. The rack of claim 17, wherein the goods are visible within at least one of the sub-containers when the closure panels are in a display position.

19. The rack of claim 17 wherein the goods are visible within at least one of the sub-containers when the closure panels are in a shipping position.

20. The rack of claim 17, at least one of the sub-containers comprising stainless steel.

21. The rack of claim 17, at least one of the sub-containers comprising a divider and a tensioner that bias goods towards a front of the one sub-container.

22. The rack of claim 17, further comprising one or more electronically readable identification tags attached with one of (a) the body and (b) one or more sub-containers.

23. The rack of claim 17, further comprising one or more optically readable identification tags attached with one of (a) the body and (b) one or more sub-containers.

24. The rack of claim 17, further comprising one or more light elements.

25. The rack of claim 24 the light elements comprising one or more of (a) an LED display, (b) an incandescent light, (c) a fluorescent light, (d) an LED, (e) a strobe light, and (f) a backlit sign.

26. The rack of claim 24, further comprising a power cord and a power supply, to power the light elements.

27. The rack of claim 24, further comprising a battery, to power the light elements.

28. The rack of claim 24, further comprising a power cord, a power supply and a battery operable such that: (a) when the power cord is unconnected to external power, the light elements draw power from the battery, and (b) when the power cord connects to external power, the light elements draw power from the external power through the power cord and the battery recharges.

29. The rack of claim 17, further comprising a refrigeration unit for cooling at least one of the sub-container cavities.

30. The rack of claim 29, further comprising insulation to reduce heat transfer into and out of the one sub-container cavity.

31. The rack of claim 17, wherein at least one sub-container is accessible from the front and at least one sub-container is accessible from the rear.

32. The rack of claim 17, further comprising supports forming attachment points, for supporting the sub-containers at one or more selectable locations within the rack.

33. The rack of claim 32, further comprising one or more of hooks, brackets, and shelves that engage with the supports to suport the sub-container.

34. The rack of claim 17, one or more of the closure panels and sub-containers comprising at least one of transparent material, mesh, and stainless steel.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to commonly-owned Canadian Patent Application Number 2,443,755, filed 22 Oct. 2003 and incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

Retail distribution channels generally begin at a manufacturer and end at a retailer; there may also be third parties between the manufacturer and the retailer.

Handling goods as they pass through a distribution channel can result in labor expenses and risks of breakage or spoilage. The retailer ultimately recoups these expenses and risks, resulting in an increased price that a consumer pays for the goods.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A combination shipping container and display rack has a body with a top, a bottom, and two sides forming one or more sub-container cavities, each cavity is accessible from the front and/or the rear of the rack. The rack also has one or more sub-containers within the cavities, and may also have one or more closure panels to shield the sub-containers during transport. The rack may include one or more dividers used in forming the cavities. The rack may, optionally, have wheels for rolling the rack across a surface, and/or a pair of forklift tine receptacles for lifting the rack. The rack and/or the sub-containers may have electronically and/or optically readable identification tags. The rack may use a battery and/or an external power source to power light elements and/or a refrigeration unit. The rack may include supports with attachment points for hooks, brackets and/or shelves to support the sub-containers. The closure panels and/or all or part of the sub-containers may be constructed of wire mesh, transparent material, or stainless steel.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows one combination shipping container and display rack

FIG. 2 shows the combination shipping container and display rack of FIG. 1 with four sub-containers, each employing a mesh.

FIG. 3 shows exemplary detail of the combination shipping container and display rack of FIG. 1, including identification tags attached thereto.

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the combination shipping container and display rack of FIG. 1 showing closure panels opened in a display position.

FIG. 5A shows an optional containment lip for use at an edge of a cavity for a sub-container.

FIG. 5B shows the optional containment lip of FIG. 5A.

FIG. 6 shows optional locking devices in the form of hooks for one sub-container.

FIG. 7 shows one sub-container with an optional locking device.

FIG. 8 shows one sub-container with an optional front panel.

FIG. 9 shows a schematic top view of a sub-container with a divider and with a tensioner that bias goods towards a front of the sub-container.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of one combination shipping container and display rack.

FIG. 11 shows one combination shipping container and display rack with light elements.

FIG. 12 is a cut-away top view of one combination shipping container and display rack with a refrigeration unit.

FIG. 13 is a cut-away top view of one combination shipping container and display rack with a refrigeration unit.

FIG. 14 shows one combination shipping container and display rack with supports and attachment points for sub-containers.

