In whatever form goods are, they are usually packaged to allow for easy handling and storage. Packaging refers to the system of preparing goods for transportation, warehousing and use. Packaging performs three fundamental functions; which are protection, preservation and presentation.
The ability of freight forwarders or logistics service provider to properly and efficiently handle goods depends largely on a clear understanding of the characteristics and unique features of the goods. This ensures that unnecessary costs and risks are minimised and eliminated.
The first two functions are associated with logistics while the latter relates to marketing. Packaging is therefore of the utmost importance in physical distribution. It should be designed in such a way as to enhance the flow of the distribution process rather than delay it. Specifically, it should be targeted at achieving the following objectives:
a) To provide a clear and easy identity for the goods while not exposing the actual contents of the package. For example, it should indicate that the goods are medical equipment without stating what they are used for. It should also indicate that the goods are fragile or hazardous so that proper care is taken when handling the goods.
b) It should be of a shape that can optimise space because packaging can affect shipping cost which is usually calculated on the basis of space occupied.
Packages that are cubic in shape are easier to handle than those that have awkward geometric. A lot of savings can be made on freight, especially when shipping with parcels carriers who apply special handling charges and surcharges for awkward goods. Extra handling charges can be avoided if goods are put in cartons that allow them to be placed in conveyors rather than have them in their irregular shapes.
c) It should provide physical protection for goods against weather, contamination, compression, vibration, shocks, pilferage etc. If the goods are sensitive to light or temperature, packaging should be made to offer adequate protection.
d)It should prevent goods from causing damage to goods such as chemicals and harmful gases should be sufficiently packed to avoid leakages.
e) It should embrace the concept of unitization which is the conversion of many small units into single large units so as to reduce manual handling and allow for mechanical handling or automation. Unitization is an effective means of achieving lower handling costs. The more homogenous in terms of makeup, the lower the handling cost and so the freight. Freight consignments also translate to less documentation.
f) Where cargo movement will require multimodal transportation, packaging should be done to cover all modes. For example packages for road and or rail transportation may require additional bracing for the sea transportation leg of the journey.
With a good knowledge of the nature of the goods and the types of packaging required, efficient handling which allows for cost reduction and safety can be achieved.