Why does packaging matter?
Whether you’re selling small, portable items like water bottles or big, heavy ones like treadmills, packaging your product properly allows you to save money and retain more customers.
Generally, the longer the package is in transit, the more mishaps it can encounter. Good packaging protects your shipment until it reaches your customer’s doorstep — helping you prevent unforeseen losses because of damaged or lost packages in transit. The right size of the packaging also matters because you don’t need too much “fillers” to secure the product inside.
And by minimizing situations where your customers receive “dead on arrival” products, you retain more of them because they’re satisfied with your service. They’re more likely to buy from you again when you deliver their order in brand new condition.
So no matter the size and shape of your shipment, you’ll learn in this article how to package your product to ensure its safety during shipping.
How do I package small items for shipping? Parcel shipping
Parcels that weigh 150 lbs or less are known as “small packages” and these are typically shipped by FedEx or UPS through land or air.
Here’s how to package small items to ensure its safety while being shipped.
Place the product in a cardboard box
For the majority of products that are eligible for parcel shipping, a cardboard box is better than a plastic or fabric bag because it offers more protection. And ideally, you should be using a new one that isn’t damaged, torn, or bent.
Fill the box with cushioning material
When you place your product inside the box, there should be a gap of two to three inches at each side to allow for cushioning material like packaging peanuts, styrofoam, bubble wrap or paper. These cushion the item from strong impacts and also prevent it from moving around in the box.
If you’re shipping electronic products, be sure to protect them with anti-static materials first before cushioning with foam, bubble wrap, or crumpled paper.
Tape the seams
After filling the box, you tape it at the seams with packaging tape to prevent your parcel from opening by accident. Packaging or duct tape is strong and sticky enough to keep your box sealed as it goes through the shipping process.
Keep the top lid open and tape it at the very end in case you have to swap things out or add more items inside.
Included relevant labels and information
There are several labels and relevant information that you have to include in your package. These help your carrier get your shipment to the intended destination and these include:
- The collection and delivery address which you write on the outside of the box.
- Two copies of the label if your carrier needs them. Attach one outside and leave the other inside just in case the one outside tears off.
- In case it’s required, include a pro-forma invoice and attach it on the outside of the box.
- Don’t forget to also remove any previous labels or addresses on the box to avoid confusing your carrier.
Weigh the package
Now that you’re done with packing and labeling the shipment, weigh the package to see if the actual weight matches what you declared on your booking. If it’s heavier, be prepared for additional charges from your carrier.
Tip: If you choose to send the parcel via UPS, they will charge you extra if you wrap the cardboard box with shrink wrap.
How do I package large items for shipping? LTL shipping
Large, bulky products like industrial machines, certain consumer appliances, and gym equipment require more care when transporting them through long distances. Damaged or lost shipments can be very costly on your part and you also risk losing a customer.
Here’s how to package large items so the cargo remains intact when it arrives at the destination.
Use durable packaging
Corrugated cardboard is a thick, sturdy packaging material that can withstand the weight of full boxes stacked on top of each other. And well-taped seams can protect the box being torn or ripped open even if the cushioning material has been compromised. Always use new boxes with no holes or tears when packing large items to ensure maximum protection.
Cushion the box generously
Proper cushioning around your item reduces the chance of breakage even if your shipment is mishandled during transit. Use dense cushioning materials like styrofoam or engineered foam enclosures to reinforce the box. Also avoid paper or packaging peanuts for large, bulky products because these compress more easily than other types of cushioning materials.
Avoid making the freight too heavy
Boxes that are too heavy are more likely to be dropped because of how difficult these are to handle. Break down heavy freight into multiple packages and consider disassembling the product if possible to make it easier to transport.
Place the shipment on a pallet
A heavier shipment is easier to move around when it’s placed on a pallet (a platform made of wood or plastic that’s designed to endure the stress of loading and unloading heavy shipments).
Just be mindful that your shipment doesn’t exceed the pallet’s weight limit. Also place heavy items at the center to prevent them from tilting when a forklift carries the pallet.
Shake the package
Prior to sealing the top lid, shake the box to see if the contents inside are moving around. If the inside slides around significantly, it may be due to inadequate or poorly-fitted cushioning. If there are rattling sounds, it may be due to loose objects that can easily break other fragile items inside.
To reduce the chances of damaged goods upon arrival, rearrange and repack your shipment until you can’t hear the item moving anymore. Many carriers will refuse to accept a package if the contents inside sound like they’re unstable or loose.
How do I package items for Freight Shipping?
If your business ships out multiple boxes of inventory each day, chances are you place them on pallets. And while a forklift makes the job easier in lifting the shipment, the human operator can still make a mistake.
Here’s how to prevent your products from damage even if the unfortunate happens.
Pack individual boxes properly
Use new cardboard boxes — which are sturdier — and fill them generously with cushioning materials to improve the box’s rigidity. Also seal the seams with plenty of tape so the items are contained inside even if the box was accidentally dropped.
Stack boxes wisely
An imbalanced pallet is more likely to fall over and thus, possibly damage your shipment. To improve the stability of the pallet, it’s important to distribute the weight evenly. Here are a couple of ways to achieve this:
- Place heavier boxes at the bottom and lighter ones on top
- Align the boxes so the stack is centered on the pallet
- Add a layer of cardboard every few rows to press down on loose or light boxes
Also be aware of any overhang because it can easily bump into other freight and possibly topple over.
Bring it all together with shrink wrap and/or straps
Shrink wrap transforms the stack of boxes into a unified package and provides additional protection for the shipment. Wrap your package liberally with three to five layers and twist it at opposing sides while wrapping. Also use high-quality shrink wrap that is rated 60-gauge or higher.
