Avoid These 4 Shipping Disasters by Using the Right Boxes

Shipping mishaps can happen to any company, especially when you use the wrong box. Learn from these shipping horror stories.

An intact product that arrives at your customer’s doorstep can boost satisfaction and lead to future purchases. Getting items to your customers in great condition is a multi-step process, and it starts with the right shipping boxes and supplies.

Some companies have learned the hard way that using the wrong shipping supplies or skimping on durable and resistant boxes leads to problems. Shipping executives at corrugate purchasing and sales cooperative GlobalPac Alliance have seen what happens when shippers cut corners.

CEO Carl R. Tinsley Sr. and Senior Vice President Marty Shaw share some horror stories from shippers using the wrong boxes or materials. Read them to learn how to choose the right materials to ensure that your shipments arrive in great condition.

1. Boxes Pulling Double Duty

An electronics reseller relied on the boxes used to ship TVs in pallets from the overseas manufacturer to then ship the TVs to customers in the U.S. While the boxes held up when packaged together on pallets, they quickly fell apart in shipping, resulting in widespread damage to the product. The problem: The original boxes were never designed or intended to be used for parcel shipping.

Shaw explains that, while companies may want to take shortcuts to lower their spending on shipping materials, it might not be worth it.

“If you’re spending just a few bucks on a box that is shipping a TV worth $1,000, and half of your shipments end up damaged, the money you saved on the boxes becomes meaningless,” he says. “The idea of using the correct boxes in the supply chain is mission critical in today’s world.”

Assess your boxes to determine whether they can withstand the shipping process before you ship, and analyze customer feedback to test your assumptions. If you discover that your packages are sustaining damage, it might be time to stock up on new shipping boxes.

2. Boxes Mishandled

In an effort to cut costs and be more environmentally conscious, some companies will reuse boxes. While this can work successfully, Tinsley says issues arise when these boxes are overused or stored in a way that degrades them.

“About 80 percent of a box’s strength comes from its corners, and when you reuse a box, the corners can’t always hold up,” he explains. “These boxes don’t hold up in wet or highly humid conditions, and will fall apart if left too long in these environments.”

Tinsley recommends carefully inspecting reused box corners for wear, and only using them if they are in pristine condition. For recycled boxes, make sure you store them outside of high-humidity conditions. Tinsley also suggests asking your carrier about their facility’s environment to find out if your boxes will hold up or if you need to stock up on another type of box. This effort pays off by helping you avoid an expensive shipping disaster.

3. Damage From the Product

Products that bulge even slightly during shipping can cause tears in boxes. One manufacturing company ran into this problem with a product featuring nuts and bolts. The item fit in the box, but the box became damaged in the shipping process as the nuts and bolts broke through the corrugated material. Even though the product itself arrived intact, customers were less than impressed by the condition of the package.

Tinsley says the solution for this problem is to know the difference between various types of boxes, and then match the right box to the item and likely shipping scenario.

“For example, Mullen-tested (burst-tested) boxes are best used for items that slightly bulge,” he says. “The sturdier material of these boxes will keep products from bursting through. Edge crush test (ECT) boxes, on the other hand, have strong top-to-bottom strength, and are ideal for shipments that will be stacked with a significant amount of weight on top of them.”

Talk with your shipping supplier to determine which type of box will best protect your products. Have your vendor visit your warehouse to assess your products, shipping process and how you store shipments before handing them off to your carrier. Make sure you know how your carrier stores and distributes these packages as well.

4. The Wrong Supplies Used

As part of a holiday initiative, a food manufacturer used metallic foil in the filler within its packages and in the packing tape. However, these materials triggered a scanner that was used to detect metal pieces or filings in the food product. Unfortunately, the manufacturer had to take all the shipments back and repackage them with the right materials — at significant cost to the company.

Shaw says this example highlights just how crucial it is for shippers to use not only the right box, but also the correct shipping supplies, such as tape, void fill and labeling. Used together, these materials can create a durable shipment that reduces the risk of damage or error.

Make sure you stock up on a variety of different box sizes to fit your products. Customers are happier when they receive products placed in appropriately sized boxes, which helps to create a good impression of your company. With different-sized boxes, you can also gain significant savings on shipping costs and make your overall process more efficient.