A guide to packing materials for overseas shipping

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Thinking about how to pack your products before shipping them from Malaysia to your overseas customers? The fact that you’re already considering the steps required means you’re on the right track.

The way you package your items and your choice of packing materials can impact the extent to which your product remains protected against damage down the supply chain. As such, while you maintain that creativity in the design of your shipping box, you should also pay attention to more essential aspects, such as safety and durability.

Why are packing materials for shipping important?

There are key reasons why packing materials are important for shipping, alongside the right use of them:

1. Damage protection

It’s most likely that your product will move about during the shipping process, whether within the cargo unit or when it’s being handled by logistics personnel in Malaysia, the transit nation and the destination country. Ensuring that your item is well packaged with the right packing materials can protect it from any damage that may occur as a result of errors, such as drops and collisions. This is especially important for items that are fragile, as they can cause a mess when damaged and/or turn faulty when damaged. These include glass and certain types of makeup. You are also required to ensure added protection when shipping lithium batteries and electronics.

2. Cost-management

When a product arrives damaged at a customer’s doorstep, your customer is more likely to request a refund or a product replacement. Over time these additional costs can impact your overall finances. When you pack your items appropriately, you can sidestep these pitfalls and save capital which can be otherwise channelled to other aspects of your business.

3. Build brand credibility

You’d want to improve customer loyalty with every delivery. Packing materials let you do just that. Good packaging, beyond just design, has powerful benefits when it comes to making an impression. For one, by being meticulous with your packaging, you can assure customers that you have taken the necessary steps to protect the product during shipping. This positions you as a reliable and trustworthy brand with whom customers may be more willing to engage again. In that sense, good packaging plays a role in building your brand’s credibility, which helps to, among others, retain customers.

What type of packing materials should you use for shipping?

There are three types of packing materials commonly used for shipping, namely internal materials, external materials and filling materials. 

1. Internal materials

Internal materials for packing refer to those that you use to wrap your products in before placing them into the main shipping box. The common internal materials include:

  • Polybags made from polyethylene
  • Bubble wrap
  • Shrink & stretch films

Internal materials are important because they provide the first line of defence for your products. How much you layer your products with them is a key consideration here. For instance, if you use only a single layer of bubble wrap for a glass vase, there’s a high chance that the vase may chip, crack or break during transit. Likewise, a cloth bag with minimal layers of polyethylene protection may not be well guarded against water damage and other environmental elements. In other instances, when preparing medicines for express delivery and exporting medicines out of Malaysia, you’d want to ensure that they are well protected from any external contamination that can affect their integrity and, resultantly, consumer health.

2. External materials

External materials refer to the outer packing material in which your wrapped product is placed. There are typically a few necessities:

  • Corrugated cardboard box: The most popular shipping box, the corrugated cardboard box, is designed in different sizes. Selecting a box in the right size for your product is key. Too small a box may cause you to force your product in, which can lead to damage. A box that is too large will cause your product to move about more often, increasing the chances of cracks and breaks. You should also only select a box after you have wrapped your items with sufficient layers of internal packing material, as the size of the item is now larger than its original.
  • Stretch film: While a useful internal material, stretch films are also ideal external materials to bundle many products together. For example, should you have multiple boxes of shipments you’d like to ship to a customer, you can join these boxes with the stretch film, so logistics personnel can move these boxes easily from one point to another. This can even reduce the chances of any box getting lost or shipped on different routes, which could ultimately delay the entire shipment.
  • Shrink film: Shrink films offer the same function as stretch films, but what sets them apart is the use of heat to shrink the film on the product. This results in much tighter packing. Large electronic products which cannot be packed in boxes can be wrapped in shrink film for that additional layer of protection. Other items that benefit from this type of material include large furniture like mirrors, wardrobes, coffee tables and sofas.

3. Filling materials

Filling materials offer the cushioning your products need to limit their movements within the packing boxes. These fillers include:

  • Cardboard inserts
  • Shredded paper void fill
  • Packing peanuts
  • Corrugated boards
  • Styrofoam inserts
  • Crumpled paper
  • Kraft paper
  • Polyethylene Foam Sheeting
  • Expanded Polystyrene Foam (EPS)
  • Encapsulated-Air Plastic Sheeting

Which material should be used for packing?

Deciding on which material to be used for packing stems from key factors:

1. Durability

Whatever the product you’re shipping, the type of packing material must be durable, such that it does not get damaged when the item is being transported. Should it tear, for instance, there's a higher chance it might lose its protective property, resulting in the product being exposed to the risk of damage. As such, simply using a standard plastic bag as a packing material would not suffice. Ensure your plastic film wraps and packaging bags are made from sturdier plastics designed to withstand wear and tear.

When purchasing packing materials, it’s thus recommended to partner with reliable and reputable suppliers who can guarantee the effectiveness of the material you have selected.

2. User-friendliness:

You’d also want a packing material that is easy to wrap around the product. One that is challenging can compromise the safety of the item you’re working with. The item can slip out of your hand, for instance. The same material should also be easy for your customers to open, such that they do not end up damaging the products they purchase. 

3. Legality

Certain countries may ban particular plastics and other packing materials, which is why you’re advised to look out for any such restrictions before shipping to the country. In Malaysia, you may be required to apply specific labels to your packing materials. For example, if your plastic sheets are degradable and compostable, a corresponding green label may be required. While this may largely concern the manufacturers of these packing materials, as a B2C business, you can also retain the labels to provide your customers with the assurance that your choice of packaging material is in line with global standards for environmental protection.

4. Recyclability

Taking off from the earlier point, you can further emphasise sustainability through your packaging by using packing materials that can be recycled. This, among other aspects, can help you reduce your overall corporate carbon footprint. Apart from giving your shipping box design that branded personality, consider incorporating the recyclability feature as part of the packaging to further enhance brand impression. These boxes, for instance, can be turned into baskets for storing small items on wardrobe shelves or a mini pot for planting. 

Ready to ship? Packing materials are only one step closer to the goal. Look out for all you need to know about importing into or exporting out of Malaysia so your shipment travels smoothly and arrives on time!