And to fully secure your shipment, strap the boxes with plastic or fabric webbing after wrapping them.
Label your freight
Label each pallet with the complete address and contact details of the consignee and the shipper. Place the label at the side or on top so it’s easy to locate.
Packaging fragile items
Fragile products like glassware, ceramics, and goods made with delicate or brittle materials are riskier to transport because they’re easily breakable. These need more attention when packaging so they survive the inevitable bumps and drops of the shipping process.
Here’s how to safeguard them in transit so your customers don’t get broken orders at their doorstep.
Wrap the item itself
If your item doesn’t come with a dedicated box and enclosures, wrap it with a layer of paper first and tape the paper to prevent unraveling. If there are holes in the item, fill these with paper too. Then, wrap it with a layer or two of bubble wrap and cover the whole item. Also avoid taping it too much or the customer might break the item while removing all the tape.
Determine the right size of the box
The right size allows you to achieve a balance of protection and cost-efficiency when shipping the item. After measuring the dimensions of the item/s that will be placed in the box, there should be two to three inches of allowance from each side of the product for cushioning.
You can even place the item in a smaller box first then place that in a larger box. This box-in-box method also lessens the chance of theft for high-value items because people have no clue of what’s inside.
Create a layer of cushion
The goal of cushioning the item is to prevent it from moving around too much by allowing a little “give” from the fillers. Bubble wrap, air pillows, or packaging peanuts are appropriate for this.
Fill the box with the cushioning material for up to two inches in height. Then, place the item and center it in the box. After that, put in the rest of the cushioning materials and avoid overfilling the box.
Use high quality packing materials
The importance of using new corrugated cardboard boxes can’t be stressed enough for fragile items because the material is at its strongest. Also go with heavy duty packaging or duct tape for sealing the seams because a well-sealed box is the item’s first and toughest layer of protection.
These high quality packaging materials may be costly but they help minimize product replacements that cost you more in the long run.
Packaging oddly shaped items
Oddly shaped items are items that aren’t shaped like a square or rectangle and many goods are actually oddly shaped — car parts, furniture, musical instruments, bottles, wheels, gym equipment, sporting goods, sculptures, carpets, etc. These are quite tricky to package but the key is to choose packaging materials that allow easy wrapping while also providing adequate protection.
For large items that are usually transported via LTL shipping: wrap them in bubble wrap and cover the parts that stick out with polystyrene strips. Then place them in a crate or a corrugated cardboard box with enough allowance for air pillows or packaging peanuts.
For car tires: wrap them with pressure sensitive tape before placing it in the box.
For rolled goods like fabrics and carpets: wrap each roll with plastic and place it inside a cardboard box.
For small items where multiple units can fit inside one box (e.g. bottles): use a divider to prevent them from hitting each other.
A few points to remember
Oddly shaped items require more attention to detail to minimize the chances of damage while in transit. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t leave sharp edges exposed. Cover them with pieces of cardboard or polystyrene to prevent them from being damaged.
- Always test the strength of the cardboard box or crate especially if you’re packing heavy and bulky products like gym equipment and furniture.
- If there is no flat surface to attach the label on, use a transparent tape to fully attach it on the item so it doesn’t fall off easily.
10 tips for packaging products for delivery
Regardless of the size, shape, or weight of the product, you may have noticed common packaging guidelines for protecting the shipment from the unforgiving environment of the shipping process. Some tips are unique to certain kinds of goods but all of these ultimately help you save in shipping costs and retain more customers.
1. Use high quality cardboard boxes
Check the manufacturing stamp of the box and look for its weight capacity and construction method. Double-wall and triple-wall construction are recommended for heavy loads and fragile items.
2. Don’t exceed the weight limit of the box, pallet, or crate
Overloaded boxes, pallets, and crates are more difficult to handle — making them more prone to drops and tears that can damage the shipment.
Also avoid reusing old boxes because they lose their rigidity quickly.
3. Provide adequate cushioning for the item
After filling up the box, shake it gently before sealing to check for any signs of movement. If the contents inside are shifting around too much, you need more cushioning to prevent them from breaking from the inside.
Also make sure there’s at least two inches of allowance for the cushioning materials of your choice.
4. Leave no empty space
Under-filled boxes can collapse if too much weight is on top of it. Filling the box up to the brim without overflowing helps increase its ability to withstand forces coming from top.
5. Wrap individual items
If several items can fit inside one box, wrap each one individually to protect them from damaging each other. Also use a divider or inserts if possible to evenly distribute the weight.
6. Use proper packing materials
There are items like perishable goods, electronics, and biological substances that require specific packing materials to maintain their integrity during shipping. Be mindful of these requirements in order to avoid additional costs or worse — the loss of trust from your consignee especially if the shipment is highly valuable.
7. Seal the package well
Seams are simply part of boxes but they become a weak point when load is applied on the box. Seal them properly with enough tape to create a suit of armor for the item inside.
8. Label the shipment appropriately
Include the full addresses and contact details of the consignor and consignee. Countries should not be abbreviated and certain details like the country, city, and province/state should be in English. Also include the postal code to minimize the delays due to sorting errors.
International packages tend to require a customs form, which should be printed in capital letters and filled out completely before pickup.
9. Include a silica gel pack if your product is sensitive to moisture
Packages go through different locations and experience different moisture levels as it travels. Since moisture can be damaging to a lot of consumer goods, it is crucial to deliver products in good condition to your customers around the world.
10. Make sure that products for children are packaged with non-hazardous materials
Little children have little to no awareness yet of the packaging that protects their toy, utensil, or book during shipping. To avoid lawsuits from angry parents, stay away from using any hazardous packing material that children may suddenly ingest.