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Welcome to the world of security seals! If you found this article, chances are you’re in need of some security seals of your own. Whether you’re a regional manager of a supermarket chain or a farmer who’s looking to get their products in stores, security seals are crucial to your operations. You might already be familiar with security seals and just need some more information before buying, or maybe this is your first time hearing about them and you’re starting from square one. Regardless of your knowledge base, we at ZipTie.com are here to help you find what you’re looking for. Below, you’ll find valuable information about security seals to help you navigate purchasing them.
By the time you’re finished reading this overview, you’ll know:
Information online about security seals is as plentiful as the types of security seals available. But honestly, not all of the information is great, and much of it is confusing. That’s why we’d like to equip you with a good knowledge base to make the best choice for your operations. If that sounds good to you, let’s get started!
A security seal is, in short, a mechanism used to seal valuable items in a room, vehicle, or container of some kind. The most commonly used type is a truck seal, but security seals come in a wide variety of strengths, shapes, and mechanisms. Some of them are even federally regulated. They are not necessarily intended for securing personal items, but instead large-scale business operations.
Security seals get used in shipping for several reasons. For example, they:
Security seals not only protect products, but they also enhance shipping records with more easily trackable data. When shipping containers arrive with intact security seals, supply chains can ensure the consumer is getting their product without worries of it being tampered with mid-transit. In some cases, like the use of plastic seals for containers of liquid, security seals even prevent valuable consumer products from spilling on the street. So the next time you drink a glass of milk, remember you have security seals to thank!
While “security seals” mostly refers to truck seals and other shipping seals, they can also refer to seals on individual commercial products. This can include anything from the metal lid that pops up on your Snapple when it’s been opened, to the foil cover on your Tylenol bottle just underneath the cap. When security seals are used on commercial products, the customer has an additional layer of protection from bad actors. Unfortunately, there can be some dire consequences to leaving certain products unsealed. Applying a seal ensures that when you pick up an item in the grocery store, it hasn’t been opened or tampered with in any way.
Security seals are, more or less, a way to deter against the unauthorized opening or tampering of a sealed container. If you are a business that receives valuable cargo or sends it off to another party, security seals are crucial to that exchange. Security seals are most commonly used in industries that have to ship large quantities of commercial products, such as the food industry. If we use Lay’s Potato Chips as an example, anyone in the chain of custody for those chips must use security seals in their transportation process—whether that actor is Lay’s shipping those chips to your local supermarket, or the farmer in Idaho who’s growing the potatoes.
Security seals help link together the chain of custody for products, and each entity in that chain is responsible for providing seals for their containers before shipping them off. The seals used on trucks and shipping containers must be thoroughly inspected to confirm they were applied properly. Additionally, it’s worth noting security seals are typically single-use. They each have a unique serial number, and though a few types of security seals can be reused, the removal process usually destroys the seal.
Security seals come in many forms to fit different circumstances, conditions, and uses. Some seals come in various materials and even have different fastening mechanisms. Three examples of security seals are truck seals, pull tight seals, and bolt seals—all of which you can view on our Security Seals page. Let’s look at each of these individually:
All three of the above seals will come with their own unique serial number, composed of letters and numbers. Serial numbers help security seal manufacturers track their products. Serial numbers also help end users track their shipments and even organize shipments via relevant qualities.
Many companies will work with a seal manufacturer to customize the lettered portion of the serial number to fit their brand, such as Kroger possibly making the lettered portion say “KROGER.” Some seal manufacturers, like ZipTie.com, can also customize the seals themselves to best suit your business’s brand identity, including serial numbers and even colors to match your organization. Whether the seal is customized or not, though, manufacturers must keep diligent track of what serial numbers have been printed, as they are not to be replicated—not even once.
It’s also worth noting that while each type of seal has its own specifications and strength requirements it must meet, bolt seals hold the special distinguishing factor of being a high-security seal. As the name suggests, they are for a different, much tighter level of security. But, what exactly does a higher level of security entail? And if bolt seals offer the highest security, why wouldn’t you always use them in lieu of the others?