FIG. 15 shows a bracket that engages certain attachment points of FIG. 14.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows one combination shipping container and display rack 10(1). Display rack 10(1) is shown with a body 12 having a top 14, a bottom 16, two sides 18, a back 19(1) and a plurality of dividers 15. Body 12 has one or more cavities 20 which serve as receptacles for sub-containers, as described below. Referring to FIG. 4, cavities 20 may be accessible from at least a front side 1, and, when back 19(1) is not present, from a rear side 2. Each cavity 20 may be bounded by top 14, bottom 16, sides 18 and/or one or more dividers 15, as shown. Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, wheels 22 and/or forklift tine receptacles 24 may mount to bottom 16 of body 12. Wheels 22 may include a locking mechanism 23 to prevent theft and/or unintentional movement of display rack 10(1).

Rack 10(1) is for example used to ship goods (e.g., goods 5, FIG. 8) from a distributor or manufacturer to a retail location, which then displays the goods using rack 10(1).

FIG. 2 shows rack 10(1) with four sub-containers 26, identified in FIG. 2 as sub-containers 26(1), 26(2), 26(3) and 26(4), each shown with a mesh 28. Mesh 28 is for example wire mesh. Sub-containers 26 may be made of any suitable material (e.g., plastic, glass, metal or combinations thereof). For visibility of goods in retail applications, see-through materials such as glass, transparent plastic, or wire mesh may be used; for refrigerated and/or frozen goods, materials such as stainless steel or glass may be used. See also FIG. 11 and FIG. 12. Visible surfaces of rack 10(1)—such as sides 18, top 14, dividers 15, and/or closure panels 32 (see FIG. 4)—may include writing or graphics for advertising.

FIG. 3 shows exemplary detail of rack 10(1). In accord with one embodiment, two identification tags 30 illustratively attach to body 12 and to a sub-container 26. Tags 30 may attach to body 12 and/or sub-containers 26 by utilizing, for example, adhesives, pockets and/or other mechanical apparatus. Each tag 30 may provide information such as, for example, a serial number of rack 10(1), number and/or type(s) of sub-containers 26 loaded therein, a type and/or quantity of goods loaded within sub-containers 26, manufacturing and/or shipping dates, manufacturing traceability information. Identification tags 30 may be electronically readable (e.g., an RFID tag) and/or may be optically readable (e.g., a barcode).

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional top view (as indicated by line A-A in FIG. 2) of rack 10(1). In one embodiment, rack 10(1) includes two closure panels 32(1) and 32(2), shown opened in a display position in FIG. 4. Closure panels 32(1) and 32(2) may, for example, fold in the direction of arrows 33(1) and 33(2), respectively, against body 12 in a shipping position, where they may be fixed to body 12 by a locking device (e.g., snaps, bolts, latches, locks, electromechanical devices, magnets, electromagnets, or combinations thereof). When opened, as shown in FIG. 4, closure panels 32 permit viewing of goods within rack 10(1).

In other embodiments, closure panels 32 may attach to body 12 in the shipping position, and may detach when goods within rack 10(1) are on display. Alternatively, closure panels 32 may permanently attach to rack 10(1) and cover sub-container cavities 20 in a shipping position and may fold or roll up within body 12 in a display position. Storing closure panels 32 within body 12 may be useful at shipment or retail locales where space is limited. Closure panels 32 may provide security at a retail location, for example, when rack 10(1) is utilized as an unattended kiosk.

Closure panels 32 may be constructed of various materials depending on the type of goods and a retail location of rack 10(1). For example, when rack 10(1) is utilized as a kiosk, closure panels 32 made of transparent materials (e.g., glass, transparent plastic, wire mesh) allow viewing of goods inside rack 10(1) even when closed. In other applications, closure panels 32 may be made of inexpensive yet sturdy material (e.g., metal) to provide protection during shipping.

FIGS. 5A and 5B are side and front views, respectively, showing an optional lower containment lip 34 on a divider 15 that bounds a cavity 20. A sub-container 26 (not shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B) is lifted over lip 34 to enter or leave cavity 20, so that lip 34 secures sub-container 26 in cavity 20.

Other locking devices may be included with rack 10(1). For example, FIG. 6 shows an optional locking device 36 in the form of a hook for one sub-container 26(5). FIG. 7 shows one sub-container 26(6) with an optional locking device 38 in the form of an eyelet on sub-container 26(6), that engages a corresponding locking device 36 mounted on body 12. Other forms of locking devices may also be used; for example, hasps and latches that engage between a sub-container and body 12.

