Suffering Too Much Transit Damage?
Identifying the tell-tale signs your business could benefit from using foam inserts
There are many ways in which product or equipment damage can trip you up.
Picture the scene.
You are working on an important project. It is imperative that your team working on site do not experience any delays. Then you get the call. The specialist equipment they need has shown up, but it is not working.
So now you have to source a replacement, deal with the admin of returning the broken unit, and all the while your team of engineers or field staff are sat twiddling their thumbs with nothing to.
However, this is not the only way that items – be they products, specialist tools or equipment, or even parts and components – becoming damaged can cause you problems.
What about your customers receiving faulty items? What about the admin of rectifying this? The cost of replacements? The cost of the written off items that cannot be repaired or resold?
What about the cost to your business of their complaints, reluctance to place their repeat business with you and the damage to your reputation?
This is why effective transit protection – and the use of protective foam inserts – can have such a large impact on your business.
What is protective foam?
Protective foam inserts can actually take many forms.
However, at the other end of the scale, you have high-performance foams – those that can be designed and engineered to have precisely tailored levels of cushioning protection.
These foam inserts – usually manufactured from Plastazote – are what is needed if you are shipping (or indeed transporting in any way) high-value products, specialist kit and highly calibrated or delicate equipment.
Combined with a suitable protective case to protect from water ingress, dust, rough handling, impact etc., it can be the difference between your items arriving intact at your customer – or your field staff – or being damaged.
The 6 signs you need protective foam
But how can you tell if you should be using protective foam inserts?
Well, there are usually a number of tell-tale signs, or specific factors relevant to your business, that can help you decipher if they could help your operations.
These are as follows:
High volume of returns
Value / volume of items sent
Wasted time on site
Please continue reading for further information on how these can help you ascertain whether you need to consider using high-performance foam protection in your business.
High volume of returns
Returns are bad news for your business.
A damaged item arriving with your customers not only frustrates them, but they also have the additional hassle and admin of organising the return and replacement (hassle and admin you will also incur).
And whilst some level s of returns will always be likely if this becomes common – or even relatively frequent – it can seriously damage your customer relationships.
More seriously, this can lead to loss of customer, loss of repeat business, and irreparable damage to your company reputation and perception.
This is in addition to the actual cost of the damaged items if they cannot be repaired / resold, as well as the delivery costs incurred (which are effectively wasted spend too)
This is why a level of damages in transit – and the associated customer returns – can be a sign that you need to consider using foam protection.
Unfortunately, there are a number of other factors that make ascertaining the correct type and application of foam a bit more complicated (which are covered later in this article).
However, if you are sending out rare, very high value, specialist or “business critical” parts or equipment, then the potential cost of not using engineered foam inserts is considerably higher than that of implementing them.
Volume / value of items sent
As mentioned in the last point, one of the key considerations when weighing up whether to use foam inserts is the value and volume of items that you are sending.
For example, if you are increasingly finding that you are sending low volumes of very high-value items, then custom foam inserts (and potentially appropriate cases too) are almost certain to be a good fit for your business.
However, mid-volume items (such as TVs or automotive parts) that are sent in high volumes may require a lower quality of foam packaging that can be mass produced more cost effectively such as Stratocell (compared with intricate Plastazote inserts at least).
The exception to this is if multiple parts are being sent in single containers as part of a manufacturing supply chain, whereby foam dunnage and dividers can make a huge difference to the number of parts or components being rejected.
At the bottom end of the scale – low-ish volume items being sent in very high volumes – foam is unlikely to be a suitable solution.
Saying that transit damage can still eat away at profits (and reputation) in this scenario, but solutions such as corrugated packaging cradles or inserts are likely to be successful whilst remaining cost effective.
The bottom line is that you need an understanding of whether the cost of the differing types of foam will be offset by the reduction in transit damage achieved.
Returns on their own may not actually be an issue.
