GWP Group Logo
GWP Group Logo
Phone GWP Group - 01793 754 444
01793 754 444
Mon - Fri / 08.00 - 17.00
Email GWP Group -
Free advice and quotes
GWP Packaging

Corrugated cardboard packaging expertise and innovation

GWP Protective

Widest range of protective cases with custom foam in the UK


UK leading independent Correx® packaging manufacturer

GWP Conductive

Providing cutting edge ESD safe packaging for 30+ years

GWP Coatings

Supplying sheet plants with coated corrugated material

Reduce packaging costs

A range of strategies and ideas to reduce your ongoing packaging costs

Protective packaging

Protection for your products and equipment to prevent costly damage in transit

Improve packaging efficiency

Streamline your operations, enhancing efficiency and productivity

Environmentally friendly packaging

Minimise the environmental impact of your packaging and business

Packaging design service

Custom packaging to your exact requirements, designed by an award winning team

Packaging guides and blog

A range of guides, tips and detailed articles to improve your packaging

Case studies

Examples of successful packaging, and how your business can benefit

Packaging markets

Specific industry knowledge and expertise relevant to your business

Quality standards

Accreditations / standards to ensure you get the highest packaging quality

Packaging news at GWP

The latest news, events and community projects happening at GWP Group

The 6 tell-tale signs you need protective foam inserts

Ian Heskins: Last Updated 16th February 2024
Posted In: Guides and Advice | Transit Protection xx 31628

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 are foam inserts
Foam inserts can have a significant impact on your business - from preventing damage to reducing wasted time on site and more

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.

Quick Reference / Contents

01: What is Protective Foam?

An explanation of closed cell foam materials

Protective foam inserts can actually take many forms.

You have received consumer items such as TVs or kitchen equipment that comes with foam protectors attached (usually manufactured from foams such as Stratocell or Ethafoam).

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® polyethylene foam – 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.

Protective foam inserts
Protective foam inserts - such as those manufactured from Plastazote® - can be calculated to give specific levels of protection

02: Should You Use Foam Inserts?

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
  • Customer complaints
  • Lost items
  • Wasted time on site
  • Mission critical

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.

03: High Volume of Returns

Problems with increased costs and upset customers

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 levels 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.

Transit damage
Customer returns due to transit damage not only damages your business financially, but also harms your reputation

04: Volume / Value of Items Sent

Are you shipping lots of expensive products / equipment?

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 different types of foam will be offset by the reduction in transit damage achieved.

05: Customer Complaints

Failure to keep customers happy (and risking repeat business)

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.

Customer complaints
Customer complaints will increase in likelihood if you continually supply damaged products

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.

06: Wasted Time on Site

Damaged kit causing delays for employees

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.

Wasted time on site
Wasted time on site can cost your business thousands of pounds in lost productivity

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.

07: Lost Items

Expensive tools or equipment becoming lost

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).

Lost equipment
The cost of lost tools and equipment can quickly add up, but is something that certain types of foam insert can help to mitigate

08: Business or Mission Critical Applications

Scenarios where equipment simply cannot fail

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.

Business critical
If you have business critical tools or equipment (or indeed something that if broken could risk lives) then adequate protection should be of paramount importance

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.

In Summary

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.

Further Reading...

About the Author

Ian Heskins

Ian Heskins

Business Development Director | GWP Group

Ian is one of the founding Directors of GWP, using his broad knowledge acquired over more than 30 years to oversee new business strategy [Read full bio…]

Featured Products

View the cases in this guide...

Get in Touch...

We're here to help!

    For full details on how GWP will treat your data, please view our Privacy Policy. Your info will not be shared with any third party.

    Related Guides

    Free PDF Download

    GWP Protective Guide

    15 Crucial Considerations for Protecting Your Items

    Get your free guide on the 15 points affecting protection of high value products or equipment.

    Phone GWP Group

    01793 754 444

    Mon – Fri 08.00 – 17.00

    Email GWP Group

    Email a packaging expert

    Think that foam inserts could help your business? Then please speak with one of our advisers today