FIG. 8 shows one sub-container 26(7) with an optional front panel 40 that has an upper portion 42 and a lower portion 44. Upper portion 42, shown in an opened position for access to goods 5, opens and closes in the direction of arrow 43. Accordingly, in one embodiment, a sub-container may form a tray for goods placed thereon; the tray may be kept in place by sides 18, dividers 15 and/or closure panels 32 of rack 10(1).

FIG. 9 shows a schematic top view of one sub-container 26(8) with a divider 43 and with a tensioner 46 that bias goods 5 towards a front 3 of sub-container 26(8). Divider 43 and tensioner 46 are also shown in dashed lines to illustrate a compressed position of divider 43 and tensioner 46 when goods 5 fill sub-container 26(8). As goods 5 are removed, tensioner 46 pushes divider 43 in the direction of arrow 45, as shown, to keep goods 5 near front 3 of sub-container 26(8), for convenient access. Tensioner 46 may be a spring, as shown in FIG. 9. It may alternatively utilize gas pressure or an elastic force to bias divider 44 towards goods 5.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of one combination shipping container and display rack 10(2). Rack 10(2) is illustratively shown with a top 14, dividers 15(2), bottom 16(2), sides 18(2), wheels 22(2), forklift tine receptacles 24(2), and closure panels 32(3) and 32(4). Closure panels 32(3) and 32(4) are shown open in a display position in FIG. 10. Top 14(2), dividers 15(2), bottom 16(2) and sides 18(2) form cavities 20(2), as shown. Each cavity 20(2) may hold a sub-container 26 with goods 5. For example, sub-containers 26(9), 26(10) and 26(11) are shown open to expose goods 5 for display. One sub-container 26(9) is shown partially out of one cavity 20(3) to illustrate that sub-containers can be removed from rack 10(2).

FIG. 11 shows one combination shipping container and display rack 10(3) with light elements 50. Light elements 50 may for example include light-emitting diode (“LED”) displays 50(1), 50(2) and light emitters 50(3). Light elements 50 may mount on any convenient surface of rack 10(3). In FIG. 11, light emitters 50(3) mount with sides 18(3) and top 14(3), while LED display 50(1) mounts with top 14(3) and LED display 50(2) mounts with one divider 15(3). Altogether, light elements 50 may draw attention to rack 10(3) and/or goods therein, and may display information such as descriptions of the goods, prices, advertising slogans, and the like. Light elements 50 may also light rack 10(3), goods within rack 10(3) and/or an area surrounding rack 10(3), for example, when rack 10(3) is used as a kiosk in an otherwise unlit area. Light emitters 50(3) may be, for example, incandescent or fluorescent lights, LEDs, strobe lights, or backlit signs, and may optionally be configured to vary over time by flashing, sparkling, running, and so forth. Electrical connections 54 for light emitters 50(3) and/or LED displays 50(1), 50(2) may be integrated into a body 12(3) and/or dividers 15(3) of rack 10(3), as shown. Power for light emitters 50(3) and/or LED displays 50(1), 50(2) may be provided through a power cord 56(1) to a power supply 57(1), or, optionally, from a battery 58(1). Power supply 57(1) and battery 58(1) may thus be configured so that light emitters 50(3) and/or LED displays 50(1), 50(2) utilize power from battery 58(1) when external power is not available. When external power is available, the external power through cord 56(1) may be utilized (a) for light emitters 50(3) and/or LED displays 50(1), 50(2), and/or (b) for recharging battery 58(1).

FIG. 12 is a cut-away top view of one combination shipping container and display rack 10(4) with a refrigeration unit 60(1). Refrigeration unit 60(1) cools the interior of rack 10(4), making rack 10(4) suitable, for example, for refrigerated and/or frozen goods. Power for refrigeration unit 60(1) may be provided externally through a power cord 56(2) or a battery 58(2), and may be connected through a power supply 57(2) in a manner similar to power for light elements 50 discussed above. In rack 10(4), sides 18(4), a back 19(2) and a closure panel 32(5) (and a top and a bottom, not shown) may include insulation 64 to reduce heat transfer into and out of rack 10(4).

FIG. 13 is a cut-away top view of a combination shipping container and display rack 10(5) with a refrigeration unit 60(2) that cools a region 62 of rack 10(5). Heat transfer into and out of region 62 is reduced by insulation 64 within sides 18(5), dividers 15(5) and closure panel 32(6) surrounding region 62, as shown. Rack 10(5) is accessible from front side 1 and from rear side 2; in this embodiment, sub-containers 26(13) within refrigerated region 62 are accessible from rear side 2. Power for refrigeration unit 60(2) may be provided externally through a power cord 56(3) or a battery 58(3), and may be connected through a power supply 57(3) in a manner such as discussed for light elements 50 above.

