The ABCs of Preventing Shipping Damage, Part II

damage in transit, direct-to-customer fulfillment, ecommerce fulfillment, operations and fulfillment, package damage, retail delivery, shipping damage

Here’s some “breaking news” that every shipper can use. Although shipment-related damages happen to even the best of companies, a vast number of the mishaps that create them are highly preventable, especially if you involve players across your supply chain in your efforts to keep products safe.

With that in mind, here’s the second set of practical suggestions from XPO Logistics’ “Dictionary of Damage Prevention.”


Minimize risky forklift movements

Forklifts that have to maneuver around obstacles are more likely to drop loads or hit a rack and knock products down. To help prevent this, keep your DC aisles free of excess stock, packaging waste or other clutter. Also encourage forklift operators to drive at the proper speeds and give them adequate safety training.


Never assume your products are safe just because claims rates have been low

Your company may indeed be best-in-class when it comes to product protection. However if you don’t routinely engage in many of the best practices mentioned in this article, there’s a strong possibility that you may have been lucky rather than truly vigilant. There’s no substitute for formal product protection policies and processes.


Ocean carriers may be able to help with climate control

If your company ships internationally and has temperature- or moisture-sensitive goods, look into shipping with carriers that offer climate/humidity-control monitoring devices on their containers. These devices are designed to immediately alert operators when conditions within a container become less than optimal, allowing them to take immediate corrective action on your company’s behalf.


Post-delivery surveys can help you cull out careless carrier teams.

When it comes to determining how home delivery teams are really handling your items, no one has a better view than your customers. Encourage these “residential supervisors” to provide input with at least one question about product handling in your post-delivery surveys. It will help you figure out which teams are watching out for your products and which bear watching more closely.


Quilts and blankets aren’t just for grandmothers

Whether your products are high value or just highly vulnerable to damage, blanket-wrapping offers a level of TLC that’s often well worth the additional time and effort required. In addition to being strong and reusable, blankets are an ideal choice for protecting items such as furniture against everything from scratches to dirt. And unlike boxes or crates, blankets can conform to nearly any shape.


Reusable packaging is worth its weight in gold

Not all items that are returned are damaged, so it’s important to consider the role of packaging in return deliveries. Increase the chances that your still-salable goods will make it through reverse transit safe and sound by making sure the packaging materials are rugged and reusable enough to survive a return journey if required.


Safety programs help protect products as well as people

Never underestimate the importance of high-quality safety training programs and materials – for your company or its providers. A safe warehouse worker, driver or delivery professional is almost always a dependable and careful product handler, too.


Tender inspection should be routine

In general, most carriers and professionals are going to do their utmost to handle your shipments with care. However they’ll be even more cautious if they know your company has a process in place to assign proper accountability for damages – a process that includes detailed inspections every time your product changes hands.


Use higher-quality sealing materials

Sealing your packages with masking or cellophane tape instead of something stronger and less permeable could leave your items vulnerable to being returned as damaged because they’ve absorbed unwanted odors. Always opt for high-quality sealing materials such as pressure-sensitive plastic tape. Just as important, make sure they adequately cover all available points of entry.


Value-added services can sometimes be performed later in your supply chain

If some aspects of your fully assembled products make them more difficult to protect during transit, consider shipping them unassembled or partially assembled instead. Then put the finishing touches on them at the last-mile cross-dock or after they’ve been delivered to customers’ homes.


White-glove delivery goes a long way toward helping products stay safe

White-glove delivery isn’t just about making customers feel like VIPs. It’s also about giving products the royal treatment. There’s a lot to be said for how effectively little things like glove and professional unpacking, pre-delivery inspection, repair and assembly can maximize product safety and integrity.


X marks the spot: have customers sign for their satisfactory deliveries

Just as tender inspection helps improve accountability and better handling among providers, requiring customers to sign off on delivered product that arrived in good condition reduces the possibility that your company will be held accountable for damages that occur post-delivery.


You’re entitled to carriers that adhere to your definition of proper product handling

Whether it entails a pre-delivery inspection of every product or using ten layers of shrink wrap on product rather than nine, if your company believes a specific kind of care and handling yields a higher rate of damage-free deliveries, make sure you require vendors and carriers to comply. If they don’t, you should require them to absorb the cost of any damages.


Zero damage should always be your aim

As the saying goes, you’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t attempt. Although it’s probably never possible to make shipping damages disappear entirely, you should still aim to eliminate as many as you can. Your company and the people who watch its bottom line will be glad you did.

Will O’Shea is Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Last Mile for XPO Logistics                        

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