Kids, it’s time to talk about pallets.
We’re the first to admit this post isn’t going to be as mind-blowingly thrilling as our usual posts. As you may know, whether or not you work with us, Whitebox loves to talk about best practices in ecommerce. We explore strategies for keeping customers happy, building a customer base and running an ecommerce storefront efficiently. Sometimes our blog is more exciting, sometimes it’s not… this week, we’re going with a slightly more “not” post.
Reading about pallet packing and shipment is a little dry. We get it, but hear us out: pallet packing matters, probably more than you think.
If you think of your products as your babies (which, let’s face it… a lot of us do), then you need to think about pallet packing as the car seat for your products. On the drive home from the hospital after the delivery of your child, are you going to just toss your newborn on the backseat with a bunch of pillows?
… I should hope not.
No, you’re going to do your research and find the best baby seat within your budget. You should do the same thing for pallet packing. So, let’s go through some ways that you can protect your product, minimize delays and damages, and keep your warehouse receivers happy.
1: Don’t just use any carrier
Lots of manufacturers use brokers, which in turn hire fly-by-night truckers. While sometimes this will turn out alright in the end, other times it doesn’t. Many drivers won’t know what’s in the back of their truck, and since they’re likely only working with you once, they have less personal investment in their load.
Ideally, you should hire a particular carrier and build a relationship with them. Chances are, this will mean they know your product, and the type of care it requires during the journey and when it arrives at the destination warehouse. Also, they’ll be motivated to take care in order to maintain a lasting partnership with you. If working with the same carrier isn’t feasible for you, do your research and find a well-reviewed broker who works with trusted drivers.
2: Know your products, and work to pack them optimally
If you are packing pallets with multiple products, you’ll need to think about arranging the items optimally. Fortunately, this isn’t rocket science: you’ll want to place the heavier items on the bottom, and be sure that any overhang that does occur is less than a half inch. If a pallet isn’t going to be cubical, stack in a pyramid-type structure, narrowing towards the top. For products that are loose, plastic banding can help ensure that pallet arrives intact.
3: Make your pallets stackable… if at all possible
If you can make your pallets stackable, do. If not, don’t worry too much about it (obviously, ensuring your product arrives intact is far more important). Just keep in mind, pallets work a bit like plane tickets: if you really want to guarantee that empty seat beside you, you’ll have to pay for it. In the same vein, trucks are built to hold two layers of pallets. If your pallets can only be sent as a single layer, you’ll still be paying for that empty space above them.
4: Don’t be a cheapskate about pallets and wrapping
As with pretty much everything in life, when you’re picking pallet packing materials, it doesn’t pay off to pay less. Using decrepit pallets and flimsy wrap is like buying a super-safe Volvo to protect yourself in the event of an accident and then not using a seatbelt. It just doesn’t make sense.
Used pallets are fine, but they should be in good enough shape to hold up your products for the entire journey. When it comes to plastic wrapping, you’ll want to go for heavier stuff - 115 gauge pallet plastic is best - and when wrapping, it’s much better to use a machine rather than a human. If you're not the person who packs the pallets, you should urge your pallet packing company to use strong materials.
5: Make sure carriers communicate with warehouses about delivery times
Beyond letting carriers know what they’re delivering, there are other ways to streamline the process. You should always schedule shipments with the delivering warehouse, regardless of whether the warehouse requires it. It will speed the unloading process, so your driver isn’t just just waiting around upon arrival.
6: Clearly mark your shipments - inside and out
Labelling is critical throughout the entire ecommerce process, and palleting is no exception. While it might seem like a small barcode will be enough, include as much paperwork as possible to identify what is inside and what it is for, which means a PO number and list of contents. In warehouses that handle many customers, this sort of identification is crucial. And, if anything does get damaged, clearly labeled packaging will make claims through insurance much simpler.
7: Don’t cut your corners… protect them!
Especially, if you’re shipping small parcel, your biggest problem is that corners and boxes get easily busted. We highly recommend corner protection on the outside of your stacked boxes. If you check out the picture, you can see that just a simple piece of hard cardboard will do the trick.
8: Just say no to empty space
It’s pretty common sense that you want your items to be secured within their individual boxes. Occasionally items need to be packed loosely. Leaving some space around items is a good way to keep goods safe from any denting that does occur, but this space should never be empty. Use peanuts or air cushions to fill these gaps so that there’s no jostling during the journey to the warehouse.
There you have it folks, pallet packing in a nutshell. It certainly isn't rocket science but, like most things, it requires some attention to detail and a balance between frugality and quality. If you take nothing else from the post, take that. Remember: treat your products with care and it'll pay off.
At Whitebox, we spend a lot of time thinking about these sorts of things. Are there any things you feel like we missed in this post? Please let us know. We always love the chance to learn from other folks in the ecommerce realm.