Easy Tips to Make Sure Your Package Arrives Safely

by Claire Parker, Staples® Contributing Writer

Peanuts, popcorn and exploding bubble roll. Yep, sometimes shipping a package seems more like a circus than a routine activity. Leave the clowning around to others, and stick to these tried-and-true boxing and packaging safety tips to guarantee a smooth arrival.

Containment Issues

First, pick the right box or container for your package. Items enclosed in a box or envelope need a bit of breathing room to sustain the hustle and bustle of being hauled, lugged and delivered. So a  space between the item being shipped and the container holding it is crucial.

“The goal is to create the most dense inner cube possible while retaining the optimal out-of-box experience for the customer,” says Sean Sabre, senior vice president of supply chain sourcing at TBB Global Logistics in New Freedom, PA. Sound hokey? It’s not. Think of all the times you’ve almost sliced yourself open trying to wrangle a toy from its packaging. Doesn’t leave you with a great feeling about the sender, does it? Instead, put items in a box that’s easy enough for your customer to open, and yet safe enough to protect your merchandise from ruin.

Filling the Void

There are several packing materials you can use to fill the void. Choose accordingly, and your items will be safer for it.

1.    Bubble Roll is very good void fill, says Charles Alvino, project specialist for Staples’ pack and ship team in Framingham, MA. It has excellent cushion protection, is light and easy to reuse, and features use-specific technology, like self-cling, anti-static, etc. But it’s not form-fitting, so products can shift during transport; pros recommend taping it around the product to create a more form-fitting package. And once those bubbles burst, the wrap no longer protects from direct hits.

2.    Peanuts are light, fill voids well and provide cushion protection. But this product — also called popcorn — can be messy, have high static electricity and is sometimes difficult to reuse, store and dispose of. Anti-static options are available, and cost just a little more.

3.    Packing paper is a neater alternative to peanuts and provides ample padding for lighter items. Choose a heavyweight paper that won’t compress easily. “Pull out a sheet, crumple it and stuff it in. It looks nicer than newspaper and can be reused easily,” notes Allen Walton, CEO of the eCommerce Web site SpyGuy Security in Dallas.

Walton, who ships packages of surveillance gear — like teddy bears with cameras and pens with voice recorders — to customers on a daily basis, says to consider presentation when deciding on packing supplies. Pick a void filler that works best for the product and end user when shipping packages. He uses Bubble Roll when protection and image are key, and packing paper when presentation is not an issue.

The Unusual Suspects

What about delicate breakables, important legal documents, or something really heavy? Here are a few extra considerations to examine when packing items that need a greater level of protection:

1.    Breakables. Incorporate an additional layer of protection around the item (like Bubble Roll), fill the void with another layer of either Bubble Roll or peanuts, and put a fragile sticker on the exterior. If you have several small items, pad them completely and then use stretch wrap to group them together so they don’t get lost in the fill. You can even purchase a china and glass protection kit that covers all the bases.

2.    Documents. When mailing legal documents, you can’t risk having them damaged. Use a padded mailer with rigid edges, a flat cardboard envelope or a mailing tube so papers don’t get crumpled. And when sending anything of importance or high monetary value, “Don’t skip the insurance!” warns Leslie H. Tayne, founder and managing director of the Tayne Law Group in Melville, NY.

3.    Heavy items. Weighty shipments, like furniture, art or books, can precariously shift in transit, so stabilizing them is key to avoiding injury to the handler or damage to the item. Pack the space to the brim so movement is restricted, and use stretch wrap and cover-up sheets to protect furniture from scuffs. Alvino suggests using heavy-duty packing tape and boxes — worth the extra expense to make sure the bottom doesn’t drop out.

Lastly, you may want to invest in testing to see what kind of durability requirements are necessary for your shipments. “The single most effective tip for safely packaging a product that’s prone to damage would be to spend the time and money to conduct shock, drop, vibration and compression testing at an International Safe Transit Association certified laboratory,” Sabre says.

By following these simple tricks of the trade, your packages are more likely to arrive exactly as a customer or business partner envisions them.

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