FIG. 14 shows one combination shipping container and display rack 10(6) with supports 70 that form attachment points 72 for modifiable configurations of sub-containers 26, shown illustratively as sub-container 26(14). Supports 70 may be integrated with a back 19(3) of rack 10(6), but supports 70 may be on sides 18(6) or otherwise disposed within a rack 10(6). Brackets 74 may engage attachment points 72 to suspend sub-containers 26(14) within rack 10(6). Sub-container 26(14) thereby rests on brackets 74, as shown.

FIG. 15 shows a bracket 74 that engages certain of attachment points 72. Attachment points 72 may be apertures formed in support 70; a mounting tab 76 may engage one such aperture to support bracket 74. A retaining tab 82 may prevent a sub-container 26 placed on one or more brackets 74 from dislodging during stocking or transport.

Sub-containers 26(14) may be configured within a rack 10(6) by mechanisms other than supports 70, attachment points 72 and brackets 74. For example, hooks or moveable shelves may engage attachment points 72. Tabs (e.g., like mounting tab 76) or hooks may integrate with a sub-container 26(14) to engage attachment points 72 directly. Supports 70 may attach to sides 18(6), top 14(6) and/or bottom 16(6) of rack 10(6), or may be integrated therewith. Brackets 74 may include rails that engage with sub-containers 26(14) so that sub-containers 26(14) slide partially or completely out of body 12(6). Attachment points 72 may be protrusions instead of apertures; shelves or sub-containers 26(12) may rest directly on such protrusions. Sub-containers 26(14) may stack on bottom 16(6) of rack 10(6); sub-containers 26(14) may include mechanical features such that a top surface of one sub-container 26(14) engages a bottom surface of another sub-container 26(14) placed thereon.

Accordingly, as described above, a rack 10 may begin as a shipping container for goods 5. Referring to FIG. 8, a shipper may load goods into sub-containers 26 via upper portion 42 of each sub-container 26, and then, referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, may install sub-containers 26 into appropriate sub-container cavities 20 of body 12. Alternatively, referring to FIGS. 14 and 15, a shipper may install sub-containers 26 within body 12 using brackets, hooks, shelves and the like. Referring to FIGS. 3 and 4, the shipper may attach identification tags 30 to body 12 and/or sub-containers 26, and may place sub-containers 26 and closure panels 32A and 32B in transport position, securing the sub-containers for transport. Identification tags 30 may be read during stocking, shipment or display at a retail location to determine the identity and/or contents of rack 10, sub-containers 26 and/or goods 5 therein. Referring to FIGS. 5A, 5B, 6 and 7, the shipper may place each sub-container 26 behind a corresponding lower containment lip 34, and engage locking devices 36 with locking devices 38 to enhance the stability of goods within body 12. Referring to FIGS. 1 and 2, rack 10 may be loaded into vehicles by a forklift utilizing tine receptacles 24, or by rolling on wheels 22. Upon arrival at a distribution or retail location, rack 10 may be unloaded by a forklift utilizing tine receptacles 24, or by rolling on wheels 22. Referring to FIG. 4, closure panels 32 may be removed or placed in display position. Referring to FIG. 7, locking devices 36 may be disengaged from locking devices 38, so that rack 10 may be used to display goods. Referring to FIG. 8, a retailer may open upper portion 42 of each sub-container 26 to make goods within the sub-container accessible for public inspection and consumption. Referring to FIG. 9, a divider 44 and a tensioner 46 may push goods 5 towards a front edge of a sub-container 26 as goods are removed, so that the remaining goods are easily accessible. Referring to FIG. 11, light features and/or LED displays may be utilized (a) to improve visibility of goods within rack 10, and/or (b) for advertising. Referring to FIGS. 12 and 13, part or all of a rack 10 may be refrigerated. Referring to FIG. 13, sub-containers 26 may be accessible from one or both sides of rack 10. Referring to FIGS. 14 and 15, attachment points 72 and/or brackets 74 may enable modifiable configurations of containers 26 within rack 10.

The changes described above, and others, may be made in the combination shipping container and display rack described herein without departing from the scope hereof. It should thus be noted that the matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings should be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. The following claims are intended to cover all generic and specific features described herein, as well as all statements of the scope of the present method and system, which, as a matter of language, might be said to fall there between.





 
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