We’ve all been there before.  Both on the purchasing side and the sales side, faced with the ever-important question – Do you want to save money by skidding your exhibit, or do you want to crate everything and spend a good deal more?  The honest truth is another common truth in this industry – There is no right answer for every circumstance.  As with so many decisions that must be made when deciding how to execute your exhibit program, this too relies on many factors.  Our hope is this piece helps guide you to the right answer.

Let’s start out by discussing exactly what a crate consists of.  To many, they might just seem like the giant wooden boxes that line the aisle of convention centers – Sort of like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  But truly, a well-produced crate can be a very complicated product.  The inside of our crates are carefully “jigged” out to custom hold each exhibit component in your project.  Every wall panel, cabinet, and piece of furniture will have a special slot to which it belongs that is sized accordingly and lined with felt to ensure that during transit the component does not bounce around within the crate.  If you’ve ever seen the way many forklift drivers handle these when delivering to your exhibit, you can understand why this is important.  It certainly adds a great deal to the life expectancy to your investment.

Additionally, since each crate has a specific spot for each element, a detailed case list would be made for your labor teams during setup and dismantle.  Importantly, this makes the time your labor team spends searching for items much less, reducing your install costs.  On the dismantle, it’s much easier for the team to locate and replace each component, again saving on dismantle costs.

Weather and the elements can also be a big factor here.  When your items are crated, rain, sun, wind and other elemental damage is reduced significantly.

On the other hand, the option to skid can be a much more cost effective choice.

Skidding an exhibit, for the most part, means stacking all of the elements of your exhibit on a standard 4’ or 8’ pallet, using inserts such as cardboard between elements, then shrink wrapping and banding before shipping into the show.  Without having to spend on materials and shop labor to carefully jig out the crates, the savings can be very significant.

The drawbacks to skidding your exhibit are basically the opposite of the benefits of crating.  First of all, your exhibit’s lifespan is definitely reduced.  Skids are much more prone to damage during shipping as all components are not individually jigged into place.  That’s not to say they won’t make it to the show without damage, and in fact we do often skid some of our projects.  However again, the risk for damage is much greater.

When labor is taken into consideration, much more time is needed on both the install and dismantle to work with skids.  There is no set place for the elements on the skid, resulting in a bit of head-scratching by the labor team, and then resulting in extra labor time (and cost!) required.

Weather can end up being the biggest issue when it comes to skids.  A skid sitting out in the Las Vegas sun or in a rainstorm has little protection.  Warping of panels, melting of graphics, and laminate glue losing its stickiness are all possible in these conditions.  Having to fix these issues a day or two before the show can often times end up being a costly fix, if even possible.

So which do you choose?  Here are some questions to ask which can help you decide.

  • How often are you exhibiting? The more often you exhibit, the higher your chances are for damage and the more your labor costs will factor into your budget.  If you’re only exhibiting once a year, skidding might be a risk that’s worth taking.  If you have many shows, it’s definitely a better idea in the long run to crate everything.
  • How valuable are my components? Take a look at your exhibit and see what you’re actually trying to protect.  Are you shipping in showcases?  If so, then you definitely want to crate.  Are you shipping in some simple furniture?  Maybe a skid is worth the risk since most simple furniture is easily replaceable.
  • Where are you exhibiting? If your show is in a location where the weather is relatively nice most of the time, such as San Diego, you may be less likely to encounter a rainstorm that can wreak havoc on your exhibit.  If you’re going somewhere such as Orlando where a freak thunderstorm seems to break out every other day, you might want to lean towards crating.
  • How long is the setup of your show? For shows with very short setups, consider that should something break during delivery, you’ll have much less of a chance and/or much more of a cost to fix it.  If you have a long setup, when your labor team notices damage upon receipt, you’ll have a better chance at getting an item replaced before the show.
  • How far away is your show from where the exhibit is produced? Consider the time your exhibit will spend in the back of a truck on the way to the show.  If your show is local, your exhibit will spend less time in transit, and the chance of damage on a skid will be reduced.  If you have to ship across the country, and your booth will be travelling for a week, crating will greatly improve the chances your exhibit has of arriving to the show without damage.

These are just some options to consider, but there’s plenty more.  Many times the right answer for us seems to be to create a hybrid manifest – Skid the items we feel safe about skidding, and crate what needs the most protection.

Here at RGo, we understand that each project is unique, and we’re always trying to create the best possible and most cost effective projects we possibly can based on the specific circumstances surrounding your program.  We never force our clients to crate, and we never skid projects just to get the cost down.  We offer all options and together come to a solution that works best for you.

We’re happy to help you determine what’s best for your project, across the board!!  Drop us a line and see how we produce SMARTER.