Everyone knows that improper packaging can lead to damaged product, which in turn can lead to returns, wasted shipping expense and customer dissatisfaction. In a worst-case scenario, improper packaging can prevent customers from buying again and generate negative word-of-mouth.
So maybe it’s time to give your packaging a little more thought and emphasis. Here are some tips that will help you achieve proper packaging:
Packaging should fit the product as closely as possible, allowing for as little use of dunnage as possible. Not that you should skimp on dunnage — if the packaged product has room to move it could suffer damage as a result. And dunnage is required to prevent any damage to fragile or high cost items.
If you need custom packaging for irregular or high priced goods, many vendors will test your packaging to ensure that it will survive transportation to your customers, and arrive undamaged. Some shipping vendors also will certify your packaging, allowing you to submit claims for transportation damage pertaining to the certified packaging.
Packaging affects your shipping costs by adding weight to orders. The weight difference between using a double walled carton vs. a single walled carton with foam or air filled dunnage can be significant. Depending on your shipping rates, carton and dunnage selection could affect your cost by $0.20 to $0.50 per package.
If you are shipping through the U.S. Postal Service or a postal consolidator, be aware of additional charges that may be added to nonmachinable and balloon packaging. Some examples of nonmachinable packages include mailing tubes, packages weighing more than 35 lbs, packages with a height or width greater than 17″, or length greater than 34″. The balloon rate applies to packages weighing less than 15 lbs. and having a length plus girth of more than 84″, but not greater than 108″.
Dimensional weight factors also have continued to change. Instead of offering a range of oversized cartons at a set rate, small package vendors have gone to the usage of true dimensional weight calculations to arrive at billing rates.
For instance, if the measurements of a package (L x W x H) are greater than 5184 cubic inches (12″ x 12″ x 36″), the package will be billed at the dimensional weight (L x W x H/194) or the actual weight, whichever is greater. Packages less than 5184 cubic inches are billed at their actual weight. The dimensional calculation for international packages is L x W x H/166.
Again, different packaging combinations may allow large, lightweight items to ship at a rate closer to their actual weight. The dimensional difference between a 12” x 12” x 12” carton and a 13” x 13” x 13” carton is about 2.5 lbs.
Because shipping vendors bill according to a scale that rounds up to the next full pound rate (a 3.2 lb package is billed at the 4-lb. rate, for example), you do not have to make large changes to affect your rate. A couple of ounces in dunnage or a half inch in packaging could move you down to a lower rate, saving you money on every package.
Thomas Kiesling is operations manager at Christopher Morgan Fulfillment, a fulfillment and marketing company based in New Berlin, WI.