Packaging best practices
To help you minimize cost and prevent unnecessary errors and damage, Shipwire offers specific guidelines on how your goods should be packaged when sent to one of our warehouses. Following these guidelines will help ensure that you get the most value out of the Shipwire service, and will prevent delays, additional charges, errors, and damaged product.
Merchants and their suppliers should closely follow these guidelines. Failure to follow carton weight, size, or corrugated requirements may result in lost or damaged merchandise, delays, or additional charges (incurred as a Special Project, or in additional handling fees).
On this page
- Unit packaging
- Inner cartons/cases
- Master cartons/cases
- Packing list
- Packaging materials
- Plastic bags
- Oversize or heavy individually-packed items
- Other guidelines
Download the Shipwire Receiving guide
Our printable Shipwire Receiving PDF guide will show you how to prepare a shipment, send a shipment, and ensure Standard Receiving.
Packaging for your individual products has to meet some standard guidelines.
There are other important consideration for your packaging that will help with storage, disposal, and shipping. While they are not required for meeting receiving and shipping guidelines they do improve the overall customer experience and will save you time and unnecessary spend in the future.
If individual units are not stored inside cases, they should not be exposed in their display box. If there is an opening that shows the contents of the package, it should optimally be shielded by clear plastic. This is necessary because while warehouses are clean environments, cardboard packaging breaks down during transit and creates dust particles that settle on individual products. Protecting them from exposure means a better experience for your customer upon receiving their purchase. Shirts and other apparel should be packaged in plastic bags, and cases should be used for packaging individual units. You can learn more in our product catalog configuration guide.
You should also keep packaging size in mind. Depending on which international markets you sell in, the same product but with smaller packaging can appeal more to your buyers. In certain countries, the buyer or distributor is responsible for the costs of collecting, sorting, transporting, and recycling packaging materials. This makes packaging an important aspect to consider not only for marketing, but also for your cost-savings strategy.
When using inner cartons packed inside a master carton, use a cardboard that is sturdy enough to allow for normal handling in the warehouse. Inner cartons should not easily tear, or break apart.
Specifications are difficult to define since each product has a different weight and size, but you should use good judgment for packaging your products. If there are any concerns about the ability of the inner carton to sufficiently protect the product, run a test order.
Sealing tape must be at least 2 inches wide and used on all open sides to properly seal cartons. Do not use tape or band two cartons together to make a case pack. All cases should be in their own individual cartons and/or plastic bags.
Cartons and other packaging must sufficiently protect your product from damage during inbound transit and receiving by a Shipwire warehouse.
- Master cartons with contents <70 lbs. (31.75kg) must use double-wall corrugate.
- Master cartons with contents >70 lbs. (31.75kg) must use triple-wall corrugate.
- Cartons must score a minimum of 200 lb. on the bursting strength test and 32 ECT on the edge crush test.
- Cartons and packaging used for parcel shipping (non-freight) should be designed to protect their contents from a 4 ft (1.2 m) fall.
- A master carton should not arrive with mixed products inside. If mixing is necessary, one master carton should not have a mixture of more than 10 different products because it will delay the receiving time and possibly incur hourly receiving costs depending on complexity.
- Any carton of 2 or more mixed individual products should include a packing list for that specific carton.
A packing list is required for packages that are sent to Shipwire warehouses. A packing list is automatically generated when you create a receiving order in your Shipwire account.
- The packing list should be clear and indicate exactly how many boxes, cartons, and containers are arriving, and the contents of each of these.
- The packing list should match the contents of the ASN.
- A master carton should not arrive with mixed products inside, but if mixing is necessary, include a specific packing list for that master carton.
Pallets generally have to comply with local standards. US Customs and the US FDA have specific requirements around the type of pallet used for shipping. Typically, hardwood or plastic pallets will meet standards. Softwood pallets must be fumigated and you or your customs broker will need a certificate attesting to the fumigation. Please contact the Shipwire Care Care team or your customs broker before shipping if you have any questions.
Merchants are responsible for ensuring that merchandise is sufficiently protected from damage during transit and delivery to a Shipwire distribution center. This requires shipping cartons that are adequately packed for shipment.
- For cartons containing glass or plastic bottles, use dividers to protect the merchandise from breakage or crushing. Fragile items should be individually packed in cartons that will protect them from being damaged.
- Unless otherwise specified, do not use any fillers such as confetti paper, cardboard, tissue paper, etc., to fill up empty space within the cartons. Void fill should be limited to inflated air bags, packing peanuts, or kraft paper.
4-foot drop test
Products or packaging that are susceptible to damage through ordinary handling or extended storage must be able to pass a 4-foot drop test onto a hard surface without the product breaking.
Doing this test on your packaging ensures that your products will be able to withstand typical impacts during handling and shipping. A typical drop test consists of five drops:
- flat on base
- flat on top
- flat on longest side
- flat on shortest side
- on a corner
If your packaging can safely withstand these tests, it has passed the 4-foot drop test and can be used to safely ship your products.
Any shippable product must be able to withstand a full minute vigorous shaking (FMVS) test without any contents breaking
These guidelines should be followed for plastic bags used as protection during shipment and removed when the product is received in the warehouse. These requirements do not apply to plastic bags used as display packaging.
- Plastic bags used for products sent to Shipwire warehouses must comply with all federal, state, and local laws.
- Do not package toys in bags that stretch to more than 14 inches in neck circumference, or to more than 23 inches when the stretched neck circumference and the bag’s length are combined.
- For apparel, use low-density, recyclable, polyethylene dry-cleaning style bags 1mm in thickness. Contents should be easily removed from these bags.
Oversized and/or heavy individually packed items
Cartons, or individual items larger than 18 inches (45.7 cm) in any two dimensions (e.g. length and width), and/or with weight greater than 28 lbs (12.7 kg) are considered oversized.
Oversized items may incur additional receiving charges. Please contact our customer care team if you have any concerns or questions about your product.
Oversized cartons or items should be sufficiently packed to withstand pressure incurred through the normal course of handling heavier items. These items should be able to sustain being moved, or handled with equipment including, but not limited to: forklifts, pallet jacks, clamp trucks, conveyors, hand trucks, and sortation equipment.
Wrap all items at high or moderate risk of damage individually.
To evaluate your damage risk, consider both your product’s replacement cost, and the likelihood of damage. Valuable consumer electronics would typically be considered high risk. Apparel is typically considered low-risk.
For any high-value product that is not covered by insurance (e.g. fragile products), adequate packaging is your damage insurance.
Ensure any fragile product is marked as such when you configure your Shipwire product catalog.
Wrap products that are subject to color-fading such as leather products in polybags instead of paper.
Include a silica gel pack if your product is sensitive to moisture.
Ensure that any packaging used for toys is not hazardous to children.
Quick links to carrier-specified best-practices: