Importers often give much attention to product quality control when it comes to checking design, appearance, function and features. But a lack of attention paid to packaging quality control is most often to blame when a product is damaged or delayed during transit. And it’s a shame because other checks performed during product inspection become irrelevant when your product doesn’t survive the long journey abroad.
Your end consumer may be tearing apart and then discarding your packaging as soon as they get their hands on your product. But that doesn’t mean you should rush through determining your packaging requirements with little regard for materials, assortment and inspection. Thankfully, there are several easy packaging checks you can perform during inspection to help you confirm whether your product will reach your customers undamaged and on time.
1. Verify package assortment and quantities
Most small consumer products are packed in mass in larger shipping cartons for transport and warehousing. And in large retailer warehouses, staff won’t necessarily scan every individual product that comes into their warehouse. Rather, they may just scan one unit and input the number listed on the carton for inventory.
But just because warehouse staff might not meticulously count each product doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your order quantity and assortment as it leaves the factory. Ensuring you receive the right number of units per SKU is essential for keeping track of your inventory and meeting customer demand. You don’t want your product to be unexpectedly backordered right before a big holiday rush. And you certainly don’t want to receive a smaller quantity of goods from your supplier than you paid for.
An independent or third-party inspector can visit your supplier’s facility and confirm your order quantity and assortment on-site during final inspection. If you’re packing similar, but not identical, SKUs within the same carton, it’s important to check the number and proportion of each SKU packed.
2. Check sealing method and packaging materials
Sealing, strapping and binding methods can influence your packaging’s structural integrity and durability against external elements.
A QC checklist with detailed packaging requirements helps your suppliers understand your expectations and makes it easy to confirm them later during inspection. For example, depending on your experiences with international shipping, you might have a personal preference for a certain type of strapping method for your cartons. Metal bands are typically stronger than plastic bands, but they also have the potential to rust. Plastic strapping is also lightweight and easy to work with and dispose of.
You may also choose to specify the sealing method of inner cartons and polybags in your checklist. Even if your shipping carton is adequately sealed, the products inside could be damaged if they jostle excessively during shipment. Polybags can be sealed in a number of ways, from vacuum sealing by a machine to a simple piece of tape placed over the opening. Any point worth checking is worth including in a QC checklist you provide to your supplier and inspection team.
3. Check shipping marks and barcodes
You’re much more likely to face shipping delays if carton markings or barcodes are incorrect, missing or illegible. And yet the presence of incorrect shipping marks or barcodes is one of the most common defects found during packaging inspection. Luckily, you or your inspector can easily check markings and barcodes with only very basic equipment needed.
4. Carton drop test
Some stress on your product during its shipping and handling process is unavoidable. But the consequences resulting from inadequate packaging can range from minor packaging and product damage, to customer returns or outright refusal by your distributors to stock your product. And what better way to put your packaging durability to the test than to simulate the stresses of shipping and handling?
A carton drop test is a basic on-site test that inspectors can carry out in any facility for most packaged products. The test mimics the rough handling that cartons might be subjected to throughout shipment through a series of drops. The International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) has established some guidelines and procedures for how to conduct a drop test for reliable results.
5. Check for compliance with retailer and brand packaging requirements
Many retailers face problems with overcrowded warehouses, especially as a shift towards ecommerce has led to reduced inventories. The result has been a shift of responsibility, as retailers now hold their suppliers, importers like you, accountable for meeting their packaging requirements. And these retailers will sometimes charge their suppliers extra fees when their packaging violates these requirements.