Packing and Shipping Supplies Tips

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Why should I use plastic straps instead of steel straps on my automatic strapping machine?

Straps for Strapping Machines

Whether you use an automatic strapping machine or semi-automatic strapping machine, you have a choice of two kinds of straps: steel or plastic. Here are examples of the two so you can better decide which fits your needs, courtesy of

Plastic straps:

  • Polypropylene -- best suited to light and medium duty applications. Polypropylene resists splitting and has a smooth, uniform surface with an elastic memory to absorb shock and keep straps tight
  • Polyester -- best suited to medium and heavy duty applications. Polyester provides superior retained tension under hot, humid conditions. Provides greater load stability and is more tear and snag resistant than other plastic strapping materials
  • High-strength polyester -- best suited to heavy duty applications
Steel straps:

  • Magnus -- a cold-rolled, medium carbon steel with high strength and excellent shock resistance
  • Apex plus -- a cold-rolled, low carbon steel with superior edge conditioning and coating
Companies such as beacontechnology and offer strapping machines with plastic straps. Here is why plastic wraps are better than steel straps, according to

  • Less expensive than steel
  • Low volume cost (shipping)
  • Less coil change during production
  • High strap tension
  • Good impact resistance
  • Good retained tension even loads move or shrink
  • No corner damage of the load (low friction)
  • No rust marks on product
  • Equal corner tension distribution
  • Non-metallic material and therefore non corrosive
  • Resists to high degree environmental influences
  • Easy handling for disposal or recycling process
  • Much safer than steel (less safety hazards)
  • Does not snap back when cut

What can an automatic strapping machine do?

What an Automatic Strapping Machine Can Do

Automatic strapping machines are efficient types of packaging equipment. According to, these machines can:

  • Dispense, tighten and seal straps around bundles or packages
  • Minimize packaging time
  • Use a secure heat weld to join the ends when the straps are inserted
  • Be portable
  • Turn themselves off when not in use and automatically restart when additional strapping is inserted
  • Come in black, clear or white
  • Cost between $800 and $3,400

Why does OSHA recommend using a machine to stretch wrap pallets?

Keep Employees Safe With a Pallet Stretch Wrapper

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) warns that manually stretch wrapping pallets can injure workers. That is why OSHA recommends using a machine such as a pallet stretch wrapper instead of man power to perform these acts at your place of work. OSHA is concerned about the following when it comes to injuries at the workplace over manually stretch wrapping pallets:

  • Back injury: employees may be injured when wrapping a load in plastic for transit because they must bend at the waist to wrap the bottom of the pallets while supporting the plastic dispenser.
  • Finger injury: employees can also cut their fingers because they often stick their fingers into the open end of the tubes to stream off the wrap.

Do I need custom mailing containers?

Custom Boxes

If you pack and ship specialized equipment, delicate materials, or other items with special shipping needs, a custom shipping box might be just what you need to make sure your mail arrives safely at the destination. There are companies that specify in custom boxes, including die-cut boxes and UN-approved packaging. Many retailers turn to these custom boxes, but those in the material handling industry may also find themselves in need of such customized containers. Some companies make custom cases of more durable material such as plastic and metal, but these are designed as carrying cases first. However, if you have especially sensitive materials with limited mailing needs, you may wish to consider such rugged cases to additional protection, if the situation warrants.

I use palletized cargo frequently--should I invest in a stretch wrap machine?

The Stretch Wrap Machine--Protecting Your Cargo Against Moisture and Pilferage

A stretch wrap machine can increase efficiency in your shipping department by partially automating the process. The stretch wrap machine can wrap palletized cargo as a unit to protect it from rain, moisture and other damaging factors.

Stretch wrapping also makes the shipment more secure from theft or pilferage by sealing many boxes or packages together as a unit. A stretch wrap machine is an excellent investment for shipping and mailing operations with enough volume. These units come with a powered turntable for easy wrapping operations and a counter balanced film mast, and the units have an 'approach ramp' option to allow loading and unloading with a pallet jack.

What Should I Do About International Shipping?

International Shippping

If you need to start shipping or receiving internationally, there are a number of things you need to be concerned with. Some are a matter of simply purchasing the right supplies for the job; large, appropriately marked labels, crush-proof boxes, and plastic wrap for the contents of your shipping. The plastic wrap is especially important because your shipment may be exposed to rain, sea spray, and other weather conditions as goods are unloaded from ships and aircraft in the destination country. You should also take advantage of the helpful information provided by, the Canadian International Freight Forwarder's Association. There you can find help navigating the complicated laws that govern shipping overseas, liability issues, and damage claim regulations.

