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Hi all,

 

It's getting to be melting season again. Does anyone have any tips or tricks for keeping summer shipping effective and affordable?

 

I'm looking for insulated shipping supplies that ideally collapse down to save storage space. Is there a space age solution I should be aware of?

 

Also, are certain carriers better than others at handling perishables?

 

Any input is appreciated.

 

Thank you,

Malena

 

http://www.thexocolatebar.com

http://www.idreamofchocolates.com

 

Tags: hot, insulated, shipping, summer, weather

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Malena -

All of the all-in-one options I have seen are either very bulky, expensive, or both. Elsewhere I have posted that I use USPS and am quite happy with most aspects of using them except for the printing of labels - getting data out of the shopping cart into the label printing program. Free boxes and supplies help reduce cost to customers and the flat rate shipping options can be great bargains.

I leave it up to the customer - if they want tracking, guaranteed overnight or two-day delivery, then I give them the option of Fedex or UPS. I've seen all carriers fail, though none have failed me like UPS.

My answer to the problem is set out below. I purchase packing supplies in bulk and "prep" them and set up a packing mise en place just like I would prep for cooking. Making sure that everything is cut to the right size and in a convenient place before I begin packing is key to efficiency. And - you should always be looking for ways to increase efficiency. If it takes you an average of 5 minutes to pack a box, then the max number of packages one person can ship is 96 in eight hours. Cutting the time to four minutes means that one person can ship 120 boxes in eight hours. This might not seem important now, but the night before the last shipping day at Christmas time it can be crucial.

I have had great success shipping in all weather using the following techniques - even to Phoenix, AZ in August.

1) Make sure to tape all the seams of the box. All of them. This helps keep hot air out and cool air in. Not just the top and bottom center/long seams. You'll be taping the 4 edges and the two center seams.

2) Line the box with bubble wrap that is covered in mylar on both sides. This is what I use.

Use one long piece across one dimension of the box, cutting it long enough to make sure it overlaps at the top. Use two shorter pieces across the other two sides of the box, cut long enough so that they tuck under the long piece.

If you are going to be putting a gel pack (or two) inside the box, I wrap what I am shipping in the mylar bubble wrap. What this does is add an extra layer of insulation. It keep what's inside cool and protects it from potential condensation from the gel pack.

3) Make sure to use a box that is large enough you don't have to stuff it. Dead air space is an excellent insulator - you don't want your items to be touching the insulation lining the inside of the box.

I use cornstarch peanuts to maintain separation between what I am shipping and the insides of the box.

4) I also use one square of kraft paper padding (sometimes split in two) inside the bubble wrap for extra cushioning and to absorb any moisture.

5) Make sure the product itself is cool. If it's stored at 54F it will take longer to get to melt point than if you ship it from 68-72F. When I was working with Vintage and selling Cluizel, we were shipping from 34F - it gave us an extra day; instead of 2-day we could do 3 and save the customer a lot of money. We also shipped in oversize boxes filled with peanuts with the product in the center of the box, and the product being shipped was wrapped in plastic bags to protect it from condensation.

6) Make sure whoever receives the shipment has a place where it can be received that is out of the sun.

7) Make sure to get "Perishable" stickers and it doesn't hurt to add "This End Up" and/or "Fragile" stickers, too. These are simple and effective ways to get the attention of whoever is handling your box that it deserves special handling.

This may all seem like a lot of work. It is if you don't do it right. The key (as I said) is prep and organization. Spend a few moments to cut everything to size before you begin. Make sure that the packing supplies are organized so that there is the minimum amount of moving to get to everything. These two simple things can make the whole difference. During peak holidays, I have been able to pack and ship (including USPS Click-and-Ship labels) 100 boxes a day all by myself.

What I also did to make it work for me was to calculate how long it took to pack an order, start to finish and pay myself at least $15 hour to do this work. I also calculated what the packing material costs were. I made this total the "handling" charge and added it to the cost shipping (which I passed through at cost). That way I was paying my labor to ship and make sure that the cost of packing materials was covered.

It worked out to $3.50 per order to pay me (or someone else) to pack and deliver the boxes to the post office and cover the cost of packing supplies. I discounted this if/when it seemed appropriate.

