When sending a parcel using a courier service, especially if you’re sending a delicate item, you’ll need to ensure that your goods are packaged sufficiently for transport. If you are a business it is especially important as you want to ensure the product gets to your customers in the exact state you sent them.
No matter which way you look at it preventing your goods from being damaged in transit comes down to two things: Packaging and cushioning.
If you follow the simple guidelines below you should easily be able to avoid any breakages to your goods when using a courier service.
What packaging materials will you need?
Packaging materials can be split into the following categories:
- Inner packaging provides ‘surface protection’ by being wrapped around your goods
- Internal cushioning prevents your goods from moving around inside the box by filling any empty space between your goods and the outer packaging. It helps to absorb any shocks from movement during transit
- Outer packaging protects your goods from minor dents, scrapes and an impacts that are normal during transit
If you use these three packaging materials correctly then it is highly unlikely a courier to damage the contents of your parcel during transit.
The inner packaging is a very important in defending your goods against breakages. The type of inner packaging material you use should depend on how fragile or delicate your goods are. The more delicate an item, the stronger the inner packaging should be.
Common types of inner packaging materials:
- Polyethylene Foam Sheeting
Lightweight, soft, resilient foam sheeting material provides excellent surface protection and is ideal for protecting lightweight items.
- Kraft Paper
Kraft paper (not newspaper or newsprint) can be wrapped around goods and is ideal for light-to-medium weight, non-fragile items.
- Bubble wrap
Bubble wrap comes in all different bubble heights and sizes and can be used for protection of most lightweight to medium weight items. Bubble wrap is ideal for fragile items. Ensure you wrap at least two inches (5.08 cm) of bubble wrap around your goods.
- Anti-static bags
Anti-static bags are used for shipping electronic items as they protect against static electricity that may cause damage to your goods. They come is all sizes and are worth investing in if you ship electronic goods.
- Polystyrene blocks/surrounds
Polystyrene blocks are commonly used by manufacturers for shipping heavy goods because it offers excellent protection for most heavy or large items. They are also ideal for electronic items. Use in conjunction with anti-static bags for maximum protection for electronic items.
If you are sending multiple items in a box, then you must wrap each item in internal packaging, making sure that you cover all surfaces of the goods. In addition, if your item is fragile or cylindrical it’s a good idea to fill any void space inside your item with internal cushioning (if possible) to provide extra protection.
Internal cushioning prevents your goods from moving around inside the box, and absorbs any shocks from movement during transit. It is an essential part of your packaging and is a must have for preventing breakages when sending a parcel via courier.
Common types of internal cushioning materials:
- Loose fill
Loose fill like ‘expanded polystyrene peanuts’ (also known as ‘foam chips’) are often used as space fillers for lightweight items. Use at least two inches (5.08 cm) around all sides to cushion your goods properly. Whilst they are excellent for most items, they are not suitable for electronics, as they produce static electricity and may damage the product. If you are sending electronic items, then you should use ‘anti-static peanuts’ instead.
- Inflatable packaging
Air filled bags/pockets can be used to cushion light weight items, but are not suitable for heavy items, or items with sharp edges or corners, Extreme temperatures may also effect this type of packaging, so avoid using these for shipping to countries that are either extremely hot or cold.
- Bubble wrap
Bubble wrap can be used for cushioning your goods inside the box by filling the void space between your goods and the box walls.
- Kraft paper
Kraft paper and multi-layered paper can be used as space fillers, and offers excellent protection for non-fragile items. Ensure that the paper is tightly crumpled before placing inside the box. Not suitable for heavy items.
- Foam inserts
Expanded polystyrene foam inserts are one of the most popular types of cushioning as they come in a variety of densities and shapes. They can be more expensive to get your hands on, but can provide valuable protection especially for heavy items or items with sharp edges and corners.
The best way to cushion your goods inside the box is as follow:
- Make sure you use at least two inches (5.08 cm) of internal cushioning material between each individual item inside the box, as well as at least two inches (5.058 cm) of cushioning material between your goods and each side of the box, including top and bottom. This method is often referred to as ‘blocking and bracing’.
- Your goods MUST be fully suspended inside the box they should not be able to move or slide in any direction, regardless of which way your box is placed. Even if placed on its side or upside down, your goods should be held firmly in place inside the box, with no part of your goods touching the actual box. If not, then the goods are not cushioned sufficiently for transport via courier.
Towels, cloth or pillows should not be used as internal cushioning as they do not offer sufficient protection or shock absorbance.
The external packaging is the first line of defence against breakages. Therefore it is highly important that you choose a box that is both big enough and strong enough to carry your goods.
The most common type of external packaging is a corrugated cardboard box. Using shoeboxes or paperboard boxes like A4 boxes as external packaging is not sufficient. Corrugated boxed can be single walled, double walled or even triple walled, offering varying levels of protection, and it is common sense that the heavier your goods, the stronger the cardboard box needs to be.
Although it’s highly recommended that you use a new box, you can re-use a cardboard box as long as the walls are rigid and there are no rips, punctures or tears, and the corners and flaps are intact and without damage. Please note that if you are re-using a box, it’s absolute imperative that you remove any existing stickers and labels including old address labels, shipping labels and barcodes, before re-labelling your parcel for shipping.
Remember that your parcel will be stacked with others during transit, and some parcels may be heavier than yours, so the packaging is crucial to ensure that your items protected against breakages in transit. Whilst writing â€œfragileâ€? on the outside of your parcel is no guarantee that it will be treated as such once in transit, couriers do make every effort to keep clearly marked fragile items away from heavier and sturdier packages.
Finally, if you are shipping a specialist product or an extremely heavy item, you should look for alternative external packaging materials such as wooden crates, pallets, flight cases, drums or shipping containers.