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The whole process seems simple: Get the goods where they need to be in as little time as possible and at minimum cost. However, while the objective is clear, it can also become challenging. Packages in the distribution center are subject to rough handling and other unsatisfactory conditions—all of which threaten to damage the product inside. Packaging has more benefits that assisting with branding; it can also protect products from common distribution hazards.

Let’s have a look at how packaging can work for or against you during shipping and handling.

How Poorly Designed Packaging Affects Supply Distribution

Packaging has a number of uses. Excellent package can speed up shipping and handling and make a wonderful impression on the customer who is waiting at the end of the supply chain. On the other hand, poor packaging can affect packing, dispatching, stocking, and more.

Here is a look at how packaging can negatively impact the flow of operations:

• Receiving, putting away, and picking accuracy of orders
• Timely shipping
• Fulfillment accuracy
• Percentage of damaged packages and goods
• Inventory-to-sales ratio
• Back-order rate
• Perfect order rating
• Units per transaction
• Labor utilization
• Equipment utilization
• Carrying cost of the inventory

This shows that distribution centers and warehouses rely on the quality of packaging to assist with more than maintaining a natural rhythm. Well-designed packaging will boost the productivity and efficiency of the entire system, whereas poorly-designed packaging will have the opposite effect.

Common Distribution Hazards

Understanding how packaging can influence distribution hazards can help you with avoiding such setbacks and make the entire process much more smooth.

Rough Handling

What it is: Handling hazards come from manual handling (people) and mechanical handing (push-pull pallets, clamp trucks, forklifts, and any other automated or mechanical process). Damage results from packages dropping or falling from machinery, direction of orientation (up arrows) not being honored, and other similar shocks. Long and oblong packages are often exposed to bridging, especially when moving along a conveyor belt or chute.

How to avoid it: Design packages to protect against impacts against the bottom face, corners, and edges. Be aware of the spaces left within boxes, since these voids can open opportunities for products to move around. Fill them with air pouches. Be aware of the shipping protocols for items that need custom packaging (or non-packaging), such as tires, mirrors, wire spools, and more.

Stacking & Compression

What it is: Packages are going to be stored and stacked in warehouses and distribution centers and will inevitably be exposed to compression forces. Packages collapse under the crush of other heavier objects. Other risks come from the height the stack and instability causing items to tip over or obstruction that cause forklifts or other machinery to collide with packaging, as well as in-transit stacking.

How to avoid it: Durable materials can help protect products from squeezing and compression from above when in stacks. This can include bubble wrap or void fill air pouches. New technologies have also introduced polymer blend foams that are much better at absorbing shock than traditional single-blend polymers.


What it is: This comes from two sources: vehicle vibration and loose-load vibrations. Vehicles create a vibrational frequency that can resonate with the goods being shipped. Furthermore, when goods are not loaded properly, any jostling, jolts, or vibration can cause abrasion, cracks, and friction that damages items.

How to avoid it: Certain products are going to require specialized primary and secondary packaging to reduce vibration, especially if such items experience “resonant damage.” Consider ASTM D4169 protocols to assist with packaging selection.

Rail Switching

What it is: Items shipped by rail are going to undergo horizontal impacts whenever cars are switched around in rail yards with machines like straddle carriers, reach stackers, tilt deck trucks, hook trucks, cranes, and forklifts. Horizontal impacts and compression are different from vertical forces and need special packaging to be mitigated.

How to avoid it: Similar to stacking, packaging should be designed to reduce the amount of dynamic compressional forces across all faces and corners. Remember that directional orientation is not always going to be honored.

Temperature & Humidity

What it is: Certain materials, such as pharmaceuticals, food, and even specific fabrics, need special temperature and humidity conditions in order to prevent spoilage. If these items are not packaged properly, they can melt or go bad, and that will affect the other packages in the same container.

How to avoid it: Use humidity control and moisture resistant packaging, such as film coverings, coatings, and bags, to prevent condensation. Desiccant can also be used in packaging, especially with food items and clothing.

Wrapping It Up

If you want to minimize common distribution hazards, then you need to know how packaging can affect productivity and other performance metrics. By identifying where the issues are within the supply chain, you can accelerate your business and get more customer satisfaction.

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