Preparing Your Packaging for Shipment and Safe Arrival

by Jake Rheude

Jake Rheude from Red Stag Fulfillment shares smart advice for protecting your shipments in this guest post.

Imagine this scenario for your online shop – you have perfectly designed packaging, all looks amazing and you are sure the customer will love the product. But then you send it out, and it gets tumbled and squashed among thousands of other shipments. This article will help you make sure that won't happen!

Getting Started with Smart Materials

Keeping your products safe starts with new boxes and envelopes designed to fit your products, whether they’re custom for your brand or standard sizes that you simply add more protective materials to fill as needed. Look for sturdy boxes and pick up a variety of sizes.

Some options to consider include:

  • Bulk cargo boxes, including reinforced options
  • Wood crates and pallets
  • Lightweight shipping boxes, such as 200 lb. test or 32 ECT
  • Multi-depth boxes
  • Insulated and other specialty boxes for your products

If you’re shipping a lot of small items, you should also look at options for padded envelopes and small foldable boxes – sometimes called mailers – that limit the size of the box while still providing protection.

There are a variety of companies that sell standard, specialty and custom boxes. Shop around to make sure you find what’s best for your products and your budget.

Tape, Wrap and Protectors

When it comes to the items you place inside a package to keep products safe, the more options you have the better. Some people and municipalities are no longer fans of the “packing peanuts,” but they’re still commonly used in many areas.

You can also secure products with air-cellular cushioning material such as Bubble Wrap®, air-filled bags, packing paper or foam materials. Again, you’ll want to review as many options as possible and test them out with your products and the boxes you’ve chosen.

Work to balance affordability with sturdy materials that absorb impacts and limit the amount of space your product has to move around inside its box.

There are plenty of standard packing tape options available to you. Our recommendation is to stick with pressure-sensitive plastic tape or choose a paper or reinforced option that is water activated. Be sure to create an H-shape with tape to best seal packages along seams and corners as well as close gaps. Avoid masking tapes and cellophane tapes. This is a wonderful place to start to differentiate your business, because it typically is a nominal additional fee to add logos, slogans or other branding to packing tape.

If you have an especially fragile package, consider putting it in a small box and then shipping that in a larger box where you fill all voids with cushioning materials. It’ll give you an added layer of protection.

Label Your Box According to Carrier Requests

One final note about this last prep stage is that you’re best able to protect your packages if you follow any instructions that carriers such as FedEx give you. This can include ensuring package labels and slips are applied facing the same direction. You also want to have them on the largest surface of your box.

Delivery workers will always look for the largest surface first, so following these rules means your boxes are less likely to be flipped, rotated or put on an undesired side as the worker hunts for the labels.

Save Your Budget by Staying Small

As mentioned above, you want to have a box that is as close to the size of your product as possible, while still giving you enough room for protective packaging materials. Why? It’ll save you money. Plus, your customers will be happier with smaller boxes and less waste.

Common carriers such as FedEx and UPS use two different formulas to calculate how much they’ll charge you. One is based on how much the packed box physically weighs. The other is how much space it takes up – called dimensional weight or DIM weight. Carriers apply both formulas to every package you send and charge you whichever is higher.

Pay Attention to Special Concerns

Some products or shipments require you to make special arrangements or change your packaging practices. In most cases, shipping something special requires you to be extra careful and include additional packaging. The good news is that many services offer specialty materials and boxes for things like musical instruments and rugs or other rolled goods.

Reach out to your carriers to learn what restrictions they may have if you’re shipping anything new. For example, undeveloped film has special labeling requirements and often means you need to speak directly with your carrier before sending these out for the first time.

Perishable goods, frozen goods, computer parts and equipment, clinical samples, flowers, plants, batteries, automotive parts, heavy machinery parts and many other categories have individual requirements that your carrier can share with you.

Create Your Checklist

Now that you’ve reviewed the best practices, it’s time to get your checklist together. Here’s a fool-proof way to build out guidelines to help your warehouse or shipping operation:

  • Create a list of all your products, including sizes and materials.
  • Designate a box or shipping container for each product.
  • Match packing materials for these shipments.
  • Review your sales information to look for patterns about which products are purchased in multiple units or which products are often purchased together.
  • Look for packaging materials and boxes that could fit some of these common, larger orders.
  • Calculate the volume of shipments you perform each day, week and month, on average.
  • Purchase supplies to ensure that you can meet your shipping volume and consider how often you want to reorder materials and how long that could take.
  • Create a standard resupply order form, so you know the levels you want to maintain.

Keep this checklist of materials handy, so you can always know where your inventory and your warehouse stand.

We're Here to Help

Do you have questions about packaging and order fulfillment? Comment below or contact Red Stag Fulfillment today!

Originally published on March 29, 2018, updated February 25, 2019

This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.