Unfortunately, there are many ways that packages can get damaged or lost. Packages endure a rigorous sorting process, travel miles at a time, get handed off to multiple people and they sometimes have to survive snow, rain and intense heat. Without the proper precautions, corrugated boxes can tear, labels can smudge and the wrong type of tape can peel away. Make sure to follow these safeguards to ensure that your items arrive in the best condition possible.
There are two things to keep in mind when choosing a shipping container: the size and weight of the item you’re shipping. Try to choose a box that is close to the size of the item you’re shipping while also leaving adequate room for cushioning. A box that’s too small will risk having your item getting damaged from drops but a box that’s too large can cause your item to shift during transit and become damaged by vibrations.
The weight of the item you’re shipping will decide how strong the cardboard of your box will need to be. The most common type of box will be 32 ECT, which means that each linear inch (in the length and width of the shipper) can withstand 32 lbs of compressive force, and this will be adequate for most everyday uses. However, a 200# burst rated box is recommended by our packaging expert* for ecommerce applications as it is more resistant to puncture.
Heavier items may require 44 ECT boxes or even double-walled corrugated shippers. However, this is only necessary for the most severe applications.
Cushioning and Protection
The goal of cushioning material like kraft paper, air cushions and bubble wrap is to absorb shocks and dampen vibrations by keeping your item suspended and apart from the walls of the shipping container. The corners of your item are the most likely parts to be damaged during transit so it will be smart to try to keep it away from contacting the box itself.
A good test to check if your boxes have enough cushioning is to give your box a gentle shake to see how much the contents inside move around. For a more thorough test, you can conduct multiple drops from a height of 18 inches on the box’s various edges and corners and a few drops from 36 inches with the box landing on its bottom side. This test is especially important for any small business that are shipping from home to make sure that packages are consistently and safely packed.
A good tape and method for sealing packages is shipping tape in an “H” style formation on each opening side. This means sealing down the middle where the two flaps of the box meet and then sealing again on the two outside edges. This covers each possible opening to keep your shipping containers secure.
If you want to go the extra mile, you can also use water-activated tape for an even stronger hold. Water-activated tape, also known as gummed tape, uses an intense starch-based adhesive that bonds with cardboard to create a complete seal. However, this tape will usually require special machinery to use properly.
A poorly-chosen shipping label can fail in multiple ways including abrasion, smudging, tearing, poor adhesion and even by just having the wrong information printed. Make sure you are using a label with permanent adhesive and that your printer is compatible with the labels you choose. We also have an article that provides a thorough breakdown of how to select the right shipping labels.
Also make sure that your labels are placed on the largest and most visible flat side of the box. Placing labels over edges or openings can warp your labels and even make your tracking barcode unreadable. This is also why tape should be avoided since placing tape over any of the barcodes on the label can keep them from being recognized by scanners.
Extra Services and Features
Depending on the value of your package’s contents, extra services like insurance and signature requirements are good options to consider for peace of mind. Also, make sure to check with various shipping companies regarding any special requirements for perishable goods or hazardous materials. You can find more information about each shipping company’s extra services on the following pages for UPS®, FedEx® and USPS®
You can also include extra warning labels for fragile items or which side should be facing up. However, these warnings may not change how your package is handled by mail carriers.
– Place an extra copy of addresses and tracking information inside the box just in case the shipping information becomes lost or unreadable.
– Use labels with Ultrahold® adhesive for a stronger label that doesn’t require any extra tape.
– Protect your shipping information from rain damage and sunlight with WeatherProof® labels. These durable labels resist water, freezing, UV rays and tearing.
– When comparing box materials for shipping, the burst rating will often be more important than the ECT since everyday shipping boxes are more prone to getting punctured by corners than getting crushed.
*Avery packaging engineer, Peter Towle, helped provide the expert knowledge required to write this article.
UPS®, FedEx® and USPS® are registered trademarks of their respective owners.