People are always trying to find ways to cut cost in the shipping department without sacrificing the integrity of their shipments. Some items come from the manufacturer ready to ship. These items come individually packed with sturdy boxes and plenty of packing to endure the rigors of transportation and handling. How do you determine which of these individually packed items can be shipped as-is? 

Some of the obvious items would include a TV, microwave, computer, printer, and a ceiling fan. These items generally come packed in a strong corrugated box with styrofoam specifically made to fit the item. Items that are ready to ship that do not have any packing but do come with a good strong box would include a bicycle, wheelchair, trampoline, and a set of plastic containers like Tupperware. Some items may be able to ship without a box. These items would include tires, luggage (if you don’t mind the luggage getting a little dirty along the way), plastic or metal shipping containers and cases, and ladders. So, how do you decide whether you should put a particular item in a box or not? Let’s ask a few questions first. I will explain each one to help you make an informed decision when you are shipping these types of items.

1. Is it important for the recipient to receive the item in perfect condition with no scratches?
If you are shipping an item such as a ladder, it will be fine to ship without a box but only if it is a metal ladder. If you are shipping a wooden ladder your customer would be happier if you used a box so all the wood would look new when it arrives.

2. Is it cheaper to pay the additional handling charge for an item not shipped in a box compared to paying for a box and the labor to pack the item?

Many times in the hustle and bustle of a shipping warehouse it is less practical to stop and box an item that does not need one to ship safely. The cost of the additional handling fee is simply less than the price of a box and labor. On the other hand, if you were shipping two tires to the same address it would make sense to put both of them in a box together and ship them as one. It is cheaper to ship one heavier boxed shipment to one address than to ship two lighter unboxed shipments to one address with two additional handling charges. Generally speaking, items that require additional handling are hand carried instead of being put on conveyor belts. That is a benefit because there is more personal care taken during transit. If you were shipping a five gallon bucket of liquid it would make more sense to ship without a box so that it would stay upright. If it were in a box it could potentially be transported on its side or top, even if the box had orientation arrows. While on conveyor belts, all boxes are mixed and tumbled simply because of the mechanical automation involved.

3. Is it impractical to put it in a box?
A prime example of this would be a ten foot piece of custom made exhaust pipe. The labor involved in putting this type of item in a box would be ridiculously expensive. It would not matter if this item got scratched. The movement of it would be done by hand therefore reducing the risk of damage. Additional handling fees would be well worth the cost.

4. Is it small and/or flexible allowing it be shipped in a padded envelope?
Not everything needing some sort of protection needs to ship in a box. Items such as clothing, small repair parts, and paperback books will do fine in a padded envelope.

5. Is it already individually or case-packed in a corrugated box from the manufacturer making it suitable for shipping?
Again, if it is a fragile item such as electronics, many times the manufacturer does an excellent job of making sure the item leaves their warehouse in a ready to ship box. This is the best way to ship an item with no additional box needed. Frequently a case-packed item will be fine to ship because a corrugated box is used as the case. However, there may not be enough packing inside the individual boxed items if they were shipped individually.
Know your products and have procedures in place to aid you in choosing which products do not need a box to ship safely. Go through a few scenarios with a cost analysis to determine the best money saving strategy. Determine in advance what your procedure will be for the box-or-no-box questions and your shipping will go smoothly while achieving the greatest cost savings.