It is nigh on impossible to completely and utterly reduce transit damage, although engineered foam inserts will get as close to eradicating this as possible.
In essence, your customers should understand that, from time to time, damage may occur.
You should, however, be concerned when this happens so frequently that your customers begin to complain.
This indicates firstly that they are receiving enough goods from you to notice a trend (i.e. the damage is happening regularly enough for it to be noticed), and that your transit cases and / or packaging simply isn’t up to scratch.
Of course, the next logical step from customers complaining regularly is for them to place their business elsewhere.
Wasted time on site
Transit damage will not only affect your customers directly, however. A key issue that your business may be experiencing is time being wasted on site by your field engineers / technicians.
For example, you sent a couple of staff members to fix a customers equipment that you originally manufactured / supplied. The fact that this equipment isn’t working isn’t a good start, but it may not be your fault (it may even be routine maintenance).
However, your team gets on site, start to work and then find a crucial tool or their own equipment is either not working or is not calibrated correctly.
Effectively, they cannot do their job.
So their journey is wasted. Their wages still need to be paid even though they haven’t been able to achieve what they needed to. Another job will now have to wait whilst this one is rescheduled. Your customer still hasn’t had their equipment fixed. And you now have equipment that needs to be fixed or replaced too.
All of this incurs a cost. And this is why it is crucial for your own toolkits and equipment to be protected as well.
High-performance cases and foam case inserts will certainly go a long way in helping to avoid this problem, and will also have the added benefit of improving your company’s reputation as reliable, efficient and worth doing business with.
There is another major cost frequently seen with staff working on location that can be massively reduced through using foam inserts.
Lost tools or equipment.
It is surprisingly common for items to be left behind or mislaid on-site accidently. Maybe your staff are strapped for time and rushing to their next job. Maybe the tool is quite a small and easy to miss. Maybe it is difficult to tell at a glance if all items have been repacked – so it just assumed they have been (even if this isn’t the case).
But how can foam help with this?
The answer is shadowboards, also referred to as tool control foam.
These are effective inserts for tool boxes and equipment cases that use two-tone foam to quickly highlight if a tool hasn’t been put back.
Originally developed for the aerospace industry (to avoid the potential catastrophe of tools being left inside an aircraft engine), this actually has a number of other benefits too.
As well as not leaving tools on site, your staff can also ensure that they do not set off to a job without all of the required kit (which would result in delays / wasted journeys). Even if they do this already, shadow foam makes this a much quicker and easier process, saving time and boosting productivity.
Similarly to this, the foam can also be laser etched with part numbers and info. This can help your field staff tell the difference between tools that look very similar much more quickly, again boosting productivity.
So if wasted time and the efficiency of your staff is becoming a concern, foam inserts could actually help with this too.
Business or mission critical applications
Sometimes the value of the product being shipped isn’t actually the most relevant consideration.
For example, a critical medical device that is needed urgently but arrives damaged could be the difference between life and death.
You could make a similar argument for any tool or equipment being sent to a war zone or military application, whilst there are situations where specific equipment arriving undamaged could be critical in preventing environmental disasters (think offshore drilling).
In these situations, whilst the items itself may be replaceable easily, a person’s life (or environment) cannot.
If this applies to your market or industry, then foam inserts are critical in ensuring any business or mission critical items arrive in the condition in which they were sent.
Even at a much less serious level, if your equipment arriving damaged halts production lines of a large manufacturer, the cost implications (and potential penalties you may face too) could be extremely significant.
As a result, it is important to take a holistic view of the impacts of items being damaged in transit before deciding whether you require high-performance protective foam inserts for your shipping cases and operations.
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Should you be using protective foam inserts?
Foam inserts for cases and/or packaging can have a potentially huge impact on your business.
And whilst the headline figure will always be the amount of cost you have been able to eliminate through reducing damage, the secondary benefits – such as increased repeat business, satisfied customers and brand reputation – can be just as significant as well.