A package’s distribution environment is important in establishing its structural design. During the process of shipping and handling, packages often become damaged. If the distribution environment is accounted for, the minimum amount of damage will occur. Protocols have been established in order to ensure that the package arrives with minimal damage.
Any potential hazards that a package may encounter must be considered before determining its distribution environment. Potential hazards may include vertical drops, high impacts, vibrations, extreme temperatures, and compression loads. Expedited shipping or travel conditions, such as if the package is shipped via truck, plane, train, or boat can affect the state of the package. The package’s weight, fragility, and location of the shipping label can also affect the distribution environment.
A protective package can be thought of conceptually as a device which provides a protective interface or filter between a fragile product and a potentially harmful environment. The optimum protective package consists of a product of known ruggedness and a package which together provide sufficient resistance to damage during distribution without overpackaging. (Shueneman, 1996)
There are four methods which can help to determine the proper distribution environment through the process of shipping and handling. These methods in include observation of the package, assessment at damage claims, review of previous research and literature, and a direct measurement of the package. They may be used with one another or independently, as they all have their advantages and disadvantages.
Certain corporations have established protocol to deliver packages, such as the 5-step method by the MTS Corporation and the 6-step procedure published by the Lansmont Corporation. These procedures “lead the engineer through a systematic approach for defining product fragility, defining cushion material performance, and conducting a laboratory test of the prototype package design” (Shueneman, 1996). However, this does not always lead to optimal packaging design; products may be over-packaged and damage may still occur.
Even though damage is always a potential with shipping and handling, having a proper distribution environment can help to reduce any potential harm. The assembly of a package requires extensive thought and preparation. By adhering to certain protocols and accounting for potential hazards, the structural design of the distribution environment can help to ensure that the package is delivered safely and in good condition.
Defining a distribution environment . (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hp.com/packaging/made/FinalReport/defining_a_distribution_environm.htm
Schueneman, H. (1996). Measuring the distribution environment. Retrieved from WESTPAK, INC. website: http://www.westpak.com/whitepapers/14_measuring_distribution_environment.pdf