High security seals differ from other security seals in two ways: their tensile strength and the regulations around them. They are by far the strongest—and most regulated—security seal.
First, let’s discuss how strong they are. Security seals are often grouped into three levels of protection: Indicating (weakest), Security, and High Security (strongest). So, a high security bolt seal is just a bolt seal categorized in the “high security” range of protection (very literal, we know). Several types of high security seals exist—including bolt seals, barrier seals, and cable seals—but most of them have a tensile strength of around 2-3,000 pounds; our bolt seals are around the upper end of the typical tensile strength range, with a strength of 3,000 pounds.
For comparison, truck seals and pull tight seals are usually only around 50 pounds of tensile strength, meaning bolt seals are 40-60 times stronger! Unless you have a pair of powerful bolt cutters, chances are you’re not getting past such a strong seal. Keep in mind, though, that some circumstances are better suited to truck seals and pull tight seals (we’ll cover that later).
In addition to their colossal strength, high security seals must maintain compliance with national shipping laws. The US Customs and Border Patrol requires any seals used internationally follow the ISO 17712 standard, which has rules regarding their strength, monitoring, and verification procedures. Let’s dive a bit deeper into those rules.
A set of standards developed by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), ISO 17712 seal requirements create a checklist that security seals should meet. Anyone who manufactures security seals must meet each metric to be considered “high security.” This checklist states, among other things, high security seals must be:
ISO 17712 is a voluntary international standard, but many countries around the world modify their shipping regulations to include ISO standards. In the United States, Customs & Border Patrol—specifically, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (CTPAT)—implements these regulations at a federal level. This means if you want to make, sell, or even use high security seals in the US, you have to follow these regulations. In addition to the regulations around how these seals are made and tested, ISO lays out guidelines for end users on how the seals are applied, monitored, inspected, and disposed of. Regardless of how well-made a seal is, it’s still only as good as its application.
If following ISO regulations sounds scary, don’t worry—the regulations are simple to follow, and if you work with a good company, you’ll have no trouble remaining compliant or properly using the seals you purchase. We at ZipTie.com are no strangers to ISO regulations; we even display our ISO certifications on our site! If you work with us, we can help make sure you understand them and how to properly apply your seals. We also keep meticulous records of our seals (and their unique serial numbers) to make sure they are up to code, so we can help you keep an accurate record of your own.
Now, at this point, we’ve talked a lot about high security seals, and just how secure they are. You might be wondering, “well, if these are so secure, why would you ever use anything else? What good is a truck seal when you have a bolt seal?” Well, in addition to bolt seals being about 10 times more expensive, using them for everything would be a little overkill. Let’s talk about why that’s true by defining what the “weaker” seals are providing. As you will soon find out, stronger seals are not always necessarily better at doing their job, and what weaker seals provide carries just as much significance.
When we talk about “security” in the context of security seals, we’re not just talking about stopping break-ins. That is part of security, yes, but we are mostly talking about a way to monitor sealed containers as they travel, and make sure no one’s tried to break into them.
It’s no secret that plastic seals are not nearly as strong as bolt seals. But no matter how strong a seal is, if someone tries to break either of them, you’ll know. So while pull tight seals and plastic truck seals are physically weaker than their counterparts, they are just as strong at showing evidence of tampering. Having a seal that’s hard to break is a great quality, but increasing the strength yields diminishing returns of value, and a stronger seal does not necessarily make a better seal.
Their ultimate goal aims not simply to keep people out, but maintain integrity of the product they’re sealing. It’s a way for Lay’s to confidently say “No one’s had their hands on these chip bags” when those chip bags are delivered to a store for sale. Confidence in products staying sealed during transit, above anything else, is the most important quality of a security seal. Ensuring a container did not open mid-transit is what makes a security seal a tamper-evident device.
On that note, since you found this article, you probably came across the phrase “tamper-evident seals” a time or two (or ten) in your search for information. But what is tamper-evident, really? And why do we have tamper-evident seals?
