Regardless of whether you’re exporting equipment and machinery to businesses or gift items to consumers, your customers expect their purchase to arrive in one piece, literally.  This means that it needs to be appropriately packed.  With growing numbers of UK businesses, especially SMEs, wanting or needing to expand their export operations, now seems like a good time to review the basics of packaging for exporters.

Ideally, packaging requirements should be considered when the item is designed

If you have any control over the design process, then it’s very much advisable to keep packaging requirements in mind throughout the process.  If you are buying items designed by a third-party then look for evidence that they have thought about packaging considerations.

Communication should also start at the design stage

If you are creating items to order you may have a specification from a client.  If you are creating items for sale to unknown buyers, then you need to picture your intended/ideal customer and think about not just what needs to happen to get the item into your customer’s hands, but also what you can do to improve your customer’s experience.  See if you can get feedback from potential customers or at least people familiar with potential customers and undertake user testing wherever possible.

Height and weight matter a lot

The dimensions and weight of a package can influence what transport methods you can use as well as how much it will cost to send the item.  Packaging can add up to 30CM to each plane of an item.  The weight it adds will vary widely, depending on what kind of packaging is used.  This also needs to be taken into consideration.  In particular, remember that any item which is heavy enough to require special handling equipment will not only cost more to transport but may also end up needing more time to get from A to B.

Your packaging has to keep the item safe and secure

The basic idea of export packaging is that the carrier secures the packaging and the packaging secures the item.  This means that the packaging has to be designed to hold its contents securely regardless of whether or not it is travelling along a smooth surface and also regardless of the environmental conditions.

Meeting the first of these conditions is generally fairly straightforward provided that you think ahead.  There are all kinds of approaches to holding items in place, these include air cushions, timber frames and bracing, metal brackets and ratchet straps.  Designing for environmental conditions can, however, be a bit more complicated.

As a rule of thumb, however, assume that your packaging is going to come into contact with water and consider the possibility that some of it will leak inside.  This is most likely in humid conditions when water becomes vapour.  If the temperature then drops, it will become liquid again – inside your packaging.  Think about what this could mean.

Mark and document your items correctly

If you’re already involved in the global export trade then you should already be aware of the importance of stencilling and labelling your packaging and of providing all relevant documentation.

If you currently export only to the EU, you could be in for a nasty shock when Brexit happens and you have to start complying with the sorts of customs processes which are currently only applied to global exports.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that global exporters can manage it and so can you – but making an early start on your preparations is highly advisable.

For most SMEs, the most pragmatic approach is likely to be to hire an intermediary to help with your export processes, but you will need time to find the right one and to make sure that your systems all work together appropriately.