One morning, about twenty years ago, Mike Devereux woke from a nightmare in a cold sweat. During his terrifying dream he had seen his container store in Cleveland go up in smoke and turned into a charred smouldering ruin.
Thankfully, it was just a bad dream, but it made Mike think about just how vulnerable his store - full of wooden storage boxes and their valuable contents - would be if there really was a fire.
Mike explained, “Over the years I had visited many moving companies’ depots both in the UK and abroad and was fascinated by the different methods they used to store their clients’ possessions. Wooden boxes were the norm, but some used metal ones, mainly 20ft shipping containers, which they proudly sold as providing fire-proof storage.”
Although today, few would claim sea containers to be fire-proof, they are at least more resistant to fire than a wooden crate and Mike, still haunted by the dream, was determined to make his store as secure as possible and decided to research the market.
“In those days only 20, 30, and 40ft containers were available and no matter how I configured them on paper I lost a huge amount of warehouse space compared with using the bog-standard 250cu.ft wooden boxes,” said Mike. “Also, because of their weight and size they would be difficult to load and carry on the trucks when we used them away from the depot. What I needed was a steel container the same size as the wooden boxes, but none were available. It seemed there was no practicable solution.”
Then one day Mike had a phone call from a man called Hervé who worked for Containex in Vienna saying he was visiting Cleveland in a few days’ time and could he drop in and see him? Mike readily agreed.
“When Hervé arrived, I whisked him off to the warehouse and presented him with the problem and what I saw as the solution. He seemed unenthusiastic at first but said he’d put my idea to his boss back at the factory and see what could be done.”
A few weeks later Mike had another call from Hervé asking him to fly over to Vienna to look at what they had come up with. “When I arrived, I was amazed by what they’d achieved,” said Mike. “There was not one, but three containers of slightly different design to choose from, all the exact same size as the standard 250cu.ft wooden boxes. The doors were rubber sealed in the same way as a sea container with air vents in the top and sides and fixings on each corner to hold them in place. It really was a Eureka moment.”
Not surprisingly Mike made his choice and placed an order there and then. Twenty years later 340 ‘Moverboxes’ - as Containex now call them - are still in use at Devereux’s Cleveland store.
At least this nightmare had a happy ending.
Photo: The steel containers in use at Devereux in Billingham, UK.