Whilst it is important to secure a robust external packaging solution for the transportation of your cargo, whether you opt for containers, crates, cardboard cartons or boxes, any of these items alone are not enough to ensure the protection of your goods, especially fragile or intricate items.
Your choice of internal packaging solutions are as equally important, to offset the impact of vibration or movement caused in transit, to absorb shock which occurs as a result of the handling of the goods in transportation, and to protect your goods from scratching or corrosion.
So what are your options to ensure the maximum protection of goods when in transit and storage?
Void fill protective packaging solutions
Void fill packaging solutions enable you to prevent the movement of goods within the external packaging by padding out any excess space. To further protect your goods, providing additional space between the external walls and your products, and filling this space with void packaging solutions helps to limit the impact of shock and vibration.
There are a variety of options to use and these include:
If you have ever ordered something for delivery yourself, the likelihood is that you would have come across packing peanuts. Designed to interlock, these little pieces of polystyrene can have a big impact in protecting your goods. The ‘peanuts’ act as a cushion for products, helping to prevent against movement and shock. Inexpensive and lightweight, and formed to reshape, ‘peanuts’ are a great packaging solution for a variety goods including irregular shaped items, so it’s little wonder that the polystyrene ‘s’ shape has become a familiar sight in deliveries.
Antistatic varieties of polystyrene peanuts, easily distinguishable by their pink colour, are even available for the transportation of electronic components, which are prone to damage caused by electrostatic discharge (ESD). Biodegradable peanuts which omit no electrostatic charge are also available but these have a lower resilience and are more expensive than the polystyrene versions.
Becoming more common in use, inflatable packaging of air pillows are commonly used as an alternative to more traditional void filling solutions and are ideal for lightweight and fragile items. Consideration needs to be made with regards to the transit that your goods will undertake prior to opting to use this solution however, as temperature extremes can have an adverse effect on the effectiveness of inflatable packaging. If it is too cold, this can decrease the amount of air in the pillows, resulting in movement within your package. If it gets too warm, the pillows further inflate, which can cause damage to your external packaging.
Foam / polystyrene sheets
Foam and polystyrene sheets are often used in the transportation and storage of fragile and high value items. Ultra-strong but extremely lightweight, these packaging solutions are used to protect everything from mugs and ornaments to microwaves and sewing machines. As they are able to be designed to be product specific, these bespoke packaging solutions can be created to tightly fit around your products to prevent any movement within the outer packaging.
Popular amongst many children and adults alike, who take enjoyment from popping the bubbles, bubble wrap is so much more than a ‘stress reliever.’ A lightweight solution for filling those voids in your cartons, bubble wrap is available in varying sizes and formats including sheets, rolls and bags, and anti-static versions are even available.
If you opt to use paper to fill the voids in your packaging, you should utilise paper designed specifically for that purpose such as Kraft paper (sack paper). Newspaper and other paper types offer little impact in prevention of shock or vibration compared to Kraft paper, which has high elasticity and high tear resistance.
Packaging solutions for protecting goods
Asides from providing solutions for filling the voids within your external packaging, these internal packaging solutions offer a secondary benefit in that they can also be utilised to protect goods from damage when packaged together with other items.
The capability of bubble wrap in protecting goods from the impact of shock and vibration minimises the need for additional packaging, although often bubble wrap will be used alongside polystyrene ‘peanuts.’ Wrapping individual products in bubble wrap prior to loading in the main carton alongside the ‘peanuts’ can help to prevent the peanuts from moving into areas of products which could cause them damage.
Bubble wrap is also ideal for preventing scratches or breakages occurring to your items following impact with other items within your shipments.
As well as making ideal void fillers, the versatility of polystyrene means it is perfect to use as separators and to line boxes. As it is so durable, it is often used to create corner and edge protectors for goods such as picture frames, glass and furniture, whilst polystyrene sheets are regularly used to protect components such as those on the back of fridge freezers.
