Is it possible you’re actually contributing to the cause of shipping problems, even before it leaves your warehouse? Not if you know how to avoid damaged freight at the source.

Best Practices To Avoid Damaged Freight

Nothing is worse than having your goods damaged in transit. Let’s be sure your own packaging system isn’t to blame right from the start.

There’s no doubt about the amount of frustration everyone in the supply chain experiences when a shipment arrives damaged at its final destination.

Whether it’s the end-user, or the retailer who was hoping to sell a now unsalable product to a valued customer, freight damage is not only a pain for you, but can cause significant losses to your company.

The real cost of damaged freight is in lost profits, increased insurance rates and eroded relationships with customers can be avoided.

To ensure you provide the best possible protection for your goods at the start of their journey, let’s look at the best practices on how to avoid damaged freight.

1. Start With Appropriate Packaging

In order to insulate yourself from the being the source of inevitable shipping claims, correct packaging is your first critical step.

It may be the smallest cost in your supply chain, but it can have a major impact. Shortcutting on packaging can have a trickle-down effect on your more expensive costs like shipping, warehousing, and loss prevention.

Choose the right packaging material and correct size, large enough to hold the contents, and with additional necessary impact protection. Packaging that’s uniform and consistent throughout your business also makes it easy to load and stack on pallets.

Never use compromised packaging with dents, holes, tears, or water damage. A damaged container almost always means damaged contents. And stay within the maximum weight per package. You can usually find recommended weight information printed on the box maker’s certificate.

It’s also important to coordinate your packages with the correct pallet size. Adhering to matching dimensions for stacking and movement will reduce damage the boxes.

2. Consider Impact Protection

Every package should include some form of impact protection, especially for packages containing liquids, glass or otherwise fragile materials. Impact protection can mean the difference between a hassle-free shipment and a lengthy claims process.

Envelops lined with bubble wrap can provide extra cushioning for such items but the outside package will likely be soft. Therefor it’s a good idea to provide an extra layer of packaging: a hard, outer package with the smaller, impact-resistant package inside. Again, another consideration is how these packages will be arranged when palletized.

Styrofoam has been a go-to packaging material for years but comes at a risk to the environment. For a greener shipping experience, better choices are cardboard, paper, bubble wrap, biodegradable plastics, and items made from cornstarch.

3. Use Better Quality Adhesives

One of the top reasons for damaged goods is incorrectly sealing packages. Seal with strong tape that is at least two inches in width.

Better products would include pressure-sensitive plastic, water-activated reinforced tape, or water-activated paper tape. These products are strong and durable, plus they’ll hold up against potential spills and water exposure.

Avoid using typical retail products like cellophane tape, masking tape, or string, which break and rip easily.

4. Load the Trailer Efficiently

Loading a trailer properly can be considered an art form – one that has your best interests at stake.

Weight must be evenly distributed on pallets. Always stack one “tower” with the pallets or packages of the same dimensions to maintain uniformity and stability.

To avoid the crush of gravity, every three layers should have a reinforcing sheet of cardboard or similar material to help distribute weight and prevent downward-pull breakage.

Since empty space can lead to shifting and breakage, pallets and packages should be packed as close together as is reasonable.

Use self-protective techniques such as stacking lighter cargo on top of heavier cargo, and putting dry goods on top of liquid contents to prevent additional damage from leakage.

5. Label Everything

Labels are an often-overlooked yet very important part of preventing freight damage. They help shippers make correct pallet-packing decisions during the shipping process.

Without accurate identification, it’s impossible to determine a product’s fragility or durability from simply a seller’s brand or name. A label should indicate the content’s ability to handle added weight.

This may include an indicator that the contents are fragile, heavy or flammable, or declare the amount of weight a box or package can withstand before being crushed.

Labels should be bright, easily identified, and relatively limited to avoid confusion. Unless required by the carrier, multiple labels should not be used.

In the case of mislabeled packages, the incorrect label removed or marked out clearly. The correct label should also be free of stains or other damage.

6. Consider Using a 3PL Partner

If you typically ship LTL freight, packaging is even more important. LTL shipments move from hub to hub, requiring extra handling, loading and unloading more often than just traditional A to B full-truckload transactions.

A good working partnership with an experienced 3PL partner means they will assist in all aspects of making your shipping experience as easy and carefree as possible.

This includes analyzing your current packaging, giving solid advice on how to improve for less damage, and properly utilize space. This helps to make sure your freight is ideal for the carriers ensuring your rates don’t increase due to ‘bad freight.’

7. Create A Freight Plan

For any reoccurring process, having a detailed plan to refer to is always a best practice. It’s no different with your freight packaging.

First, study your current packaging practices to ensure they are at peak efficiency. Keep in mind the use of impact protection as well as consolidation methods.

Next, record your best practices on how your goods get out the door safely and efficiently. Everything from from packaging and loading pallets to loading the trailer.

Once you have these elements recorded, you can build a freight plan that outlines the exact processes, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), to be followed each time. This helps warehouse employees know exactly how things should be done for maximum productivity.

Make sure to include assessing your claims using specific metrics. Over a year, continuous damages can be a huge hit on your bottom line. Find out exactly what could be causing damages then take the necessary steps to address and fix them.

Less Freight Damage Equals More in the Bottom Line

Losses through freight damage are the single highest cost to a transportation department. Focusing on training your employees with a solid freight plan can help you avoid damaged freight at the source and ensure better relationships with your clients.

By using appropriate and thorough shipping processes you can also see a major improvement to your profit margin.