Much attention is given to customs and shipping planning only to encounter problems with your shipment due to improper labeling and packing. Here are some ways to avoid the unfortunate experience of crushed boxes, lost displays and missing pieces.
- Pack well: your shipment will go through many transfers. The route that your freight will take to get from A to B will never be a straight line. When shipping internationally, your freight will go through many transfers. You can guarantee that the truck that picks up your freight will never be the truck that delivers it; it might not even be the same company. It will pass through many warehouses, being unloaded and re-loaded along the way. With all this cross- docking, it’s amazing that some shipments even make it to their destination. Prepare for this process by packing and labeling well. This will minimize damage and potential loss along the way.
- Remove all old shipping labels. Electronic scanners will read old labels. You want to ensure that people will read the right destination for your shipment. Often, labels have bar codes indicating the destination on them that can be read by machines in error.
- Label each piece with two shipping labels. Labels can be mistakenly turned inward and out of sight or can fall off. When shipments are stacked, your labels can often face inside the pallet – making the label unreadable. This can be especially problematic when you are missing a piece and are asking the warehouse to look for it. Using two labels increases the chances that people will read them, and is particularly helpful if one of the labels gets torn off.Hint: Labels don’t stick well to the colored fiber cases that we typically use for shipping our pop up displays. Either use clear packing tape to secure the label or fold the label on itself to ensure it will stay with your shipment.
- Write a contact phone number on each shipping label. If your freight gets split up or lost, you may lose control over where it ends up. You would be surprised where freight can end up without the paperwork. You never know who is going to be looking at your box wondering who it belongs to. Providing a phone number to call (not toll-free unless it can be used from anywhere in the world) increases your chances of your piece turning up. If anyone along the way has any questions about your shipment, you are the best person to answer their questions.
- Write a piece count on each label. This could be the single most important aspect of labeling and often the most overlooked. When ensuring your shipment is complete, warehouses and drivers will often rely on the information on your shipping label. It is important that they know they are looking for the right number of pieces. If something goes missing, having a piece number will help identify which piece you are missing.
- How to pack your shipment
- Use small boxes. Large boxes will be stacked on the bottom and heavy boxes get dropped. Never ship anything that is too big or too heavy for you to lift easily. Heavy boxes will be stacked on the bottom of pallets in trucks and in aircraft. Other smaller boxes will be piled on top. Remember that there are people like you who are lifting them and if the boxes are too heavy, they will not receive the same treatment as if they are lighter and more manageable.Packing hint: When selecting your boxes, always use new strong cornered boxes, rather than old flimsy ones. This will increase the chances of your boxes staying in form through transit. Use plenty of packing tape on all the edges and corners. This will strengthen the box to stay in tact. Remember that corners of boxes will crease. This can be particularly bad if you are shipping presentation brochures.
- Use Rubbermaid containers instead of boxes. Corners will not dent and they will stack well. Often, they have handles making it easier to move around. To secure them, consider using zap straps to hold the lids down. Plan to leave any empty Rubbermaid containers at your event rather than shipping them home empty.
- Use soft plastic. Your shipment will likely be flying rather than traveling via ocean. That means it will be exposed to sub zero temperatures at high altitudes. Hard plastic containers become brittle and will shatter when they freeze.The ideal shipment uses a combination of new small boxes and Rubbermaid containers.