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Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is from Cindy Banker with ProCorr Display and Packaging who is bringing us some great insight on how to reduce product damage.

If you are a product manufacturer, you know all too well the perils of shipping products from your factory or warehouse to a DC or retailer.  Packaging and product damage during shipping is extremely common. So much so, that a certain percentage of loss is often expected and built into the balance sheet. The problem is so pervasive that it has spawned an industry of consultants, software and tracking technology.

There are many factors that can impact the safe arrival of your product shipments. In this article, we have highlighted the most common, but often overlooked elements to consider.

Packaging Selection Helps Reduce Product Damage

The primary packaging material of choice is corrugated cardboard. This material comes with varying flute patterns as well as wall thickness. It is important to understand the differences so you can choose the right material.  In general, heavier items require thicker boxes. If boxes are going to stack on top of each other on a pallet, this will also require more strength and stability. Many shipping companies will stack pallets on top of one another to maximize their load, so you need to know this important piece of logistical information as well. 

According to Kane, a leading logistics company, “Product packaging is the smallest cost segment in the supply chain, comprising less than 10% of each supply chain dollar. Warehousing eats up about 25% and transportation 60%. It doesn’t make economic sense to scrimp on packaging materials since you’ll pay for it in other areas.”

Trucking Logistics

Remember that many trucking companies are LTL (Less Than a Full Load) carriers. They take several smaller shipments to their final destination, but may have many stops along the way. As Kane suggests, this extra handling provides additional opportunity for damage. As an alternative, you may want to find a company with smaller cargo style trucks or use a logistics company to find the right trucking solution for you. And, where possible, use a truck with air-ride suspension, particularly if you have a particularly fragile product.

Pallet Packing and Construction

There are some rules of thumb when stacking products on a pallet.

  • Don’t let the product packaging overhang the pallet.
  • For heavy boxes, stack them like bricks, so the weight is more evenly distributed
  • Make sure the pallet is in good condition. Pallets can splinter, crack and ultimately fail, so invest in pallets that can withstand the travel.
  • Wrap pallets well, so the packaging doesn’t shift and won’t come in contact with other pallets on the same journey.

Environmental Impacts

Moisture and heat are enemies of your packaging. According to Packaging Digest, corrugation is 71% weaker in a high-humidity environment, and this can lead to product damage during shipping. 

Unfortunately, some retailers reject entire loads of merchandise if they see some packaging damage on more than one pallet. They don’t have the time or resources to quickly identify and isolate the defective goods.

However, there is a silver-lining, according to Packaging Digest again: typically, less than 1% of the products in the cartons sustain damage. This means the box and protection on the inside are doing what they were designed to do.

Inside the Box

When you ship a product, your goal is simple: make sure it gets there in good condition. How you pack your products in the box is key to product damage control. 

You can use partitions or other packing material to separate and cushion the products. Partitions made from corrugated material can reduce packaging usage and unit costs, while also offering several additional benefits:

  • If you are shipping fragile items or smaller parts, partitions offer a reliable source of protection. When you cut down on damage, you, in turn, cut down on the number of returns and replacements, which reduces shipping costs and package consumption.
  • Partitions made from durable corrugated material can be reused over and over for intra-plant transport and sub-assembly projects.
  • Partitions offer added support to corrugated boxes, giving them more durability and even better crush resistance. With a partition in place, shippers can use lighter boxes, which reduces their costs.
  • Partitions make products easier to unpack, providing for a better user experience, whether you’re shipping to a store or straight to the customer. Partitions made from corrugated cardboard are also very easy to recycle.

In the temporary display industry, we often assemble and pack-out our client’s displays with the product before shipping displays to warehouses or stores. This packaging option has several benefits.

  • First, your products arrive retail-ready. Stores only need to pick up and place displays onto the sales floor and cut open the plastic outer wrapping.
  • Second, a packed out display saves store personnel time and you avoid the risk of extra handling and damage.
  • Third, these displays are more likely to make it to the retail floor sooner, giving consumers more time to shop and buy.
  • Fourth, retailers look favorably on suppliers who provide retail-ready packaging and displays.
  • Fifth, manufacturers who offer these displays can gain a competitive advantage over category rivals.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider when shipping products. To ensure you have the best chance of minimizing damage, you should start with the right packaging. In the long-run, it is an investment in the future success of your business.