Damage control

May 15, 2005 9:30 PM  By

Let’s face it: There’s very little you can do to eliminate damage to your merchandise during shipping. But small changes to your packaging practices, implemented over a period of time, will cut down significantly on breakage and loss. Consider these tips from Doug Caldwell, vice president of AFMS, a logistics services provider:

  • If you avoid shipping some categories of merchandise because of recurring damage, take a closer look at how these items are prepared for shipping. For instance, “larger packages have a much higher damage ratio,” says Caldwell. “Dimensions under 48 in. can go on conveyor belts, but nonconveyable items are more prone to damage.” Solutions include splitting the shipment into several smaller packages and ensuring that the merchandise is handled as little as possible.

  • The less the carrier handles a package, the less likely it is to be damaged. Try to minimize the number of “touches” your package receives. “Induct heavy packages lower down the sortation stream,” Caldwell advises. This way, you can bypass some sortation centers and minimize handling. Also note that some carriers’ vehicles do not have racks in them, forcing drivers to climb all over the packages.

  • Large, heavy parcels tend to damage small ones. Keep this in mind when feeding shipments down a chute from an induction conveyor.

  • Package as smartly as you can. Stick with optimal dimensions to avoid surcharges, and use materials that are as rigid and protective as possible. Better packaging can help you cut down on filing damage claims with carriers. “Carriers keep a list of shippers whose packaging is troublesome,” Caldwell warns, “and they track claims ratios. Some shippers get automatic denial of claims.” Therefore it is a good idea to work with carriers and dunnage suppliers to improve your packaging. Try contacting the packaging labs at UPS (877-877-7229; testing@ups-psi.com) and FedEx (800-633-7019).

  • Pay extra attention to perishables. One company, for example, packed customized die-cut inserts inside each box to make sure that the contents did not shift in transit. Also, ensure that carriers do not reroute highly perishable items (also a good strategy to avoid fraudulent orders).

  • Label packages properly. Your labels should clearly indicate orientation (“This side up”), condition (“Fragile”), and other factors such as expiration dates or required temperatures. The more information the label provides, the greater your chances of preventing damage and loss.