BlogReducing Supply Chain DamageProduct damage during transportation often occurs via forklift

It’s normal for some products to be damaged during their journey from the manufacturer to the retailer. In fact, one important task of retail managers is to inspect incoming shipments for damaged products and intercept the damaged goods before they can enter inventory. Later they’ll record the product data and arrange to ship the damaged goods back to the distribution center for a refund to their store’s accounts. Product damage during transportation is so common that some store managers will arrange to order extra product just to ensure that they have enough sellable inventory on hand to meet their customer’s demands, even though this is usually against corporate policy.

Many businesses simply accept product damage during transportation as a normal part of their operations. It has become a pre-calculated part of the Total Cost of Business (TCOB). However, technology is always improving, and transportation managers and logistics coordinators will find that if they put the effort into reducing product damage they can boost efficiency, reduce costs, and make their jobs a lot easier.

Causes of Product Damage During Transportation

Product damage during transportThe biggest cause of damage during transportation is load shifting. This may occur when products are stacked incorrectly. If one package moves, then other packages on the pallet can be shifted out of place. These pallets, in turn, shift other products out of place until the entire pallet load becomes unstable. Once out of place, all it takes to crush or otherwise damage these products is for the truck that’s carrying them to make a sudden stop or go up a steep hill. At that point the weight may be transferred to points in the load that are not able to take the strain, resulting in crushed packages, squished produce, or broken beverage containers.

Most manufacturers and distributors take measures to prevent this sort of shifting. They carefully pack the loads in the recommended way, then wrap the pallet load with shrink wrap to hold everything in place. Unfortunately, these measures aren’t 100 percent effective. Product damage can still occur due to:

  • Improper Packing: Packing products isn’t an exact science, especially at distribution centers where loads coming from manufacturers are broken apart to make mixed product loads that will be shipped to retail stores. Canned food, beverages in boxes, and paper goods can all end up on the same pallet, and there may not be a foolproof way to pack these all together and ensure they do not shift. Wrapping a load too tightly may crush products and not wrapping it tightly enough can allow the load to shift; either mistake can cause product damage during transportation.
  • Forklift Damage: Forklifts can damage a pallet or the product on it when they lift pallets. Bagged products can slip between the boards of a wood pallet deck and be snagged by the forks, which may tear the bag and cause the load to shift as product empties out of the damaged bag. An inattentive operator in a hurry can also short fork a pallet—bring the ends of the fork up against the deck before making it through the pallet—and damage the load, the pallet, or both.
  • Pallet Damage: Wood pallets themselves can become damaged during the course of their operational life, and while warehouse workers make the effort to sort out pallets that are too damaged to be used, inevitably some will slip through. A board that breaks or comes loose when the pallet is packed or moved might not be noticed. Later, the damaged surface can move during transport, causing the load to shift and ultimately leading to product damage.

One way to deal with product damage during transportation is better staff training. Giving warehouse workers a clearer idea of how to properly pack pallets for shipment will reduce product damage if only by a few percentage points. But those percentage points over a year or more of operation will add up to a significant cost reduction, making the extra training well worth the time spent. However, this alone isn’t enough. Combining extra training with more reliable equipment will do more to reduce incidences of product damage and lower TCOB over time.

Reducing Product Damage With Better Equipment

How to Reduce Product Damage in the Warehouse with Plastic PalletsIn order to prevent product shifting, almost all pallet loads are wrapped in clear plastic stretch wrap. The quality and amount of this wrap can make a big difference on its effectiveness, as can its compatibility with the method you’re using to wrap loads. If your employees are hand-wrapping loads using a roll of stretch wrap that was designed for use with an automatic stretch wrapper machine, then you may have issues. The same is true if your palletizer has been filled with stretch wrap that’s meant to be used for manual wrapping. Incremental observations and changes like this can create a big reduction in product damage during transportation.

Using a more durable pallet…can save companies anywhere from $0.15 to $0.70 cents per pallet.

Another equipment upgrade that can reduce damage is an improved shipping platform. Wood pallets are prone to damage that in turn can lead to product damage during transportation, including from protruding nails and splinters. In fact, 12.5% of product damage in all legs of transportation can be attributed to pallet defects. Using a more durable pallet that can better stand up to rough handling results in a large reduction in product damage that can save companies anywhere from $0.15 to $0.70 cents per pallet load. Given the number of pallets that ship out on a trailer and the number of shipments per year, these savings add up quickly. The durability of plastic pallets–they’re able to make 80 to 100 trips through the supply chain compared to a wood pallet’s 15 to 20–helps your products get to their final destination intact and reduces product damage across your supply chain as a whole.

Plastic pallets reduce product damage in other ways, too. Their durability helps reduce debris and other detritus in transportation and warehouses spaces that can damage loading equipment. Plastic is also impermeable to fluids, which limits the spread of product and chemical spills and as a result improves hygiene and prevents chemical contamination. By removing the variables of typical wood pallets, high-quality plastic pallets keep your trailers, warehouses, and products clean, safe, and intact.

The iGPS plastic pallet is a robust non-absorbent GMA spec plastic pallet with a full deck to help secure products. Reduce product damage during transportation by giving our team a call at 1-800-884-0225, emailing a specialist at [email protected], or visiting our contact page.