How to Minimize Product Damage During Shipping

You know what they say – you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The excitement of finally receiving a long-awaited purchase can quickly turn to disappointment if your customer gets a beat-up brown box and a damaged product.

We know all too well that the journey from the warehouse to the customer’s doorstep can be a long, complicated process that increases the possibility of product damage. This can lead to costly returns and negative reviews of your product, impacting your bottom line. Research shows that 80% of consumer returns are directly related to an item being delivered damaged or broken.

So, what leads to package damage, and how can you minimize it to ensure that your product arrives at your customer in the same condition it was in when it left your facility? Let’s explore some common issues and the latest solutions in protective packaging to minimize product damage.

Common Damage Scenarios

With the rise of online retail purchases and consumer expectations for packages to arrive quickly, the likelihood of damage occurring while en route increases. USPS reports that in one day, over 24 million packages are processed and delivered. While it is impossible to have eyes on your product throughout the entire shipping process, you can still consider common damage scenarios when choosing your protective packaging: 

Dropped Packages

  • Vibrations from conveyor belts can cause different damage scenarios. Wear and tear on the outer package as well as packages bumping into one another. This can also lead to a ‘traffic jam’ of boxes on the moving conveyor belt, causing them to fall onto the floor.
  • Many delivery trucks/vehicles are LTL (Less Than a Full Load) carriers. This means there is more room for packages to move around. Combine this with frequent starts and stops, and you have packages colliding with each other, falling, and bouncing around inside the truck.

Temperature or humidity changes

  • Whether you are shipping across town or across the country, the weather can play a role in how your package arrives at your customer. Rain, snow, humidity, and fluctuations in temperature can cause the cardboard to weaken, leaving the contents vulnerable to damage. 

Improper box size

  • A small item placed in a big box leaves a lot of room for bouncing and shifting during transit, leading to damage. It can also lead to unnecessary costs by adding filler material. Expert packaging engineers can perform a custom packaging assessment to find the best custom packaging solution that can save you money, protect your product and optimize your operations.

Choose the Right Packaging 

By keeping those scenarios in mind, you can make better decisions when selecting the right packaging and shipping materials. Another consideration is the impact on not only your product but the environment. Many environmentally friendly options can protect your product and the environment.

More sustainable yet protective options include: 

  • Corrugated Cardboard – Corrugated cardboardis made up of recycled materials and can decompose naturally. It is a sustainable material and practical for shipping heavy or fragile products. The three layers of recycled paper offer durability and strength.

Cardboard is versatile as it can be designed to fit any package’s shape or size. Cardboard decomposes in most environments because it is made of recycled materials like wood chips, sawdust, and wood pulp.  

  • Polybag – Poly bags are a cost-effective and weather-resistant option. However, they do not provide structural strength. This option is best suited as an extra layer of protection for an already boxed item. Polybags can be made of recycled materials or bio-based plastics. These materials biodegrade quickly and produce a smaller carbon footprint than traditional petroleum-based plastics, and they are great for composting.

What’s Inside the Package?  

Your brand can make a sustainable difference by using eco-friendly packaging materials instead of traditional, petroleum-based materials. Eco-friendly materials are better for the environment and can save you money in the long run.

The type of material your business chooses for its packaging will depend on the product. Below are a few sustainable packaging materials for your business to consider: 

  • Air pillows made of recycled materials – This alternative to traditional bubble wrap is a protective filler that helps keep fragile products safe while in transit. It is used to fill empty spaces while not adding any additional weight and uses less plastic than other protective fillers. 
  • Materials made from Bagasse – The residue of the sugarcane processing industry is a fibrous pulp material called bagasse.About 3 tons of bagasse is produced from squeezing 10 tons of sugarcane. Once considered waste, sugarcane bagasse is now a vital biomass material that can be used for packaging materials, pulp molding, thermoforming, and even energy production!

Use High-Quality Pallets and Containers

Implementing appropriate storage methods is an important step to minimizing product damage. The process begins in the warehouse, where your inventory will most likely be stored on pallets. Storing inventory on pallets allows inventory to be easily moved around. A properly wrapped pallet can protect your goods from exposure to weather, chemicals, or other scenarios that could cause damage.

Wood pallets are most popular, but plastic, metal, and wood composite material options are also included. The pallet you select should be sturdy and regularly inspected to reduce the opportunity for damage. Properly loading your items on the pallet is very important as well. Remember to always place the heavier items on the bottom and work your way up to the lightest. Just like you would bag your groceries, the heavier items like juices or meats would be at the bottom while more fragile items like bread or eggs sit on top. This protects your items from getting crushed or caving in.

Also, it is important to make sure your pallet is larger than the surface area of the item or items you are loading. Items that are hanging over the edge of the pallet are at risk for damage — whether it be falling or bumping with another object. A properly-sized pallet may not eliminate the possibility of a product loss or damage, but it can help take on some of the impact.

Properly Load the Truck

There are several key elements to keep in mind when loading trucks to ensure your package arrives at your customer’s doorstep or a retailer’s shelf undamaged:

  • Seal off packages to prevent damage from the elements, such as rain and excessive heat
  • Provide a solid foundation by placing the heaving items at the bottom, reducing the possibility of damage to more fragile items
  • Stack items like bricks that maximizes the room in the truck and keeps shipping costs low
  • Make sure your packages are properly labeled. Properly labeled packages let all members of the shipping process know how to care for your items.

Next, make sure your shipping logistics are all lined up. This includes budgeting and investing in proper shipping methods.

Conclusion

Educating yourself on best packaging and shipping practices can set your company up for success and leave your customers looking forward to ordering your product again. Minimizing the risk of product damage can help build brand loyalty for your new and returning customers.