It’s a story repeated all too often: A shipper’s employee gives a package to a carrier, the goods arrive damaged but inside an intact box, a claim is filed, but it’s denied because of “improper or insufficient packaging.” Here are some easy steps to prevent this nightmare:

    1. Assume that whatever you ship via any carrier will be tossed, kicked, dropped, shoved, stacked, and generally roughed up. Do you remember the last time the plane you were on made a rough landing? Imagine how that felt to the airfreight in the cargo hold under your feet - without the cushion of a seat. Cargo aircraft land the same way.

    2. Assume that any handling instructions or warnings written on your box will be ignored. “Fragile”, “This End Up”, “Top Load Only”, etc. might as well be written in Klingon, as most package handling today is done by machines. At best, the delivering driver MIGHT notice such instructions, but by then the damage is done.

    3. Pick the right size box. If you just drop an item (or two, or ten) into a too-big box to rattle around, only a loose collection of smashed and broken parts will be delivered.

    4. Properly secure each item inside its shipping container. Ideally, the box should protect your goods the way your shoes protect your feet, with “socks” to absorb shock. In shipping, the “socks” can be the item’s original packaging (first choice), plastic peanuts, bubble wrap, or other shock-absorbing materials. And make sure whatever material you use, whether virgin or recycled, is recyclable.

    5. Select a package strong enough to survive # 1 above. FedEx, UPS, and even the Post Office provide a number of expertly designed packages - for free. This includes sturdy Envelopes, Boxes, Tubes, even special Laptop Boxes, and others. All are described in detail in each carrier’s Shipping Guide, available on line at their respective websites. 

    6. Before re-using old packaging, be sure it’s intact and can protect its contents as if it was brand new. When in doubt, find another package and recycle the old one into retirement.

    If, in spite of proper preparations, a shipment arrives damaged, be sure to: 

    - Write a full description of visible damage on the delivery receipt before signing it
    - Inspect as soon as possible for hidden damage 
    - Take clear pictures of the external and internal damage
    - Immediately notify the delivering carrier and ask for an inspection
    - Preserve the packaging and its contents for the carrier to inspect
    - Follow the carrier’s claim filing instructions
    - Contest every initial rejection, to be sure all factors are considered 

    This article is part of the monthly series which will be authored by ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group Board Members, who are current practitioners, consultants and educators. In future columns they will be sharing their views on a number of Supply Chain topics.

    George Yarusavage, CTL, C.P.M., is a principal in Fortress Consulting, specializing in Transportation and Sourcing issues. He is also the Second Vice Chair of ISM’s Logistics & Transportation Group and can be reached at, or (203) 984-4957. Membership in the Group is open to all ISM members who are responsible for or have an interest in the Logistics & Transportation fields.