ISTA certification is one of the most well-known and implemented international parameters for the regulation of goods transportation. It consists of a series of tests that aim to establish quality standards with the purpose of guaranteeing safety during the distribution cycle.

Divided into 7 series that measures the resistance of a package under different scenarios, they are a part of a family of transport testing protocols that establish industry standards that aim to improve safety.

What is an ISTA certification?

An ISTA certification is an official recognition that attests to a company having passed the packaging test procedures developed by the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA).

This organization generates the ISTA testing standards and certifications for packaging, delineating how packages must perform in order to guarantee protection. It is also the organization in charge of certifying ISTA testing labs as packaging laboratories capable of carrying out ISTA package performance testing.

> ISTA certification requirements

ISTA has developed a series of requirements to standardize test results among different package testing laboratories around the world. Thus, there are at least two requisites that packaging laboratories must accomplish in order to become an ISTA lab:

– Required equipment 

ISTA testing labs must incorporate ISTA-certified testing machines, such as those outlined below. This equipment must be properly installed and maintained and include:

  • A substantial wood box (corrugated containers will not be accepted) filled with sand or equivalent to a gross weight of 100 lb (45 kg). In order to maintain uniform data, it is required that this test box be a Nailed Wooden Box (end cleats INSIDE), measuring approximately 24″ x 18″ x 10″, OD. It is recommended that it be retained and kept continuously available for periodic equipment calibration. Required to certificate any fixed discplacement vibration table and incline-impact tester.
  • Carpenter’s level. Required for the certification of any fixed displacement vibration table.
  • Calibrated tachometer or speed indicator for determining shaft RPM. Required for the certification of any fixed displacement vibration table. 
  • Metal shim that is 1/16 inch thick, approximately two inches wide. Required for the certification of any fixed displacement vibration table. 
  • A solid surface to perform the Phase Relationship test. Required for the certification of any fixed displacement vibration table. 
  • Wooden pencil. Required for the certification of any fixed displacement vibration table. 
  • Blank paper. Required for the certification of any fixed displacement vibration table. 
  • Stop watch or watch with a second hand. Required for the certification of a compression tester.
  • Measuring tape. Required for the certification of a compression tester.


ISTA 1A, ISTA 2A, ISTA 3A procedures: all you need to know

Other additional systems that might be required for specific ISTA testing procedures include Top Load apparatus (Procedure 3A), hazard Blocks (Procedure 3A), consolidation bags (Procedure 3A-small), dunnage materials (Procedure 3A-small) and a fork truck handling Course (Procedure 3B).

videos about packaging and logistics sector

– Video procedure

Every ISTA laboratory must record short videos that show their equipment in use according to instructions provided in the ISTA certification procedure. This is intended to replace on-site inspections and specific steps are provided by ISTA to record these videos.

> ISTA certification testing machines

– Inclined impact tester

The inclined impact tester evaluates the ability of loads to withstand horizontal impacts or crushing forces thanks to the force of gravity. ISTA 6-SAMSCLUB is among the ISTA testing methods that require an inclined impact test.

– Horizontal impact tester

An ISTA-certified horizontal impact tester is able to simulate the horizontal shocks produced by various means of handling and transportation that may affect the load. There are a number of ISTA procedures that require this simulation machine, including ISTA 1A, B, C, E, G, H; 2A, B, C; 3B, E, K; 4 Series; 6-SAMSCLUB, 6-AMAZON.COM.

– Drop tester

A drop tester simulates drops, both vertical and rotational impacts, that affect packages and products during handling and distribution. The ISTA drop test standard is included in 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1G, 2A, 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3E, 3F, 3H, 3K, 6-AMAZON.COM-SIOC, 6-FEDEX.


Benefits of becoming ISTA certified

The protective ability of a package in the face of hazards such as shocks, vibrations, compression forces and adverse environmental conditions (excessive humidity, extreme temperatures, etc.) is verified through a series of tests.

Obtaining the ISTA certification means that a company can provide visible proof (in the form of a label) showing that its product+packaging systems have undergone a series of tests to determine their ability to endure a normal distribution cycle.

Consequently, companies that pass these procedures can enjoy the benefits of becoming ISTA certified:

  • Eliminating costs due to shrinkage during transportation. Obtaining the ISTA certification implies successfully applying a series of testing standards and protocols focused on improving the safety of the product+packaging system. This means that companies are generating a package with the highest protective ability so that, when implemented in real-life distribution conditions, it can withstand the various threats. This eliminates product shrinkage during transportation and minimizes the economic costs associated with them (such as claims, redeliveries, etc.).
  • Launching a production on the market faster by eliminating the need to test the packaging and product in multiple tests.
  • Encourage a positive brand image, since the necessary measures are taken to ensure that the products arrive at the final customer in perfect condition.
  • Negotiate transportation fees from a position of advantage, since they are provided with a product that is safe and ready to withstand the conditions of the distribution cycle.


ISTA packaging: procedures and features


How to obtain the ISTA certification

In order to obtain the ISTA certification, companies have two choices: procure the services of an ISTA laboratory or build their own.

Each of these options offers a set of advantages and drawbacks, and opting for one or the other completely depends on an analysis of the needs of the company in the short and long term.

Turning to technological testing laboratories or leasing testing equipment are the better choices for companies that do not wish to invest in owning, operating and maintaining these systems. In this way, only a specific economic investment is made when testing is required.

However, it is essential to know the main criteria to choose the right laboratory. If the goal of the company is to obtain the ISTA certification, it must search for an ISTA testing laboratory.

Conversely, other companies opt to build their own ISTA lab for testing, acquiring the transport simulation machines that are suited to their specific needs. Despite requiring an initial investment, this option offers a number of advantages, which include:

  • The ability to perform unlimited testing at no additional cost.
  • Faster product certification, avoiding formalities and waiting times.
  • Generating more comprehensive analyses, since companies know their equipment and products in detail, and they can also perform the tests based on their specific needs.

At Safe Load Testing Technologies we have already assisted a number of companies in creating their own laboratories, allowing them to have a better knowledge of the way in which their packaging performs, as well as regarding the benefits of becoming ISTA certified. This has been the case for the laboratories that we built for Grifal and Duoplast.

Our transport simulation machines have been designed to comply with the specifications of the ISTA certification. This enables us to deliver turnkey, intuitive and cutting-edge systems that allow companies to perform testing procedures as per the ISTA standards.

Moreover, we help companies calculate the ROI of this investment and be aware of the economic savings that they can achieve after acquiring their own machines.

Do you want to know more about how to obtain the ISTA certification and what it is that your company needs to accomplish this? Get in touch with us and let’s talk about how we can help.

pitch and roll