How to Ship Fragile Items in 2019

A very fragile box being shipped.

As customers buy more items online, shipping carriers have to handle a wider variety of goods whose parcels come in all shapes and sizes.

This includes packing and shipping everything from glassware to king-sized beds.

As e-commerce takes over more of the retail market, shippers are experimenting with how to ship fragile items safely and cost-effectively.

The businesses selling fragile goods don’t deliver themselves. They pay FedEx, UPS or another carrier to do so. But if items get damaged in transit or during the handling, customers tend to blame the shipper not the carrier.

There are many options for packing fragile items in a way that guards against damage. Some are simple, and others are cost-effective. Some may even be environmentally friendly, but almost none of them are all three.

Here’s what to consider when developing a strategy for shipping fragile items:

Weather Elements

Packages may have to sit on customers’ porches through storms, high winds or other inclement weather. Depending on the carriers’ shipment methods, they may also be exposed to the elements while in transit. Packaging needs to be durable enough to withstand the weather wherever it’s going and whatever weather it might encounter along the way.  

Packaging Size

Remember the egg drop experiment in middle school? We used padding materials like cardboard, toothpicks, plastic wrap, crumpled paper, packing peanuts and whatever else our science teachers had on hand to try to protect a raw egg. Then, we dropped it from the top of the bleachers. One consistency among the winning packages was their size. The egg fit snugly in its small crate to ensure that it didn’t move around too much.

The same principle applies in packaging for breakable goods. It’s important to choose the packaging and container that is the right size for the item or items it’s carrying.

There’s another benefit to finding the right packaging size: it saves money. If the packaging is too big, it may put you over the dimensional pricing threshold and cost you more. Also if it’s too heavy, costs can also add up. If it is too small, you could potentially damage the packaging if the corners of the box are impacted without proper padding.

Packaging Materials

The vast majority of consumer goods shipped in the U.S. are traveling in corrugated cardboard boxes, sometimes with cardboard dividers. But that’s not always the best option for fragile goods. Cardboard can be easily ruined by weather elements. And boxes can only be re-used a handful of times before they reach the end of their lives (unless the owner chooses to recycle them).

Bubble wrap is a commonly used protective material. It does a good job filling in empty space in boxes so that items don’t move around. But if a parcel is dropped, bubble wrap won’t do much to protect it.

Packing peanuts are better in that regard. But since Styrofoam isn’t recyclable at all, fewer shippers are using them.

Wooden Crates

Some shippers try wooden crates with blankets or cushions for larger delicate items. These are sturdier than cardboard. However if they’re dropped, the items inside have a high probability of being damaged.

Wooden crates are also much heavier and therefore more expensive than cardboard.

Custom Crating

There are a lot of good reasons to consider custom packaging for fragile or specialty items. These containers can be made out of plastic or aluminum, which can be lightweight while being protecting. They can also be specifically designed for the dimensions of a given product.

However, plastic or aluminum is typically less eco-friendly than cardboard or wood. Plus, designing and ordering custom packaging is a larger investment.

It may pay off in the long run at scale, but it’s important to understand exactly how many sales your company needs to get there.

Declared Value Insurance

Almost every shipping carrier will offer the option to purchase declared value coverage. It’s essential that shippers understand that coverage is not insurance, but simply sets a carrier’s maximum liability claim for any total loss or damage that may occur to a package while in transit. When shippers buy declared value coverage, it increases carriers’ financial liability, which allows shippers to recover more of their losses.

Carriers know this is confusing and they sometimes use declared value coverage to charge shippers for far more coverage than they need.

Resource: Secrets Carriers Don’t Want You to Know (on-demand webinar)

Declared value coverage can be useful for shippers who deal with fragile products because those items are more likely to be damaged. But paying for more protection than you need is a waste of resources.

To find out how much you’re spending on declared value coverage, take a look at your invoices. How much did you spend? How much did you claim?

If you’re considering adjusting the way you ship fragile items or the liability coverage you pay for, Reveel can help. Our expert consultants can coach you through contract negotiations, help you spot savings in your invoices and help you recover any money you’re owed. Reach out today for a free invoice audit.

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