In the context of security seals, “tamper-evident” is just another way of saying if someone tampers with a seal, you’ll know it when you inspect the seal. Tamper evidence is the cornerstone quality of security seals, but it’s also inherently what security seals are: they provide evidence of tampering with a sealed container. Their whole purpose is to be tamper-evident, because they provide evidence someone has tampered with your container. For contrast, a simple padlock, while strong, only provides tamper evidence if someone breaks it with bolt cutters—not if someone picks it, or simply uses the key to open it. This also is yet another example of why strength is not necessarily everything with security seals; a padlock is physically stronger than a plastic truck seal, but it’s not nearly as tamper-evident.
It’s important to understand what tamper-evident means because you might see some manufacturers market their security seals as “tamper-evident!,” as if it’s a special quality. While their security seals are indeed tamper-evident, also keep in mind that, quite literally, every security seal is tamper-evident. Not only is that a universal trait among security seals, but generally, no security seal can be more or less tamper-evident than another. Certain modifications can make them show more evidence of tampering, such as special colorations appearing when a plastic seal is tampered with. Keep in mind, though, most of those measures are largely unnecessary. Any measurable amount of tamper evidence suffices for security seals.
Individual security seals are pretty cheap. Prices on seals range anywhere from 10 cents to $1.50 depending on the type, with bolt seals being the most expensive. But, security seals of any type are typically sold by the case. At ZipTie.com, our stock security seals are each sold in different quantities. Truck seals come in 2000-unit cases, pull tight seals are sold in the 1,000’s, and bolt seals in 200. The prices may also vary depending on the amount of customization you’re seeking, which leads us right into our next topic.
Quite a bit, if you work with us! In addition to the stock security seals, ZipTie.com offers several ways to customize your security seals.
Firstly, you’re able to modify the serial number. Since the serial number on each seal has to be unique, why not make them fit your brand and their usage? Not only can we have the letters match your brand’s name, but lettering can also be used to fit categories of usage, such as using “CLEAN” or “DIRTY” to know the stage of bulk liquid containers. We’ll also keep track of serial numbers we’ve used with you in the past. ISO regulations apply to custom seals as well, so we still make sure to never repeat unique numbers.
Secondly, our security seals also come in plenty of color options. If you order custom seals with us, you can even pick the color of your serial numbers’ text. This is possible because we laser-engrave those serial numbers onto the seal, and the etching’s color can be changed during the manufacturing process via a special chemical additive. Using laser engraving for serial numbers also helps prevent the number from being rubbed off the seal. For contrast, many serial numbers are applied via a hot stamp, which can be removed with acetone. Laser-etching, however, is a chemical reaction, and it’d be easier to just break the seal than to remove that.
How fast you can get your security seals depends on who you order them from. Timelines can vary widely, and many wait periods are weeks or longer. Some companies may make you wait as long as 3 months. If you order with ZipTie.com, though, we’ll get your order shipped in around two days. Yes, you read that right—48 hours after ordering, your seals will be en route!
Our quick turnaround time also goes for custom orders, which will usually take just 1-2 days to fulfill. We’re proud to be able to not just offer high-quality products, but get them to you in a timely manner. You shouldn’t have to wait weeks to get the security measures you need for your business, and when you order through ZipTie.com, you won’t have to worry about that.
If you’re looking to purchase truck seals, bolt seals, or any kind of security seals, look no further! You can view ZipTie.com’s stock selection of security seals, or call us at +1-855-947-8433 between 8:30 AM—5:30 PM ET to place a custom order. You can also call to simply talk more about what you’re looking for. Whether you’re a food manufacturer or a distribution service, we can get you exactly what you need, and fast—be it stock or custom orders.
ZipTie.com’s staff is here to help you figure out what seals work best for your operations, and we’re passionate about offering a high-quality product with timely, reliable customer service. We offer speed, quality control, and diligent tracking of your seals’ serial numbers to make sure you stay compliant with shipping regulations. We also can help answer any questions you may have about security seals in general. Visit our website, or reach out to us today to learn more about your options!