What is a "drop-n-tell" indicator?

What Is A "Drop-N-Tell?"

A “drop-n-tell” indicator is something applied to a mailing carton or box that will alert the recipient of shock damage to the box during transit. These indicators often come with labels designed to alert shippers and receivers to the indicators. Using such indicators can improve your chances of a successful insurance claim against a negligent carrier or in case of an accident in transit where your goods are involved. If you frequently ship high-risk materials or have had a string of problems with damaged mail, this may be an excellent deterrent.

Should I use tamper seals on my shipments?

Tamper Seals

If you routinely ship sensitive information or materials, it's a very good idea to add a tamper seal around the edges of all mailing containers. This makes tampering much more difficult. Government inspectors in airports and mail facilities will include a notification of inspection if they are required to open your mailing. Your tamper seals will be broken in this case, but if your recipient sees no official notice inside the package, it's safe to assume the box has been compromised. Tamper seals are very effective; being one of the methods U.S. Customs uses to prevent theft in overseas moves for government employees and military members.

Can I get my company logo printed on my shipping boxes?

Branding On Your Shipping Boxes

Some companies feel the need to put their brand on everything that leaves the warehouse, including the mail. If increasing your company brand is an increasing concern, there are companies that specialize in printing logos on shipping containers. If you require more heavy-duty packing material, consider purchasing custom labels to stick on the side of your boxes. Either way, you will increase your brand visibility through your shipping operation. If you choose the less-expensive label option, remember to order the more heavy-duty weather-proof stickers, as they offer maximum “survivability” during shipment.

What is a "double-wall" shipping box?

Heavy Mail

If you need to pack and ship heavy items on a regular basis, consider a bulk purchase of double-wall corrugated boxes where appropriate. These are much stronger than their single-wall counterparts. A single-wall box that can carry 20 pounds of material is outclassed by a double-wall box of the same size, which can handle a whopping 80 pounds in the same size box! Getting these extra-strength boxes insures greater protection to your mailings, and also increases your chances of a successful claim should your shipment be damaged in transit.

How can I reuse the plastic from palletized loads and other matieral?

Recycling Can Save More Than The Environment

Recycling can save you good money on packing and shipping supplies. If you are constantly disposing of plastic wrapping, Styrofoam peanuts, and other materials, consider creating a mailroom recycling bin for these items. They can be easily re-utilized as packing materials, saving you for ordering additional packing for many mailing needs. If you are returning defective items, for example, you can definitely use such recyclables. They may not be suitable for mailing items to your customers, but there are plenty of shipping needs that can include recycled or creative shipping supplies.

Can shrink wrapping add any protection for my shipments?

Shrink Wrap It!

Many shops find their packing supplies inventory is in dire need of a shrink wrapping heat gun. These propane powered guns make the shrink wrap process a breeze. Many people only associate shrink wrapping with items you purchase in the store like CDs and DVDs. But shrink wrapping as an enhancement to your packing supplies can give sensitive items such as computer monitors or circuitry an extra layer of protection in transit.

Computer boxes are frequently shrink wrapped before shipping; you may wish to use the same precautions in your own operation by adding shrink wrapping to your packing supplies.

Should I shrink-wrap and prepack on site? What's the advantage of buying my supplies in bulk?

Packing and Shipping Supplies-Buying In Bulk Is Best

There are a wide variety of packing and shipping supplies commercially available to make your operation run more smoothly; both machinery such as parts scales, stretch wrapping machines and shrink wrap heat guns.

There are also consumables such as high strength steel wrapping and stretch film rolls. The advantage of buying these from an industrial supplier is that you will save money purchasing in bulk.

Shrink wrapping not only protects your shipped items, it also gives a very professional look when the shipment arrives at its final destination. Buying bulk rolls of shrink wrapping will let you do mass-mailing and shipping with no interruptions for resupply.

What kinds of miscellaneous purchases should I consider for my shipping operation?

Additional Packing and Shipping Solutions To Consider

Your packing and shipping supplies list may also need to include 'safety items' such as corner protectors if your shipping area has machine traffic. You may wish to insure packages waiting on shelves to be shipped have that extra bit of protection against accidental damage from forklift tires or dolly edges.

