How to package: cumbersome and awkward objects


Most things sold online can be relatively straightforward to package ready for dispatch and delivery. There are so many different cardboard boxes available off the shelf from packaging suppliers these days, that chances are you can quickly find something that will do the job for you.

But there are also things that don’t fit into the standard options and sizes – and if you don’t have time to have your own packaging and boxes custom made, it can be a struggle to package your product up in a way that looks professional, is cost effective and is safe for those handling it.

Usually that means things that are extra long and extra heavy – although there are other odd shapes you might struggle to find suitable packaging for. Thankfully, though, it is often possible to find the right kind of packaging relatively easily – if you know what you’re looking for.

Packaging for extra long things
When you need to package very long products, it is possible to get both polythene and cardboard packaging on a long roll. The cardboard tubing usually comes on rolls up to 100 metres long, while the polythene version, known as layflat tubing, can have hundreds of metres on each roll. The advantage here is that you really can – within reason – use just as much as you need. Simply insert your product into the tubing, and then cut the cardboard or polythene to exactly the length you need. You can then seal the polythene with a heat sealer or the cardboard with packing tape.

If you need the strength of the cardboard, but want to make a wider box – cardboard tubing usually only goes up to 150 x 150mm – you could try fan folded corrugated cardboard. Similar in concept, but instead of being on a roll, the board is folded back and over itself, giving you a very long piece of cardboard up to 1490mm wide and up to 366 metres long with which you can effectively make your own custom cardboard boxes.

If you don’t feel that you have the time or skill to construct your own boxes out of those materials, flat packed long boxes are also readily available – if you get ones that open at the end (as opposed to along the length), you can even get lids to go with them that can increase the length to up to nearly three metres.

Packaging for extra heavy things
If you’re looking to package up particularly heavy items, the best place to look is export packaging. There you’ll find things like heavy duty double wall boxes, triple wall boxes and plywood cases, just the sort of things that have been designed to deal with the more exacting conditions that sending products abroad entails.

That makes them a lot tougher than the average box – plywood cases, for example, can hold up to about 200kg.

One drawback to the average box, including those listed above, is that you have to assemble the box and then lower the contents inside. If the item you’re packing is particularly heavy, that could require either specialised equipment, or the willingness to risk putting your back out.

One great solution is to place your heavy item directly onto a pallet – and then build the box around it. You can do that using plywood pallet collars; they are, naturally, sized to match standard pallets, and are usually about 200mm high each. Just get as many as you need cover your product and then top them off with a lid.

However you package up your heavy products, securing them onto a pallet with strapping is always a good idea; the last thing you want is to risk it falling off and causing an accident. You can get different kinds, and which you choose will depend on just how heavy your load is. Polypropylene banding is for light duty use (‘light duty’ in this case means it has a break strain of up to about 300 or 350kg); for really heavy loads, steel strapping can cope with weights up to around 2000kg. In between those you’ll find polyester, which is stronger than polypropylene and a lot more flexible (and thus easier to use) than steel.

Packaging for large, flat things
Most boxes available off the shelf are, for want of a better word, boxy. In other words, there isn’t usually that big a difference between the length, width and height. But what if you want to package up something like a painting or a flat screen television?

Flat telescopic boxes are two-piece cartons, ie they come with a base and a lid. The lid slides over the base allowing you to create a flexible packaging solution you can adapt to the size of the item in question. In other words, the less you slide the lid over the base, the more space you have to pack in, and the bigger the TV or picture you can fit into it.

The other advantage to this kind of box is that because the lid slides over the base, you end up with twice the amount of board – in other words, twice the amount of protection – you otherwise would have; very useful when you’re packing valuable and potentially fragile things like televisions and paintings.

This is a quick summary of some of the off-the-shelf packaging solutions it’s possible to get from an online supplier. Don’t forget, though, that whatever you’re wanting to package, it’s very likely that someone has tried to do just the same somewhere. There is always a solution, which can be getting your packaging supplier to create your perfect packaging from scratch, no matter how big, heavy or long your product is.

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Sarah Hickson

With more than seven years experience as a member of the Davpack sales team, there are few who know more about the range of packaging materials we sell than Sarah. She recently left the company to become a full-time mother, but still maintains regular contact with her former colleagues. As well as sharing her own accumulated wisdom and experience on the blog, Sarah is looking forward to passing on stories from the front line of packaging sales. Davpack

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