One of the easiest ways to damage your company’s reputation with customers is to allow shipping damage to affect too many of your shipments. You need the products you ship out to arrive undamaged, because products damaged in shipping hurts both your reputation and your bottom line. Every product damaged in shipping needs to be replaced with a new, undamaged product, and that can really cut into your profits.
You may not always be able to prevent shipping damage. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. But you can do a lot to mitigate the risk your packages face as they travel from the warehouse to the customer. Package every one of your shipments in brand new packing materials, and use appropriate dunnage to stabilize your package contents and protect them from impacts and vibrations. Mark your fragile items for special handling, and use data from your impact indicators to improve your shipping practices.
Use New Packaging Materials for Every Shipment
When you’re preparing packages to send to your customers, it can be tempting to reuse boxes and packing materials that were used to ship items that you’ve received in the past. However, you shouldn’t do this. Cardboard cartons and dunnage materials are designed to be used only once. They simply won’t hold up to the pressures of freight transit for a second trip. If you don’t want boxes to arrive crushed and with contents damaged, always use a fresh, new box for every shipment.
Stabilize Package Contents with Adequate Dunnage
Dunnage provides cushioning inside packages to protect the contents from shocks and vibrations. You should choose an exterior shipping carton that provides about three inches of space between the contents and the sides of the box. Fill this space with cushioning material that should both keep the contents from sliding and rattling around inside the box, and provide protection from impacts and shocks.
There are several kinds of dunnage you can use to provide cushioning inside a shipping box. If you can, use a purpose-made styrofoam or wooden insert. Wrap delicate items in bubble wrap. Surround your contents with packing peanuts or brown craft paper. The dunnage should hold the contents of your package firmly in place so that they don’t slide around when you shake the box. The contents are more likely to sustain damage if they’re allowed to slide around, bumping against the other objects in the box or against the side of the box itself.
Collect Impact Data and Use It
If your business depends on shipping products to customers, you need to be collecting impact data. Use impact indicators to do test shipments and collect data on the shocks and impacts your shipments encounter in transit. Impact data will let you know when your packaging isn’t effective or when you might need to use a different carrier or a different route to send your shipments. For example, if your test packages are sustaining damage from vibrations, try testing a different route to see if that makes a difference. You may need to change carriers or use more robust packaging to keep your shipments safe in the face of the damaging forces they encounter during shipping.
Mark Delicate Items as Fragile
When you’re shipping fragile or delicate items, it’s always a good idea to include a special label on the outside of the package so the carrier knows how to handle your package. Packages that aren’t labeled for special handling will be stacked up with all the others, and may need to stand up to the weight of several other boxes stacked on top of them in the truck.
However, carriers handle packages with special labels differently. Your carrier will know to place your package labeled “fragile” in a protected part of the truck and refrain from stacking other boxes on top of it. If you’re shipping live plants or animals, special labeling to that effect will let the carrier know to handle your package carefully and deliver it promptly so that the contents are still in good condition when they arrive.
Shipping damage can really do a number on your profit margins. That’s why it’s so important to pack items for shipping in new boxes with plenty of cushioning, and make sure your carrier is handling delicate packages with care. While you can’t prevent every instance of shipping damage, the right approach to packing and shipping can keep most things intact until they reach the customer. Do your best to minimize shipping damage, so you can give your customers the service they deserve.