Protective Packaging for Different Modes of Transport
13 January 2016
There are myriad challenges you face when you ship your product to market – weather, moisture, vibration, shock and rough handling – to name a few. While it’s impossible to foresee every hazard you may encounter, protective packaging can help prevent damage and/or loss from predictable factors.
Avoid High Risk on High Seas
Ocean shipping can pose a risk when transporting the most basic of commodities. Risks become greater as the items being shipped become more fragile or subject to stressful elements. Manufacturers of robotics, medical devices, computers and semiconductor products should take extra precautions to insure the safety of their goods. Major concerns when shipping via sea include salt water contamination and salt water vapors. Both of these can cause corrosion, especially to bare metal or to the functionality of electronic components.
One reliable way to protect your shipment is to have your shipper incorporate vapor barriers into your packaging design. The preferred method to accomplish this goal is to use a moisture vapor barrier bag that contains activated desiccants and is closed with heat sealed seams. The barrier material most commonly employed is MIL-PRF-131. Composed of activated clay, the desiccant most frequently used is MIL-D-3464. Typically a vacuum is placed inside the barrier bag before sealing which reduces the volume of air and also eliminates lingering moisture. As an extra precaution, you can request your shipper to enclose a humidity indicator that can test for moisture exposure upon opening. This vapor barrier shipping method is known in the industry as MIL-STD-2073.
Shipping products made of ferrous and non-ferrous metals can present problems unique to their composition – metals will rust if not properly protected. We recommend using VCI (vapor corrosion inhibitors) sophisticated, film barrier products designed to prevent rust from occurring. VCI packaging can be found in many forms including barrier bags and wrapping papers that are heat seal-able, stretchable, water resistant, recyclable and non-toxic (nitrate-free). Given the versatility of options available, VCI’s can be used to ship a wide range of products from heavy machinery to small, complex components with intricate, hard to reach surfaces.
Safely Fly High
Many risk factors need to be taken into consideration when preparing products to be shipped by air. These may include:
- Acceleration and deceleration – Fore-and-aft pressures affect cargo during takeoffs and landings. Compression may also be a factor during a difficult or rough landing.
- Turbulence – During turbulence, cargo can experience rapid shifts in vertical movement, alternating between heavy pressure and near weightlessness.
- Altitude – Risks to cargo increase with gains in altitude. Liquid cargo may become subject to leaks, while other cargo may suffer from general increases in cabin pressure.
- Temperature – If your cargo may be affected by extremes of heat and/or cold, you need to package it accordingly. Temperature ranges in flight can vary substantially, often exceeding their normal range of 30 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cargo compartments – Air freighters are designed and equipped to transport cargo. However, the bellies of passenger crafts are often less able to protect cargo from movement during flight. If this is how your cargo is being delivered, your packaging needs to compensate for the increased risk.
- Handling – Larger terminals are more likely to have conveyor systems and mechanical cargo gear to safely move crates from place to place. Manual handling, typical of smaller airports, can result in damage from over stacking and constant re-positioning.
- Storage – While newer terminals have designated areas for high value cargo and cold storage for perishables, older facilities typically do not. As a result, this cargo may be exposed to increased threats of theft, pilferage and deterioration loss hazards. If overcrowded, goods may be left outside and subjected to the elements.
- Security – Security varies from one terminal to another. Make sure your packaging partner knows the conditions that exist along your route and prepares your units accordingly.
- Ramps – Cargo may be exposed to weather while enroute to loading ramps. To the extent possible, make certain your cargo can withstand the elements.
To better ensure a safe journey for your cargo, work with your packaging partner to engineer custom wood shipping crates and ATA cases designed specifically to protect your products. If appropriate, you can also request that your packager include shock indicators, tilt indicators and recorders as indicated.
Four Wheel Drive
Whether traveling to an airport, seaport or just directly hitting the road, most cargo will spend some part of its journey inside a truck. Like other modes of transport, trucks present a host of risks unique to conditions on the ground. These may include:
- Stacking – In an effort to make each trip profitable, handlers may fill their trucks to capacity. This often means stacking wood shipping crates and ATA cases 8 feet or more, subjecting them to the possibility of tumbling over.
- Cargo pressure – If cargo is not placed properly in the truck, it may experience pressure from the weight of adjoining cargo.
- Crushing – Cargo that is secured by tie-down-straps, can experience damage from other cargo that is unleashed during an unexpected stop, swerve or other harsh road condition.
- Manual handling – Whether rushed, pressured or simply distracted, mistakes happen, which is why it pays to package your products as securely as possible.
- Exposure to the elements – Inevitably, you can expect your goods to spend some time outside during transit, so you need to prepare for this contingency.
- Rough roads – Potholes and weather can combine to pose genuine risks to products during transit.
The message is clear. It’s important to have a packaging partner that is willing to take every precaution to protect your goods during transit. At a minium, goods should be transported on floater pallets and floater bases, and covered with a waterproof material. Where appropriate, shock and tilt indicators should be part of the packaging. The best protection you can obtain to protect your goods is to work with a reliable packaging partner like LPC that has the design and engineering capabilities required for today’s traveling conditions.