Packaging Best Practices
Packaging is one of the most important elements in the multi-step shipping process. The wrong kind can lead to damaged or lost goods, more insurance claims — and a less than stellar reputation. As a business owner, you definitely don’t want that! Before you bundle your items for shipping, follow these best practices from packaging pros.
Assess your shipment
How you package your goods completely depends on what you’re shipping and how much it weighs. You might need boxes, crates, pallets, shrink wrapping, package cushioning and more. If you prefer to use your own supplies, a quick online search can help you find several large suppliers, including Uline; ValueMailers; Fast-Pack; eSupplyStore; Papermart; and eBay. Also give smaller, local companies a try; they may help you save money on packaging supplies.
Packing it up
As the shipper, it’s your responsibility to make sure merchandise is protected during transit and delivery to its destination, says Shipwire. This requires containers that are adequately packed for shipment. For example:
• Use a new box whenever possible, according to UPS Packaging Guidelines. If you must reuse a box, however, make sure it is rigid and has no punctures, tears, rips, or corner damage, and that all flaps are intact. Remove labels and other shipment markings.
• Choose a box that will support the contents. Weight limits printed on the Box Maker’s Certificate (on the bottom flap of most boxes) are intended for palletized freight shipments only, says UPS.
• For cartons containing glass or plastic bottles, use dividers to protect the merchandise from breakage or crushing, Shipwire advises.
• Wrap each item separately. Fragile items should be separated from each other, and from the corners, sides, top, and bottom of the box, UPS says. Each item should be surrounded by at least 2 inches of cushioning and be placed at least 2 inches away from the walls of the box. Also, make sure all fragile products are clearly marked.
• Unless otherwise specified, do not use confetti paper, cardboard, or tissue paper to fill up empty space within the cartons. Instead, use inflated air bags, packing peanuts, craft paper, foam, or corrugated liners and inserts, Shipwire and UPS both advise. Do not use clothing, blankets, towels, newspaper or pillows for cushioning, UPS says.
These shipments come with their own guidelines. For example:
• Choose pallets that are strong enough to support their loads.
• Place heavy, bulky items on pallets for improved handling.
• Stack cartons on the pallets vertically to maximize carton strength.
• Secure cartons to pallets with banding, shrink-wrap, stretch-wrap or breakaway adhesive.
• Stack cartons squarely on the skid, with no overhang. Box flaps and corrugations should face up, and the top surface should be flat.
• Place single containers on an outside corner or ship them loose.
Closing it up
• Use a strong tape that is designed specifically for shipping, UPS says. Avoid masking tape, cellophane tape, duct tape, string, or paper over-wrap.
• Pressure-sensitive plastic tape (2 inches wide) and nylon reinforced filament tape (3 inches wide) are both preferred by UPS.
• Apply three strips to both the top and bottom flaps of the box, according to UPS specifications. For regular slotted containers, where the flaps meet in the center, apply three strips of tape to both the top and bottom of the box, so the middle and two edge seams are sealed. For corrugated containers where the flaps overlap, apply three strips of tape to both the top and bottom of the box, so the three edge seams are sealed.