back to article User seeks $1.4m from IBM for shoddy server packing

Say what you will about cooling issues, disgruntled admins and memory failures. There are times when it's the guys in shipping that cause the most harm to a data center. Contractor T.R. Systems has sued IBM for allegedly packing a $1.4m server so poorly that it fell off a forklift and wrecked the box. As InformationWeek …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Chris


    Without additional details, I'm going to have to side with IBM on this one. Products packed on pallets are not meant for bumpy rides, they are meant for smooth rides. How much higher was this "raised surface at the entry door of the warehouse" than the ground outside the door? How fast was the forklift moving at the time? How tall was the crate? Sounds fishy to me.

    On a side note, they say the server cost $1.4 million, so they're suing for that and more. Is that $1.4 million the real cost (what IBM charged them), or is it what they were charging the USPTO? Because you know there's a huge difference.

  2. Silas Humphreys

    So, the basis of the suit is...

    that IBM are responsible for the fact that the recipient's warehouse wasn't suitable for forklift use? This isn't tricky; if you're going to use a forklift, make sure the floor is level.

    I just hope the judge has some common sense.

  3. Phil A

    I'm going the other way...

    Come on, a warehouse is almost by definition suitable for forklift use...In the dim and distant past, I held a forklift ticket and there is a certain expectation that any goods will be packed to be able to survive normal movement from a forklift - and the raised surface is probably a simple raised bump to prevent rain from coming into the warehouse. If it's a pallet of paint, it's messy but not the end of the world. If it's a $1.4M server, it should be packed maybe a little better than a load of boxes wrapped in pallet wrap?

  4. James Condron

    Stacking Pallets

    As a guy who works in a warehouse, let me explain this- the customer has every right to turn around and claim at least some cash- the IBM distro center has to make sure pallets are stacked correctly and are ballanced. They also have to make sure the pallet its self is suitable for shipping- I don't know about the USA, but in the UK pallets have to be checked and stamped to make sure this doesn't happen.

    Some blame falls upon the receiving end, of course, but this whole story seems off to me- containers are usually un packed in bays where the truck reverses down a ramp to a shutter which is at the right height and width for the doors on the back- the raise here will be a ramp the fork-lift truck is reversing up on that end. Pallets are required by law (or at least in UK- no expert on US law) to be able to withstand all of that without breaking.

  5. Ole Juul

    The conditions are irrelevant

    I've spent a fair amount of time with a fork lift moving all kinds of crazy things that you might find in the TV industry. In the end it doesn't really matter how difficult the conditions are or how something is packed... or not. The rules are always the same. Don't break anyting! You do whatever you need to do to accomplish that. If you break something, it's your own fault. However, for $1.4m one might suddenly forget that... but I'm sure the judge will remind them.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Saw this happen to a Sun server once

    I recall a large Sun (E5000 or E6000) server arrived at a reseller with the top of the wooden crate damaged. Once the crate was removed, it revealed a top corner of the rack was bent down, and all of the CPU boards had come loose.

    The reseller reseated the boards, powered up the system, and it worked fine.

    However, since the server was damaged in shipping, and the shipment was insured (smart move with an expensive product), it was replaced.

    Still it was impressive to see this banged up server could run like a top.

  7. Gaz


    Where I work we have this thing called insurance which covers us against accidental damage/theft whilst products are being shipped. Surely, they could just put in a claim and have done with it. Someone's premium will be going up :P

  8. wim

    With IBM on this one

    I used to drive forklifts and we were told/taught to check your cargo yourself to see if it is suitable stable/packed for the ride you are expecting.

    I would love to have been able to say the same thing if I dropped a jet engine when transporting it from one place to the other.

  9. Aubry Thonon

    I smell a rat...

    My question is: how high were those forks if a fall from them wrecked a PACKED server? I know the stuff I buy (admittedly, not US$1.4m servers) generally have enough packaging around them so that they will comfortably survive a small fall of 1-2 feet.

    So... since AFAIK you're supposed to LOWER the forks before you move the forklift around the warehouse, HOW did falling off the forks damage this server SO BADLY that it was "wrecked"?

    Sounds to me like someone was hot-dogging around the warehouse.

  10. Ivan Frimmel

    Proper pre-site inspection ..

    I've been through a bunch of these(all succesful ;) - and no I don't work for IBM.

    Usually pre-site inspection is done prior to delivery of most equipment that requires this kind of "special handling" (regardless of cost usually since humans tend to get killed and injured when things that weigh a few tons " fall over " ). Usually this is subcontracted to specialized "movers" ( droppers? ).

