Involve Your 3PL in Package Testing & Design

“Can my product packaging withstand the vibration and impacts seen in the transportation environment?” is a question that is often overlooked or addressed much too late in the product development process. Also often overlooked is how your new product will be staged in a warehouse.

Damage prevention is essential on a number of fronts, namely cost control, sustainability, and customer satisfaction. When damage occurs, it not only doubles the carbon output in product packaging materials and transportation, but also disappoints your customer and increases your costs. How can you avoid damages? Involve your third-party logistics (3PL) services provider in pre-testing your packaging design.

Pre-shipment testing is the best way to measure if a product package can travel through a given supply chain safely and arrive in good condition. It is also critical in determining the most efficient product package. Optimizing the product-to-package ratio will help reduce cost, but packaging must be tested to ensure that the product can get to the end customer undamaged.

Pre-shipment testing is also a way to reduce your company’s carbon output. Removing carbon wasters, such as damages, unused box space, and bad material selection from packages, can cumulatively add up to significant changes to your supply chain’s carbon output.

UPS engineers have endorsed the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) 3A standard simulation test for small parcel shipping. This simulation uses actual data recorded in the small package shipping environment, which is the same environment used for consumer electronics.

Today, there are hundreds of package labs all over the world. Your 3PL may have its own package lab, or at least easy access to one to assist you in testing. Access ISTA’s database of lab locations for a package lab near you.

Usually for a nominal fee compared to the cost of lost inventory, package labs provide invaluable information about the strengths and weaknesses of your packaging throughout the supply chain.

The goal is to apply the science of package design and testing BEFORE the product hits the market. This upstream approach to package design contributes directly to successful product launches, including improved customer satisfaction, maintained brand image, profitability, and reduced carbon output.

8 comments on “Involve Your 3PL in Package Testing & Design

  1. t.alex
    February 8, 2011

    This is something new which I have never heard of. Interestingly this gives insights into how packaging can really sustain transportation environment. I am just curious about how accurate the simulation data is.

  2. mfbertozzi
    February 8, 2011

    As you can imagine tests depend on kind of products. Basically I can report for products similar to blackplain boards for switching with shipment's need through oceans, labs done were related to temperature/humidity and crash tests of the package, for the fact navy shipment is extremly sensitive to those factors.


  3. stochastic excursion
    February 8, 2011

    The shipping part of bringing a product to market definitely has the potential to put an item through an accelerated lifetime type of trial–especially around holiday season (just remember writing “Fragile” on the box is a bad idea)!  Very sensible and proactive to bring the carrier into the planning process.  The knowledge base of an organization like UPS adds a lot of value to investments in distribution logistics.  Like in the egg-protector contests in school, where the goal was to have a package that would allow your egg to be dropped from a greater height than anybody else's, it's easy to resign yourself to overkill and go through many more reams of bubble wrap than necessary.

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    February 8, 2011

    Back when “green” was just a nice idea, a distributor I worked with tried using popped popcorn–the food–rather than styrofoam peanuts. Now you can create an air bubble around your product within the packaging or mold styrofoam around the device. Both are very cool, but I guess I prefer the bubble becuase styrofoam is still a pain to get rid of.

  5. DataCrunch
    February 8, 2011

    Carla, great article!  I may be a bit biased toward your article, as my company CAPE is the leader in packaging and cube optimization software tools (shameless plug).  There are a lot of variables involved in proper packaging, from product packaging (orientation, dimensions, placement, etc.) to corrugated packaging (humidity, compression and strength, flute sizes, etc.) and a host of others, including sustainability and sustainable material use and reuse.  

    Thanks for covering a very important topic (and often underrated topic) within the supply chain.

  6. Mydesign
    February 9, 2011

         Carla, you said is right. Many times packing and transporting the product to destination safely is a challenge. Many of the ship and air cargo movements involved the mishandling of the container either by human intervention or mechanically (crane and other equipments) can cause damage to the content.  More over we cannot expect such considerations from machines and natural involvements (calamities, air pocket, rough sea etc). Here is the role of packing engineering comes. It is a branch of engineering, which are professionally dealing with the design and packing mechanism.  Such professional are able to assess the stress and vibration, the package can withstand. More over they can make sure about the saftey of the container and if needed with ecco friendly materials (green and reusable).

  7. mfbertozzi
    February 9, 2011

    I fully agree with the importance of properly packing conception and design; then testing and lab as previuos phases are critical. On top issues on shipment, one of the biggest difficulties faced in a recent professional past was to reproduce the enviroment condition (environment parameters) to trust in order to prevent damages during transportation, even pack (with switching cards inside) wasn't impacted by any crash. 

  8. seel225
    February 11, 2011

    Intresting article, which covers some of the unknown facts on packaging to me. Delivering package to a destination with out damage sometimes hurdle. Some packages and very delicate ISTA procedures gives clear idea how the package should be in proper packing and how much weight it will with stand and etc.

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