Home delivery has become so commonplace these days that no one hesitates to order something online, no matter what it is. Our delivery days are like little Christmases, and we can’t wait to open our gifts to ourselves. But what happens when items are damaged in transit? It can ruin an otherwise joyous occasion. That’s why it’s important for sellers to take special care when shipping fragile items.
Not all shipping is as simple as dropping something in a box and slapping a label on it. When we’re dealing with items that are sensitive to package orientation or impact, we need to make sure they are well protected if we want them to reach their destinations safely. Properly preparing and packing fragile material can make the difference between a five-star review and an unpleasant email.
Why is proper packaging so important when shipping fragile items?
With so many various items being transported through the same carriers on any given day, your large mirror or vase may be shipped alongside boxes containing bowling balls and reams of paper. Plus, with speed a major concern, these items will be thrown around together as they make their way through the transportation channels that connect sellers to buyers. If the products you ship can be easily damaged, proper packaging is the only way to ensure everything arrives safely.
How to package fragile items for shipping
Back in the days when most selling was still done through brick and mortar stores, the general rule of thumb was, if you break it, you buy it. It was a great solution to a simple problem. Keep customers mindful around breakables, and you lose very little due to damage.
In the twenty-first century, though, we sell and deliver more and more through e-commerce channels, and that presents a problem that retailers of the past didn’t have to deal with. Today, sellers are largely in charge of ensuring that their products make it all the way to the customer’s home safely, rather than just out the door of the store. A solid packing job will save you a ton of headaches in the form of damaged goods. Here are some tips for shipping fragile items.
Pick the proper box
Even when a product has its own packaging, it isn’t always sufficient to protect it in the shipping world. Much product packaging is meant for store display and doesn’t have the padding necessary to keep items safe as they are tossed into glaylords and onto pallets in distribution centers. Fragile packages require additional lines of defense.
Pick a box that is only slightly larger than the item you are shipping. This will minimize movement within the box. Even if you have filled the box with dunnage, a box that is too large can allow the item to shift. The best size box is one that has around two inches of space on all sides. This allows you to use less packing material while maximizing the protection the box provides.
When shipping fragile items, it’s also important to choose a quality box. You can save a few bucks by going with lightweight boxes, but chances are, your packages will arrive damaged. A fragile box doesn’t protect fragile items very well. Pick something more sturdy.
Cheap shipping boxes not only lead to lost and damaged products, but they can damage your reputation as well. Get too many negative reviews, and you may not have to worry about shipping anything at all.
Once you’ve selected the proper box, you need to fill the empty space with lightweight, protective materials. You need dunnage. Dunnage is a collective term for the packing material for fragile items, such as bubble wrap, styrofoam, wadded or shredded paper, and anything else we may use to secure shipments and protect them from damage.
Wrap the item in bubble wrap, and secure it with packing tape. Packing tape is very strong, so don’t go overboard with it. Place the bubble-wrapped item in the box, and fill the empty space with styrofoam or paper shreds. The loose fill will keep it from shifting too much in transit. It will also minimize any impacts so the bubble wrap can adequately cushion the item.
This is all material that will be thrown away on the other end, so choose lightweight materials that provide ample protection. The dunnage you use will ultimately come down to the contents of your shipment, combined with the box you’ve chosen to ship it in.
Mark the package fragile
Even with proper packaging, it’s best to treat fragile items gently. The people who handle your freight handle hundreds of packages every day and don’t have the time to inspect each one beforehand, so it’s important that you mark the packages as fragile before they leave your possession.
How to mark a package fragile
You can affix labels that indicate the correct box orientation, that the package is fragile or other important handling instructions. Make sure the labels are noticeable. Use a large marker or highlighter if you have to. Anything that immediately calls attention to the fact that the package contains breakables will give your package the best chance at arriving safely.
Handlers won’t always be as gentle as they could be, but if they see a fragile shipping label, they will likely handle your package with a little more care than usual.
Use a tilt or impact detector
Even the best handlers can drop or flip a fragile item on the wrong side from time to time. The sheer volume that goes through their hands each day, combined with the fact that we all want our packages to arrive quickly, can lead to the occasional mishap. Affixing a tilt or impact detector when shipping fragile items will alert you to any issues in shipping, allowing you to take action quickly to resolve the situation.
Shipping large items or many items
If your shipment contains particularly large items, or you are shipping large quantities of fragile items to a single location, you’ll want to secure everything to pallets with shrink wrap. When you ship smaller items, they are likely tossed into gaylords or stacked on pallets with numerous other boxes. That’s not the case with fragile package shipping when it comes to very large items.
Particularly large items may necessitate their own pallets. This can be a great way to keep items safe, so long as you secure them to the pallet well. If the item is top-heavy or is prone to falling at all, it’s a good idea to strap it to the pallet to minimize movement in transit. Wrap it tightly with shrink wrap, and utilize any large item dunnage you may have to provide a buffer between your shipment and the ones it’s sharing the trailer with.
Shipping fragile items also gets a little tricky when you are shipping a lot of them to the same place. Again, it’s best to arrange these items on a pallet and wrap it, making sure there isn’t too much overhang. Pallets can bump into one another as they are being loaded and unloaded, so it’s helpful to have some space around the edges.
Choose a reliable shipping company
One of the most important parts of keeping your packages safe is making sure those that will be handling it are reliable and trustworthy. If you were hand-delivering the package, you know it would arrive safely, proper packaging or not. Finding a good shipping company can give you peace of mind, knowing your fragile package delivery will be completed without issues.
A reputable company will provide some sort of coverage to recoup some cost for damaged items. Still, it is usually limited to damage or delays that were a result of something within their control. If the item you are shipping is very expensive or irreplaceable in any way, you may want to purchase additional insurance on it.
Things like theft and acts of nature may not be covered, so it’s important to have a backup plan in place. Freight insurance purchased through a third party can give you complete coverage for a wide range of accidents and mishaps that could cause you to lose items in shipping.
Proper packing every time
By learning how to ship fragile items correctly, you can minimize the chances that your shipments will be damaged or destroyed in transit. The key, though, is packing your fragile shipments properly every time. Familiarize yourself with this simple guide to shipping fragile items, and rest easy in the knowledge that your shipment is safe and secure and being handled by capable people.