Imagine if your factory made a serious error in the retail packaging and misspelled the name of your product. Not a good first impression, right? Worse still, imagine if your product was damaged during transit and didn’t even make it to the retail shelf because your supplier’s factory didn’t ship it with the proper protective packaging.

Damaged or defective products can be a major drain on your company’s profits when they’re unsellable. Packaging inspection before shipping is vital to catching defects related to packaging and ensuring your products reach their destination on time and in the best condition.

So, what issues should you or your inspector look for during packaging inspection? Let’s take a look at the three most common defects found during inspection, their consequences and what you can do to fix them.

1. Incorrect or missing shipping markings and barcodes

You probably have specific requirements for labeling your packaging with appropriate markings and barcodes. Logistics companies, customs officials and warehouse staff all use this information to efficiently ship your products from their country of origin to the hands of your end consumers. And you could face customs delays or outright refusal from distributors to stock your goods if your packaging is mislabeled.

How can you prevent and address incorrect or missing shipping markings?

Professional, third-party inspectors will typically check shipping marks against your provided requirements using a QC checklist. They’ll also carry a handheld barcode scanner to scan barcodes and check them against your specified barcode numbers. If you’re using AQL for inspection, your QC checklist might include the defect classifications related to shipping marks and barcodes.

2. Incorrect packing method

Imagine you’re importing delicate ceramic bowls from your factory in China and shipping them directly to an Amazon warehouse for distribution. One day you get a call from your distribution contact who tells you most of the bowls were cracked and chipped on delivery. You later discovered the bowls were damaged during shipping because factory workers packed them incorrectly in their cartons.

How can you address incorrect packaging assortment?

If you’re facing problems related to poor quality packaging materials, this might be your supplier’s attempt to cut costs. And your supplier might opt for a lower quality material if you haven’t clearly specified the packaging materials you’d like the factory to use for your product. Provide your suppliers with a detailed QC checklist before production that includes your requirements for packaging assortment and materials. You can also ask your supplier to provide a sample of packaging and photos of the packing method for your review.

As with verifying other requirements, insist on inspecting the product and packaging before shipping. If the factory didn’t have the correct packaging materials in the first place, it could take additional days to order these materials from their sub-suppliers. But this delay is often worthwhile if it means your products will be shipped in the correct packaging.

3. Incorrect spelling, wording or graphics on retail packaging

Many importers invest significant time and money to design retail packaging that customers will find appealing. Some would even argue that the quality of retail packaging is almost as important in making a sale as the quality of the product itself. High quality and customized packaging can make your product appeal to premium buyers. Customers today even share videos on social media of them unpacking, or “unboxing”, new products, especially high-tech consumer products or premium fashion products.

How can you avoid packaging defects related to wording or graphics?

Most retail packaging issues can be avoided by providing suppliers with clear requirements upfront. Any serious issues found during inspection of retail packaging might require reprinting of all or most of the affected retail packaging materials. The following steps can help you avoid a mistake in retail packaging from appearing in mass in your finished products:

Ask your supplier to send you the printing file for review before mass printing.

Ask your supplier to send you packaging samples for approval before mass printing (these will also be helpful later during inspection).

Check packaging against a golden sample during pre-shipment inspection.


These are the three most common defects you might find during packaging inspection, but there are others. And the defects you find will likely vary based on your product type. Small consumer products for retail are often packaged in blister packs, while bags are usually packaged in polybags. Some small industrial components may not be individually packaged at all, but rather packed together in boxes by the tens or hundreds.

Regardless of your product type, an inspection should be comprehensive enough to include checks of all applicable retail packaging, polybags, inner cartons and master cartons. Otherwise, you might find yourself in danger of product damage, shipment delays or even unsellable goods – an importer’s worst nightmare.


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