When shipping goods, it is most important to take every precaution to make sure that they arrive safely at their destination.
Your clients or customers, of course, expect that a certain level of quality control is maintained during the shipping process, and goods that arrive damaged can negatively impact your reputation. However, not properly packaging goods before shipping them also negatively impacts your bottom line. Even a seemingly small percentage of damages can begin to eat into your profit margins, particularly if your margins are already quite small.
Many people actually underestimate the massive amount of stress that a typical package undergoes during shipment. When packing your goods for shipping, you must constantly take adverse weather conditions, extreme temperatures, natural movement of products in transit, truck breakdowns and delays, and weak supply chain links into consideration.
In this article, we’ll be talking about how to properly prepare your shipments to avoid spoilage and damage on the long and bumpy road to your product’s destination. First though, let’s talk about the kinds of products that might require these precautions.
What kind of goods require fragile shipping procedures?
Perishable items need to be maintained at a specific temperature in order for them to remain safe for consumption. While the most common example of perishable goods are foods, many types of pharmaceuticals, wines, and even many chemicals require temperature controlled storage as well. Here’s a list:
- Fish and seafood
- Pet Food
- Live shipments
In some cases, even just a short time of a product sitting at the wrong temperature can be enough to spoil it, particularly if it’s not packed well enough. Good insulation, proper cold chain procedures, and temperature monitoring are key here to reduce shipping losses for your business.
While temperature control is not always a problem for shipping, there is always the risk of damage. Inadequate packing procedures can leave even robust items like furniture and metal goods damaged or dented beyond repair.
However, electronic items, home decor, and other small consumer goods are often also damaged in transit due to the massive amount of abuse they see on their way from the assembly line to the retail sales floor or e-commerce warehouse.
Some products can even be damaged by light exposure, or even just from having the boxes tilted if the product needs to remain flat. Learning how to pack these items properly will save you a ton of time and money, and in the next section, we’ll tell you how to do it properly.
How to prepare fragile goods for shipping
What are you shipping?
The first step, of course, is to determine the needs of your shipment. If you’re shipping a temperature-sensitive and extremely delicate bottle of wine, then you’ll need a far different procedure than you would for shipping perhaps a box of cell phone accessories.
In the case of the wine, you might even invest in specialized shipping cases that offer extra padding and shock protection. These can be molded to the shape and size of your products to make sure that they arrive in perfect condition.
In any case, proper shipping procedures start with identifying the unique challenges that your products present to the logistics chain and then finding a reliable solution to those challenges.
Is your product temperature-sensitive?
If your product is temperature-sensitive, you will likely need to use an insulated box and either cold or hot packs depending on the weather. While shipping perishable goods can be stressful, in most cases, a well insulated and high-quality box will be adequate to help your product survive during shipment.
You can also use temperature monitoring to ensure that products arrive at their destination at a safe temperature. An investment in temperature monitoring gear could help you to salvage as much as 40% of your lost shipments in the future.
Choose your shipment duration carefully.
The more time a product spends in transit, the more likely it is to be damaged or to perish on the road to its destination. If you’re shipping a perishable item, then overnight shipping is the safest choice, but in some cases, two-day shipping may be acceptable.
While overnight shipping is the most expensive, it’s often worthwhile to try and work it into your product’s price to avoid needless spoilage.
Use high-quality boxes.
While it’s tempting to re-use old boxes for shipping, the cost-saving benefits will quickly be eradicated by the cost of broken products and the need to re-ship goods to customers.
Instead, opt for new triple wall cardboard boxes which can withstand greater impacts through the delivery process. This is particularly important for perishable items because thin-walled cardboard will not provide adequate insulation.
Pack the boxes tightly.
Never leave empty space in the boxes or crates when you’re packing your goods. This allows the items inside to bounce around and become damaged. Pack goods in the box tightly near one another, and then fill the empty spaces with packing paper or bubble wrap to prevent any movement.
However, if you’re packing fragile items, like glass, then make sure there is a solid cushion between each item in the form of paper, foam, or bubble wrap. Otherwise, the glass will bang against each other and break almost as soon as it leaves your facility.
Tape up every seam of the box.
In many cases, the weak point in the shipping process lies in the seams of the boxes, which are often not properly taped closed. This is particularly problematic with heavy items, and strong tape is required to keep them from breaking free of their containers.
The more weight in the box, the more you have to be concerned about this happening, but if you’re using strong boxes as we suggested before, then you shouldn’t have any problems. Strong packing tape applied using the H-tape method will keep your goods where they belong.
Mark the boxes as fragile.
Shipping carriers typically like to note whether or not a package is fragile. While it won’t guarantee that your parcel reaches its destination in one piece, it can’t hurt, and in some cases, it will stop an attentive employee from leaving your perishable shipment sitting on a loading dock or crushing your fragile goods under a hundred pounds of home gym equipment.
If your products are temperature-sensitive, then mark them as perishable. If they are prone to breakage, then mark them as fragile with pre-printed tape, or by writing it very large on the package. It should be noted that writing fragile on the box is not a substitute for proper packaging procedures, as these notices are routinely ignored.
Palletize goods properly.
If you’re shipping goods in full pallet bundles, then it’s important that those goods are palletized properly. Poorly stacked pallets fall apart on the truck, and that means your goods end up in a broken pile on the floor, costing you money.
The weight of your goods should be evenly distributed across a good condition pallet, and nothing should be hanging off the edge. Anything looming over the edge is an invitation for it to get caught on a backroom steel or wall and take out the entire pallet.
Once everything is stacked properly, wrap it generously with shrink wrap to secure the pallet’s integrity. The shrink wrap should be very tight. Loose shrink wrap allows the products to shift in transit and your neat stacking job to be destroyed, defeating the purpose.
When loading pallets onto the truck, take care to make sure that they are packed tightly into the trailer to prevent them from shifting during transit. Things move around a lot during the journey, and if a pallet topples, then you’ll have a huge mess and a ton of damaged goods on your hands.
Secure tracking information and insurance.
Your shipments should always be tracked to prove when and where a package has been. In some cases, you may even get a refund for your shipping costs if your package was not delivered in a timely manner, and it spoiled due to the negligence of the shipping company.
However, it might also be possible for you to purchase insurance for additional security. This could be an important step in your shipping process if you have very expensive products.
In closing, having proper shipping procedures in place builds your client’s confidence in your products. Plus, it shows a dedication to quality control that consumers and retailers both will appreciate.
It also helps you to save yourself from needlessly wasting your profit margins on damaged goods by protecting your shipments and your company’s assets. Not to mention the time lost in replacing those shipments when things don’t go as planned.
Investing in proper shipping procedures will always be a net positive for your business, and it’s in your best interest to make sure that you’re doing all you can to ship fragile items carefully.