Packaging is an essential component of logistics, and good packaging helps ensure that your product gets delivered to your user or customer in good condition. On the other hand, poor packaging increases the risk of your product getting damaged in transit. We tend not to think too much about the negative consequences – until it happens to us, that is. Delay in delivery to the customer, insurance claims, investigation and follow-up with the logistics companies – all these can take up precious time and resources.
This is a follow-up from our previous entry here: There are many factors during shipment that we cannot control, which may damage our product. For example, we cannot control how careful the ground crew unload a shipment from a plane and load it up onto a delivery truck to prevent excessive shock to the product. We also cannot control the weather nor humidity to prevent rain or extreme heat from damaging the product. However, proper planning for packaging can help mitigate those risks. Let us take a quick look at what we can do:
The choice of packaging should ensure sufficient protection for the product. Depending on the weight and size of the product, a choice of cardboard box or wooden crate can be used to house the product. Wood will be a good choice as it is robust against shipment handling. On some occasions, I have observed wooden crates with slight chipping as a result of poor shipment handling. Puncturing would probably have occurred if it was cardboard. Also, wood is somewhat more resistant towards elements like rain and sun.
The basics aside, we will also need to cater for shocks during shipment. You might wish to consider foam inserts or special shock absorbers on the base / sides of the box or crate. There are off-the-shelf parts that you can use for foam inserts, or if the situation dictates, you can fabricate custom moulded foam for optimum protection. Some shock absorbers might need to be built into the box / crate, so that would have to be considered during packaging design.
As an additional option, consider vacuum-sealing or humidity absorber packs to draw excessive moisture in the box / crate. This is an excellent add-on to protect sensitive electronics.
Labelling for Customs and shipping crew should be clearly shown in legible writing. Diagrams or figures will be very useful, especially if we are looking at international shipping figures (e.g. “Handle with care”, “This way up”, “No tilting”, etc).
For good visibility, put up these notices on all sides of the packaging.
To “encourage” shipping crew to handle your product with more care, consider attaching shock and tilt indicators on the packaging. These indicators will show distinctive visible changes in color when there is excessive tilting or shock applied to the shipment – which will probably damage your product. Inspection of these indicators’ status at various points during shipment can help pinpoint where exactly did the rough handling happen, and can be used in insurance claims if necessary.
In the event of insurance claims, insurance companies will ask for various forms of evidence. Establishing a proper method to document the entire shipping process will make this much easier. For example, taking photos before and after shipment, having checklists for product functionality and packaging makes information much more structured, in the event that we need to use it.