How to Keep Your Business Shipments Safe

marketing plan templateGetting your small business shipments safely to customers requires the right packaging and transport strategy

Whether you work in construction or run a small, local honey shop, shipping business goods from point A to point B and doing it safely and securely is of utmost importance. Failing to pack or ship goods properly may result in damages, loss, costly replacement orders, and unsatisfied customers. Keep your pockets lined and your customers happy with safe shipping practices.

Here are the top things you need to consider before packaging goods and sending them off.

Pack Materials Correctly

Sounds simple, right? Exactly how you pack and stow goods can make a tremendous difference, and you need to consider materials carefully. For example, if you are shipping fragile items, just one extra crease in a cardboard box decreases its strength by as much as 70%, according to the United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (UPS). A simple and straightforward test to determine if a box is strong enough for fragile items is to take an honest look at it. UPS Freight Service Center Manager Shane Luttrell advises that, if it looks like you can easily squish a box with your foot, you don’t want to ship fragile or valuable goods in there. A good deal of boxes meant for business shipping will show weight limits printed right on the bottom box flap. Make sure to look out for these limits, and pack and ship items accordingly.

The construction industry, on the other hand, is not going to be too concerned about boxes and their upper weight limits. Hint: It’s highly unlikely a cardboard box will be strong enough. UPS packages have a maximum weight limit of 150 pounds, meaning that the four most common metals used in the construction industry–aluminum, copper, carbon steel, and stainless steel–are going to be categorized as freight and require a pallet and/or shipping container in most cases.

It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts

Packing business goods correctly is about more than choosing the right box, trailer, or container. How boxes and containers look inside matters, too. For example, leaving a great deal of space inside boxes with fragile items is pretty much asking for trouble. Aim to fill up as much space in packages and containers as possible to avoid broken goods, scratches, nicks, and scuffs. Bundle heavy items to prevent them from crashing together, and carefully pack any items with sharp edges or corners to prevent torn boxes and worker injury.

Invest in The Right Equipment

The refrigerated goods market was worth as much as $5 billion in 2015. Projections for 2022 show the industry growing by as much as $2 billion in seven years. That’s where refrigerated containers and reefers, or refrigerated trailers for trucks, come in. Refrigerated containers use cryogenic cooling, diesel-powered generators, or a combination of air and water cooling. These containers and trailers can be temperature controlled for chilled goods like produce and dairy, or frozen goods, like ice cream, fish, and meat.

Make Sure Drivers Are Prepared

To return to our example of a quaint, local honey shop, there are up to 100,00 black bears living in Alaska. That would be good to know before delivering a shipment there! Work with drivers to make sure cargo is securely attached and they’re aware of any likely hazards on the road. Loose cargo can result in product loss and, occasionally, depending on the materials you are shipping, environmental damage as well. Make sure packages and loads are secure to prevent these extra costs.

Most importantly, products spilling out onto the highway can risk drivers’ lives and the lives of others. Poorly stowed goods may also topple over onto workers when trucks are stationary while loading or unloading. Most drivers are well-versed in these hazards and the proper ways to secure cargo, but it’s your company’s reputation on the line. Make sure to train drivers well, or choose a third-party trucking company that is well-vetted and trustworthy.

Stay Organized With The Latest Technology

The last thing your customer wants to hear is that you have misplaced or lost their shipment. Late shipments, delivering to the wrong address, and delivering the wrong item also inconvenience consumers and hurt company reputations. Stay organized to prevent these mishaps.

Start by investing in a customer management system (CMS). These days, it’s probably best to go electronic, especially if you have a decent amount of customers. A CMS will allow you to keep track of customer’s personal information (full name, billing address, and shipping address), items purchased, purchase order numbers and any additional reference numbers, amount billed, taxes charged, and method of payment. Stowing this information electronically makes it easier to search and backup if necessary.

Another thing to consider is using technology to make shipping more convenient. Work with other businesses to deliver packages to special access points or lockers. While some customers’ work schedules may make at-home delivery inconvenient or customers prefer not to have items delivered directly to their homes, many carriers and businesses allow customers to pick up packages at approved lockers and access points that may be more suitable to them.

Finally, offer shipment tracking. This tip is a pretty big deal. It benefits you, carriers, and the customer. If customers contact you asking where their package is, you can tell them–and confidently, too! This feature also enables you to provide customers with tracking links, hopefully cutting down on future calls and emails and freeing you up to attend to other responsibilities. Plus, if packages are late or lost, you’ll know and that can give you a leg up. That affords you some time to contact customers, let them know, and do what you can do assure them you’re on top of it.

Don’t let your company take a hit (or several hits) during the packing and shipping process. Carefully choose inner and outer packaging, invest in the materials and equipment most appropriate to ship your particular goods, make sure drivers are well-trained and mindful of safety practices, track packages and give customers tracking links, and use electronic or web-based CMS programs to keep customer information handy and right at your fingertips.

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Valerie M.

Valerie M. is a writer from Upstate New York. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from The State University of New York at Fredonia in 2016 and is currently working at a digital marketing agency where she writes blog posts for a variety of small businesses all over the country. Valerie enjoys writing about music, animals, nature, and traveling.