The packaging solutions that paper offers are extensive, with paper being suitable for wrapping, padding, protecting, void filling and presentation needs. Brown Kraft paper is suitable for medium to heavy duty use, and is ideal for interleaving between layers of products within a single shipment. Tissue paper on the other hand, although not extensive in the protection that it can offer, can provide a more premium feel for your shipments, which can prove particularly beneficial if you are involved in the shipping of e-fulfilment shipments direct to your customers.
Other packaging solutions for protecting goods include:
Often used as an alternative to polystyrene foam sheets to cushion the edges of goods to protect them within a container, corrugated boards are regularly used on white goods such as ovens and washing machines.
Cardboard inserts / separators
Cardboard inserts can be used to line boxes to reinforce the strength of the box, by providing an extra layer, which helps to prevent dents and bending. Cardboard separators are ideal in preventing items within your shipments from striking when being moved and are often used for cases of wine and candles.
Plastic film / bags
Plastic film can help protect your items from scratching, whilst liquids are often transported in plastic bags to stop them from leaking within the shipment should they become damaged in any way in transit.
Whilst these packaging solutions are comprehensive enough for most general shipments, in some instances you may need to source specialist packaging solutions to protect your goods.
Specialist packaging solutions
We’ve already mentioned that anti-static materials are required to protect from electronic items from electro-static discharge (ESD) but there are further items that you may be shipping for which specialist packaging solutions should be considered:
When shipping perishables, extra precautions should be taken to ensure that the items stay cool and expanded polystyrene foam is a popular choice for insulating container walls.
Items prone to corrosion
Products that contain bare metal such as engines, parts and bearings that are transported for a longer period of time or stored for an extended period are often in need of corrosion protection. Volatile Corrosion Inhibitor (V.C.I.) chemical treated bags, film or paper sheets, and specially designed foil moisture barrier bags, are amongst the most effective packaging solutions in protecting against corrosive damage caused by factors such as humidity, moisture, oxygen and salt spray.
You’re probably aware that some goods are classified as hazardous, but it may surprise you to find that some paints, food flavouring, perfumes, chemicals and electronic equipment are included within this classification. Incorrectly packaged hazardous goods can compromise health and safety and due to the potential risks that these shipment types can incur, there are specific regulations for packaging hazardous goods.
Other internal packaging considerations
Irrespective of the internal packaging solutions you opt to utilise, there are some general considerations to take when it comes to packing your goods. Here are our top tips to prevent damage to your goods in transit:
Individually wrap items
If you are shipping a number of items together, individually wrapping your items can provide an additional measure of protecting them from damage. Which brings us on to….
Consider what items are being packaged together
When packaging your items, don’t put heavier items in with smaller more fragile items unless absolutely necessary. Should movement occur during shipment, heavier, bulkier items are liable to cause damage to the smaller items within the package.
Don’t skimp on costs
Not paying enough for sufficient packaging solutions is not a shortcut to additional profit. Whilst there is a need to minimize costs, you also need to ensure that you provide adequate protection for your goods. If you take into account the cost implications of damaged goods; the cost to replace the product(s), customer service time, additional shipping and warehouse costs and additional packaging supplies, it makes more sense to pay out that little extra on packaging from the outset.
And, those are just the quantifiable costs. A poor customer experience can be detrimental for your business. If your customer receives damaged goods, it can deter them from purchasing from you again so don’t take the chance and ensure that you have sufficient packaging solutions and processes in place.
So now you’re armed with an overview of internal and external packaging solutions, you’re ready to progress with deciding the best mix for your shipments. Although, it is worth bearing in mind that this list is not exhaustive of all packaging options, but the most commonly used. If you are unsure of the best fit for your products, we advise that you seek advice from dedicated packaging companies who are also able to offer the bespoke packaging solutions that you may require. Through having a full clarification of your packaging solutions it will also enable us to provide you with accurate quotations for your shipping and logistics needs.