If your business ships freight, then you know that expecting a certain amount of damage is reasonable. Accidents happen, and even just the normal vibrations and conditions that occur during transit can cause damage.
Still, limiting damage as much as possible is key to preserving your bottom line. Excess damage leads to significant losses: In most cases, if you need to make a claim against the shipping company, you don’t receive the full value of the shipment in damages, and excessive claims can ultimately affect your insurance rates, driving up costs. That’s not even considering the costs associated with replacing damaged shipments.
Although choosing the right shipping partner is key to limiting freight damage, you bear some of the responsibility as well. How well you package your shipments and manage your freight program can make a significant difference in preventing damage, and the associated losses. With that in mind, here are some tips for preventing freight damage before items even leave your warehouse.
How to Prevent Damage to Your Freight Shipments
Use Impact Resistant Packaging
Packing is often the smallest line item in your shipping budget, but it’s actually the most important. How you package your shipments can mean the difference between everything arriving safely and navigating a complex shipping claim. With that in mind, your packaging should always be in good condition, and the right size and shape to adequately hold the items with enough room for proper impact protection.
In fact, impact protection is one of the most important aspects of safe transport. Without the right protection — whether that be bubble wrap, air pillows, foam, or some combination of methods — your shipments can be damaged at the slightest bit of mishandling. For especially sensitive shipments, invest in impact recorders to use on cartons, which indicate when rough handling has occurred. These are especially important for shipments of potentially hazardous goods, serving as another reminder for proper handling.
Properly Label Items
Every package leaving your warehouse should be properly labeled. Be consistent in label placement (the side flap is the industry standard location) and avoid using too many labels to avoid confusion. Every carton should be labeled with the package destination, weight, and any special information about the contents, such as flammable or fragile. This information is vital to ensuring proper package handling. It’s also a good idea to include a duplicate label inside the package, in case the exterior label is damaged or comes off.
Cartons are often damaged because they are not properly loaded onto the trailer. Using a standard size carton for your items is a good place to start, as it ensures that the pallets can be properly stacked and secured. All pallets should be tightly shrink-wrapped to prevent shifting during transport.
An experienced shipping company will know the proper procedures for loading trailers, including how to correctly stack pallets, and how to arrange the contents of the trailer to prevent shifting. If you’re loading trailers yourself, remember the basic rules of heavy items and liquids on the bottom, and lighter dry goods on top. This ensures that boxes aren’t crushed by heavier items, and that if liquids leak, they will not damage other items.
Use Quality Adhesives
It may seem like sealing your packages is a no-brainer, but all too often, damage occurs because cartons are improperly sealed. Choose quality, pressure-sensitive tape that’s at least two inches wide to cover the seams of your cartons and keep them closed. If you are shipping liquid items, or anticipate exposure to the elements, using water-activated paper or reinforced tape is recommended.
Develop a Freight Plan and Procedures
Inconsistency often leads to damage. Everyone in your warehouse or shipping department needs to follow the same processes and procedures for picking and packing items. Doing so ensures that all of the proper precautions have been taken, and increases the likelihood of your items arriving safely. Determining the appropriate plan, and designing it for peak efficiency, may require a full audit of your shipping procedures, claims data, and workflows, but the investment will be worth the time and the reduced shipping costs. Remember that damaged shipments are the largest cost center in any transportation or logistics department, so it’s worth investing the time and resources in developing process improvements and best practices to keep those expenses manageable.