    The assumption is that the fork lift operator knows how to "negotiate" certain obstacles. Human error remains a factor though - either through lack of planning or lack of skill in driving ones chosen method of feeding ones dependents or crack habid. I am not entirely sure what sort of packing would be required to avoid the fallibility of humans .. perhaps encasing the equipment in Kevlar?

    ANYHOW .. usually the courier has ownership and risk (read: insured) while the equipment is in transit - which the customer ( IBM ) usually pays a grand sum for. I don't see how IBM can be held accountable for something their couriers did.

    Nevermind the mind numbing problem of when the customer actually takes title. I am not sure how they can claim damages if they don't own the kit (unless they prenegotiated that in their delivery contract as penalties - which wouldn't make headlines ).

    Someone is going to PAY ALOT OF MONEY to find out how good IBM's legal team are. A blind man with his arms chopped off and a gammy leg could get himself out of this one.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM is in the right

    Actually, I used to work for one of IBM's competitors, and every once in a while had to ship heavy iron. Assuming IBM packs their stuff as well as we did ours, the outer boxes have huge warnings all over them, along with "tilt detectors" built into the packaging so the installation tech can determine if it was mishandled in shipping. At 1500 lbs or more, dropping the box even a couple of inches is enough to cause structural damage to the frame, destroy countless bits of electronics, and if you're on a raised floor, collapse your raised floor. (I've seen pictures, never done it myself. ;) ) No matter how well you pack it, a computer the size of a small car can't be protected as well as some paint cans - it's physics, Jim, um, I mean Phill. :)

  12. Charles

    I've been there..sorta.

    These things happen. I worked at a graphics bureau, we got a new expensive ($500k) imagesetter, the crate was impressive, it had an uncrating procedure that took 30 minutes just to release the shipping locks. Then the idiot installers got it out of the crate, rolled it on its own coasters down the dock, and bounced it a mere 2 inches over a concrete curb. The imagesetter was ruined, the light-tight interior got bent and developed light leaks we could never track down. The company dispached engineers, they worked for days but they couldn't fix it. They ended up replacing the whole machine and writing off the old one as damaged in transit. We were lucky the damage occurred out on the dock, before we took delivery of it, or we could have been screwed.

  13. J. Cook Silver badge

    More Shipping horror stories...

    I used to work for a tier 1 ISP. During my tenure there, we had three routers damaged by two different shipping companies.

    One was a Juniper M40 router with the companies "standard" loadout for interface cards, and running pretty close to a mil in cost. Somewhere along the way, the crate fell off of a truck, or a fork lift, because when we received it, the Tip 'N' Tell indicators were tripped along with the shock watch indicators (and these were IIRC the 50 and 75G indicators. In addition, there was a nice bootprint on the side of the box where someone was _standing_ on it, and a small hole in the wood crate where the forklift impaled the box to upright it. The router has a small scratch on the steel chassis where the fork hit it. Amazingly enough, the router worked just fine.

    We also had a pair of Cisco ESR10000 routers that were

    dropped off a truck or fork lift somewhere along the way as well. They were packaged in a cardboard container which was in pretty poor shape when we got it. One of the routers was bent pretty badly from the fork or the entire forklift running into it. Needless to say, we (and Cisco) were not happy with the shipper. The chassis along is a good 50K, and bog only knows how much the cards we had in it cost. In the end, we had to send one back.

    While neither this article nor the original article state just how far off the ground the crate was lifted, I doubt that any amount of packing regardless of type of material is going to hold upwards of a quarter ton of computing equipment falling over. It sounds strongly to me that someone was not operating the forklift properly. Hence, I'm going to have to side with IBM on this one. Sorry guys.

  14. tony trolle

    wood you believe it

    In general 'one-way pallet' wood is the nastiest wood you can find.

  15. Alistair

    Shippin' 'surance

    Somehow ---- ***if*** the 3rd party is suing IBM for funds, I get the feeling that the insurance angle works this way:

    1) IBM Packed, racked and shipped, and insured FOB from point of shipment to point of destination

    2) Courier moved object from FOB to Dest an handed papers over to 3rd party, on USPTO office space.

    3) 3rd party commenced movement of device to computer room floor and futzed it good.

    a) insurance applied **only** on the truck from IBM FOB point to delivery point.

    b) 3rd party was screwin USPTO for extra cash and hired a 16 yearold to drive the fork lift (now, in the hands of the incompetent, relabelled a f**klift)

    c) cutting corners will killya alltime.

