5 Simple Ways to Avoid Shipping Disasters

Picture this:  A cardboard box containing the large Yaskawa circuit board repairs arrives on my loading dock just as expected.  Unexpectedly, the box, marked “Fragile”, has a hole in one side, a corner is crushed and it rattles ominously.  Shipping disasters can be avoided, even with overly aggressive delivery services.

Do the delivery guys and gals really have it in for us?  Do they go all Dr. Evil and laugh insanely as they drop kick the packages marked “Fragile”?  Nah.  Not really (well, maybe a few).  But there really are some important tips for successful shipping no matter which carrier you prefer:

  • BOX: Choose the RIGHT BOX.  Old or new, always choose heavy corrugated cardboard boxes that are not damaged.  If you have the original box so much the better.  It will have specially molded pieces inside to cradle your electronic equipment properly.  If your item weighs more than 30 pounds you should use a double-walled box or you can double box the item.  The box should be large enough to allow for plenty of packing material.
  • PACK: Use A LOT of good packing material and pack the box tightly.  Use 3 inches of cushioning on all sides.  Bubble wrap and foam are usually good choices (it would be difficult to use too much) for cushioning and if you are shipping multiple items wrap each one separately covering all sides of the object.  Completely fill the box so no empty space is left.  You want to prevent movement because movement results in damage during shipping.
  • SEAL:  Tape up Every Seam.  Use good, 2 inch wide pressure-sensitive shipping tape or 60-lb- grade water activated tape and seal every seam leaving no flaps flapping.  Don’t use cellophane tape, duct tape, masking tape, string or twine.  They either fail or get hung up on automated processing equipment.
  • LABEL: Fill it Out Fully & Neatly.  If you are hand writing the shipping label PRINT and be neat about it.  And don’t leave any blanks – the shipper is not a mind reader or a hieroglyphic reader.  Attach the label firmly to the outside of the box in a plastic sleeve and put a packing slip or label INSIDE the box too in case the outside label gets damaged or torn off.
  • STRANGE BUT TRUE: A final tip to the wise shipper, labels marked “Fragile”, “This End Up” or use of “UP” arrows are a fail!  These are often ignored or seem to bring out the worst in some people.  Better to just pack your item very well, complete the shipping documents clearly and leave it looking rather plain.

Remember that the shipping world is an industrial one full of none-too-delicate automated equipment. They move an amazing amount of stuff around the country in practically a nanosecond – a Star Trek transporter would be just that much cooler.

If you have had some “interesting” shipping experiences (who hasn’t?) you will have fun reading a recent Popular Mechanics article where they experimented with three major U.S. shippers (you know which ones!) and recorded the results.  Check it out here:  http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/tests/which-shipping-company-is-kindest-to-your-packages