Some other packing and shipping supplies include the digital floor scale; this unit comes rated up to five thousand pounds. This is the perfect solution for packing operations that do high weight and volume shipping.

You may also want to stock up on stretch wrap film before your heaviest shipping season. Having too much is far better than not enough. Stretch wrap operations also require box cutters and replacement blades--a bulk purchase of these items is also a good idea if your budget allows.

What is "mark-over" spray?

Recycling Stencilled Mailing Boxes

If your packing and shipping department gets a lot of incoming boxes, you can recycle them even if they are stenciled with company logos from other manufacturers. This is possible thanks to fast-drying stencil spray or mark-over spray, specially designed to be non-smearing. Many of these sprays dry within three minutes of application and you can even purchase an optional spray can gun for speedier, clean application. Be sure your employees use these sprays in well-ventilated areas and wear the appropriate masks and safety goggles when spraying.

What are those numbers on the bottom flaps of my shipping boxes?

Boxes And Shipping Damage

If your packing and shipping operation does a lot of work with weighty items it is very important to make sure you do not exceed the burst or crush rating of the box. Otherwise, you risk not being compensated by a carrier who receives damaged goods on the other end of the shipment. The strength ratings for shipping boxes may found on the bottom flaps of shipping boxes. Be sure to know and heed the weight guidelines to minimize your liability.

My operation is moving, and I need supplies. Help!

Relocating Your Operation? Packing Supplies For The Move

Did you know there are online companies that specialize in bulk and “bundled” packing supplies? If your operation is moving to a new facility, your shipping department can order special packages of packing supplies based on how many office rooms you have, or you can order a bulk number of boxes in varying sizes. You can also order rolls of newswrap paper to go along with the boxes, and any unused newswrap can be utilized by your shipping department at the new location.

What is a parts scale?

An Important Part of Your Shipping Operation

No list of shipping and packaging supplies is complete without a parts scale. This can be a major help to your shipping operation--you will always know what the exact postage should be for smaller shipments and your larger deliveries can be properly marked for weight and safe handling.

If you routinely mail out small packages as part of your shipping department, you may not need a larger parts scale, but if you need shipping and packaging supplies for larger and heavier pieces, be sure to purchase a parts scale with a high weight capacity. Some are rated for over one hundred pounds, and may be a better bet if you need to weigh a lot of heavier objects for shipping.

Why should I use stretch wrap equipment instead of having employees manuall stretch wrap?

Why Go Machine Over Manual When Stretch Wrapping

If given the choice, you should use stretch wrap equipment over manually stretch wrapping because packaging equipment will eliminate human error and maintain a professional look. If you need more reasons to go machine over manual, here are 10 of them, courtesy of

  1. Consistent and uniform application. An operator who wraps pallets with hand wrap stretch film is not able to wrap every load exactly the same way, time and time again. A machine will.
  2. Professional package. Pallet wrapping with hand wrap leaves an erratic and uneven look. Using a machine produces a clean professional looking product.
  3. Training. Employee turnover and multiple operators mean you must continually train people if you are hand wrapping equipment.
  4. Employee safety. Many accidents and work-related injuries are caused by hand wrapping pallets because the human body was not designed for the constant bending and pulling one must do to complete the task.
  5. Load integrity. The responsibility of meeting minimum tension requirements is left up to workers who can get tired from hand wrapping and lapse into a "good enough" attitude because of fatigue, ignorance, lack of training or lack of motivation.
  6. Damage control. Employees may not take into consideration wrapping in a manner that eliminates the possibility of damage during transit.
  7. Customer satisfaction. Your customer's perception of your competence as a supplier starts the minute your pallet of product arrives at his dock. Inconsistently hand wrapped pallets can give the perception of a low-end manufacturer.
  8. Film savings. With the machine set to wrap the loads with the least amount of stretch film required to hold the load together, you eliminate workers using an unnecessary amount of film to do the job.
  9. Damaged hand wrap rolls. An expensive hidden cost of hand wrapping is the cost of all the stretch film rolls thrown away because they have been nicked or damaged when thrown to the ground or were left lying around. This cost can sometimes be as much as 15 to 20 percent of your hand wrap costs.
  10. Quality control. By definition, hand wrapping a pallet manually prevents you from obtaining any type of repeatability. Multiple operators, time of day, fatigue and many other variables prevents any type of quality control standards.

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