In This Episode…
We take a close look at why packaging plays a key role in protecting your products during transit.
Packaging materials, supply chain risks, and packaging reliability testing are all scrutinized to give you a good introduction to this topic and help you choose the right packaging for your needs.
You’ll see why considering packaging and developing the right inner and outer packaging for your needs should be done during the product development process and should neither be left until the last minute nor to your supplier to handle.
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✅ Introduction & how COVID-19 is affecting logistics, especially in China in Summer 2021 – Renaud shares some thoughts about the COVID outbreaks across Guangdong in June 2021 and how this has affected logistics (we also wrote about that in this blog post).
✅ What is packaging’s role in the protection of products? – Packaging’s number 1 objective is to protect the products being shipped. Packaging products securely is much more than just putting them into one box. To prevent waste they will probably be put into export cartons, with inner cartons inside, and poly-bagged before going into cartons, and then everything shipped on pallets.
✅ The role of pallets and crates – Pallets not only hold export cartons steady and provide protection (by allowing you to stack your cartons in such a way that the shipper can’t fit others on top of them inside the container, thereby reducing the risk of crushing), but they also allow the products to be moved around quickly and easily, minimizing labor and reducing the risks of dropping and damage.
Wooden crates with panels all around the cartons will provide maximum protection, but this is only required for a minority of products, and you need to consider the cost and weight of this.
✅ What’s ‘the rule’ when you’re thinking of packaging for protecting products? – Always start from your supply chain and consider what your cartons are going to go during transit. They need to contend with humidity, being stacked, handled and moved on a truck, warehoused, and then placed into a container and put on a ship for a long time when it could be hot and humid for 5 weeks. Finally, it’s unloaded, sent to a distribution center and then shipped to stores. What are the risks you face during this journey through your supply chain?
From there, consider what type of packaging should be used for the products? Retail packaging needs to be attractive for the user (like Apple’s packaging), but will this require an elaborate design that makes it very expensive? This needs to be balanced with the need to protect the products.
✅ Why deciding on the packaging should be an important part of the NPI process – It isn’t uncommon for importers to ‘forget’ the packaging of the products until very late in the production process, but this is dangerous as It takes time to decide on and develop packaging which is secure, attractive for users, and can be obtained within a reasonable budget. If it isn’t planned ahead, delays to shipping can and do happen.
Also, a lot of people entrust their manufacturer with the packaging of products, but this is not usually a good idea. It isn’t really in the manufacturer’s interest to choose sturdy or more expensive packaging for your products, especially if you’re buying FOB. In their minds, you will complain to the freight forwarder if there’s a problem in transit that leads to damaged products, therefore they’re likely to choose the cheapest possible option. Of course, this doesn’t help you, as you still have damaged product arriving in port!
Therefore, specifying to the manufacturer how you want the goods to be packaged by considering the supply chain and risks likely to be faced by packages in transit well before the manufacturer is done with production is critical.
✅ Examples of different kinds of products that have varying protection needs from their packaging – Some examples are given that show that different products have different needs. For instance, there’s a difference between books that won’t sell with damaged corners and should therefore be over-packaged for protection, and garments that don’t get damaged if a carton is dropped. The buyer needs to request for the supplier to follow certain specifications or communicate with photos etc precisely how products should be packaged.
✅ What elements are critical to choosing the right packaging? – There are international standards for this, notably from the USA’s ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) and also FedEx, Amazon, and more, which define what packages should be like to guarantee product protection during transport. They can provide a good baseline for packaging, but don’t cater for specific products, therefore, if following them to the letter, too much packaging might be used, for example, which increases overall shipping costs. So, if shipping the same kind of products regularly, it makes sense to work with a packaging engineer to develop packaging that finds a perfect balance between cost and protection and a suitable packaging reliability testing plan, too.
✅ Outlining which packaging reliability tests are done to replicate real-world conditions – These tests are usually conducted:
- Package drop test – the package is dropped from a specific height based on its weight a number of times following a sequence: on a corner, straight edge, top, etc. If any or too much damage is caused then it may fail the test and additional strengthening or a change in the packaging material may be needed.
- Package compression test – packages at the bottom of a stack need to be able to withstand the weight of those above for weeks without being crushed and losing integrity. This test simulates that by adding the weight that replicates how much packages need to be able to withstand based on the time they’re under stress.
- Package vibration test – packages are placed on a vibrating plate that will vibrate at the same intensity as a truck, plane, or train for a period of time. This simulates the vibration they will suffer during transit and shows if the packaging is durable enough to handle it. Electronic products, in particular, are vulnerable to being damaged by excess vibration, therefore it is an effective test to test their durability, too.
- Atmospheric conditioning test – packages being shipped spend weeks in heat and humidity as ships travel through tropical areas so we need to know that the packaging will stand up to these environmental conditions (for instance, cardboard may take on too much moisture and lose its integrity). So packages are added into a machine, that looks somewhat like a large oven, and subjected to heat and humidity for different periods of time which simulate accelerated conditions they need to withstand.
- Note that we provide these tests and more in-house at Sofeast, and you can learn about our lab testing facilities here.
✅ Renaud’s key takeaways about selecting the right packaging for the job –
- Importers need to spend some time devising both inner and outer packaging, both of which do different jobs (the latter is more about retail and customer UX whereas the former is more about protection).
- If in doubt, over-package at first in order to assure products are safe. Then over time your packaging can be refined and reduced to save money if possible.
- Specify what you require with your factory in advance and gauge their reaction. If they seem disinterested in your requests you risk them using cheap or unsuitable packaging materials, such as cardboard that has been in storage in the summer humidity for months and is therefore structurally weak.
- Consider your supply chain and the risks facing packages during transit. Base your packaging and testing on these to avoid receiving damaged products which could delay you going to market.
Related packaging content…
- Sofeast | Importer’s Guide To 9 Types Of Packaging
- Why packaging is important for product protection and differentiation
- Packaging: How to Protect your Shipment Effectively?
- How to test the protection of your products during transport
- Sofeast’s in-house testing lab, equipment, and tests
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