Also - if you do use USPS, get to know your letter carrier and make sure to get to know the people on the loading dock at the post office you will use. They will tell you when the last truck out each night is. In my PO, the counter closes at 5:00 but the last Priority Mail truck leaves no earlier than 6:00 - and the Express Mail truck is slightly later. That extra time can make all the difference in the busy season.
This is the best warm-weather shipping primer I've ever read. Kudos!
Thank you for the in-depth response, Clay! Very helpful and informative. I agree that organization is key; I don't have much space at my shop for storing shipping supplies, so sometimes I have to drive all the way to my house (a 20 minute commute) to complete an order. It can take half a day to mail one package!!!
If I get the time over the next few days I will take some pictures of my shipping area plus shots of how boxes are lined and add them.
thank you.
What type of ice packs do you use? Where can they be purchased? Thanks for your help
There are many sources for ice/gel packs. One approach is to consolidate all your shipping/packing supplies from one vendor (where possible) to be able to take advantage of shipping breaks. I purchase most of my supplies from ULine, mainly because I get overnight shipping for the price of ground (UPS) because of how close I am to one of their warehouses.

These temperature indicators are pretty cool (pun intended) - they let you know what temp the package reached during shipping. This company (Cold Ice) also sells gel packs.

Dry gel sheets are a VERY interesting (might seem slightly pricy up front but see the end of this paragraph for the savings potential) alternative, especially when you are space-constrained. You buy them dry, cut them to size (they look a lot like raviolis), soak them in water, then freeze them. One advantage of these is that they can bend to conform to the product - or the box - being shipped. You can also mix/match as you need. The alternative would be to buy a mix of sizes of already hydrated gel packs and inventory them - as well as have freezer space for them. On closer examination buying the gel packs dry could save a lot of money on shipping AND reduce carbon footprint through reduced shipping weight to you. A roll of nearly 8000 cells (the equivalent of nearly 1400 pounds of wet gel packs) weighs 32 pounds dry. So while a roll costs nearly $300 (ouch), you are not paying to ship nearly 3/4 ton of water. Not paying to ship 3/4 ton water has to save you a lot of money while reducing the carbon footprint associated with shipping that 3/4 ton of water to you.
I've used these dry gel packs from Cameron and they are excellent. In fact, save for recycled gelpacks these are all I use. When used in conjunction with a well-insulated box, these will arrive still frozen at their destination, using Priority Mail as the shipping method.
Holy smokes, this is invaluable insight!
Thanks so much Clay for this super informative post on shipping.  You have answered all my questions in-depth and some I didn't even know I had.
I just had something melt going to Ca in 2 days.   Never happened before but it has been really hot here in Atl and Ca.  Do you use special insulated boxes or regular ones?   any guidelines on how many gel packs to use, it was a small 6x6x6 box so I only used one.  I will get the insulated bubble roll, never seen it before.  Thanks  Lydia

A 6x6x6 box might be large enough, if you were shipping something very, very small and it was well insulated. "Empty" space in a box is insulation and so it's always better to go larger than smaller when there is any question of it making it through.

As for how many gel packs it depends on how big they are. One 4- or 8-ounce pack is not nearly enough for 2-day delivery in hot weather from Atlanta to California, especially if there is no insulation in the box. Try it yourself, put a gel pack in an empty box and leave it outside when it's hot and time how long it takes to melt. A couple of hours, maybe, even for big ones.

Insulation serves two purposes: keep heat out, keep cold in. There are many forms of insulation: the insulated bubble wrap is one I happen to use and like. I also recycle polystyrene sheets from shipments I receive.

Tape up the seams of the box to keep hot air out (and cold air in).

Line the box with the insulating bubble wrap. Make sure it covers all six sides completely. Use cornstarch peanuts (or similar) to fill the empty space in the box - bottom and top as well as sides. I like the cornstarch because they will absorb some humidity.

I'd recommend at least two gel packs, taking care to make sure they weren't all on the same side of the box (i.e., one on top and one the bottom, front/back, left/right).

Make sure the packs don't actually touch the container with the chocolate in it.

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