    I've seen this - a $2.7MCan shipment of Vclass servers (quite literally I believe #10 and #11 off the line at the time) rushed from Cali to T.O. -- the airfreight co decided to jam them on the plane, (read stack the s.o.b.s) -- and -- cargo space on planes being what it is -- managed to drop the top one on the bottom one at an angle ...

    The fella that picked em up in TO for the freight co here was smart and grabbed a camera.......

    For the record, **both** servers (the crushee and the crusher) needed to be replaced ...

  16. Tom

    Gorillas in the warehouse

    Has anyone even seen how the fork lift drivers do their job? They do all sorts of things. You see a fork lift is just a handy lifting tool that has many uses. Lift up people, long 2x4's and anything that needs to be moved and the operators are just a bit lazy on picking it up. Then there is the forklift olympics where anything goes (and often does!).

    Go to a nearby warehouse store and look at all the places fork lifts have been, cardboard boxes have lots of evidence, if you care to look.

    I'm siding with IBM here.

  17. gman


    It doesn't matter if IBM shipped this server wrapped in rubber bands attached to popscicle sticks. The simple fact that the plaintiff stated the forklift "began to rock and then the server began to rock" sinks their entire case. They pretty much admitted either 1) the load was too high for the weight to be carried or 2) they were using too small of a forklift to lift it in the first place. A forklift is not supposed to rock as they describe if it is within its load limits for the height the forks are at.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not IBM's problem

    Although it's been a while since I was driving a fork lift, I seem to recall something in my training about checking a load before lifting it. If it seems in any way unstable or unsafe it should be re-packed if appropriate. In this case the delivery should have been refused and the server sent back for re-packaging.

    If the driver deemed it safe to pick up then it's not IBM's problem if he subsequently dropped it. To be honest, I was able to carry all sorts of unstable/overweight loads with just the right amount of tilt on the forks and a soft touch on the accelerator (although I did reject the pallet load of immersion heater bricks weighing in at over twice the rated capacity of my truck - when the load stays still and the truck leans over, it's not a good sign). Bad packers make for good practice I guess :)

  19. Chris Morrison

    Buy dell

    These guys should always buy dell.

    Every time I get an order from Dell theres about 10x the amount of packaging required for whatever I am ordering. Even a copy of Windows XP comes in it's own massive box filled with foam.

    Could probably survive a drop of the empire state building.


    ps: Dell is shite but thats what the company uses.

  20. David

    On IBM's side.

    I'm on IBM's side as well. I have been driving forklifts for 13 years and cannot see how this can be anything but operator screwup.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On IBM's side

    Once upon a time I held licenses for both counter-balance & reach forklifts. The UK tests are pretty tough and make it clear that if you are not sure, don't lift the damn thing up and definitely don't move the ****ing thing!

  22. william w bishop

    I'm going to have to agree with previous posters

    I've seen tonnes of IBM hardware come in, it's always OVERPACKED. It's really up to the abilities of the delivery personnel. I've seen droppers put in a dmx3000 with only the width of a sidewalk to maneuver in, and then lift it up to an elevated floor, all in the space of a couple minutes, and I watched them take every precaution. Do your job right, and take care and you shouldn't have anything like this happen.

    Good luck with a lawsuit against IBM.

  23. Demian Phillips

    IBM rack packing.

    The palet that an IBM rack ships on is not some flimsy cheap bit of junk. Good solid structure bits(6x6 beams I think) and strong thick plywood for the planks (top is a solid board).

    I dont see how it could have broken/fell over unless the rack was being held higher then sanity should allow. At over 1200 Lbs. (assuming rack with servers/UPS) I wouldnt have it more then a couple inches off the floow during movement.

  24. Charles Hammond

    Forklift Massacre

    If you drive a forklift and the forklife actually tips enough for the packing to break, then it is the fault of the fork lift operator. I will wager this Item is just so heavy that it can not be tipped too far before it starts falling. Also, if the forklift tipped under the load, maybe they really needed a bigger forklift to begin with, and the reason it tipped is because the load was too heavy for the forklift to begin with. All of these things have to be onsidered when moving a heavy load. It is most likely the gurrilla's unloading the device were underpaid buffoons.

    However, I can still see how they could still win in court. There is a certain expectation of well packaged crate considering the cost of the item. Still you can expect them not to rock a giant server back and forth as it goes down the road. With an item like this it should be handled with a little more care.

  25. norman

    Forklift drivers last job?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I recall seeing a guy deliver a large machine and set it down nicely up against the wall. Backwards. lucky somebody noticed, huh .. ?

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like