Opinion: Preventing damage and theft in the supply chain

January 21, 2019 by David Tran
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Opinion: Preventing damage and theft in the supply chain

Reducing the quantity of goods lost, stolen or damaged during distribution is a challenge facing both manufacturers and retailers. Resolving these issues can be a major headache for many logistics professionals, incurring a great deal of time and expense. Indeed, some businesses believe that it is more financially prudent to accept that a percentage of products will simply be lost or damaged, than attributing responsibility and recovering costs.

Totebox take a look at how plastic reusable transit containers can help users to ensure that their products, once despatched, arrive at the desired location in one piece and on time.

Deterring theft


IMHX 2019

Fitting transit containers with tamper-evident security seals will deter theft. They work by providing easy visual identification of whether a container has been opened during distribution; if the seal is broken then the container has been opened.

There are some important points to consider when selecting both the container and the seal.

Not all containers can be fitted with security seals. Some inferior transit containers that accept seals can be prised open at the hinge or lid corner leaving the seal intact, allowing a thief to pilfer contents without risk of detection.

Totebox, supplier of the Original Green Totebox, manufactures its own-brand of tamper-evident attached-lid containers (ALCs). Totebox recently redesigned the hinge to provide increased security, meaning that a would-be thief cannot prise open the box at the hinge when sealed.

Seals also vary with some poorly designed examples easy to remove and replace without breakage, so a good quality seal is essential.

Totebox can also supply seals in a custom colour to prevent thieves from refitting a generic seal. Sequentially numbered seals provide an even greater level of security, these can include bar codes for fast data recording.

Although tamper-evident seals will reduce theft, they may not eliminate it completely. Applying a security regime, where containers are sealed before despatch and inspected during distribution and on arrival, will enable operators to identify where in the supply chain a theft occurred and hence attribute blame and recover costs.

Preventing loss

Ensuring products arrive on time at the right location may ultimately be the responsibility of the logistics provider, but can be significantly improved through the choice of transit container and labelling options.

A key reason why a package fails to arrive is due to the address label either falling off or becoming damaged and made illegible.

Some containers feature integral label holders. Totebox ALCs can be fitted with a clear holder which the label sits behind and is secured with the lid closed.

Many containers include recesses or ribs that protect labels from scratches and scrapes.

Operators placing adhesive labels in the same position for each journey will prevent old labels leaving a sticky mess all over the container sides or having the container misrouted if the old label has not been removed.

Some models include a textured area, either a pin-dot finish or a ribbed surface, that allow labels to be removed without leaving adhesive residue. But care must be taken with the choice of label to avoid it becoming detached in transit.

Protecting contents from damage

Plastic crates are impact and puncture resistant. Unlike cardboard packaging, plastic containers will not crumple if dropped and are not at risk from piercing.

Carboard may provide a small amount of additional shock-absorbent protection compared to plastic, but neither on their own will prevent delicate components or fragile products from damage if dropped or roughly handled.

There are a number of things users can do to ensure that products are not damaged in transit.

Operator manual handling training should ensure that delicate products are handled in an appropriate manor while also reducing the risk of back injury.

Containers that are securely palletised will prevent them from shifting and falling during transportation. Plastic containers incorporate a recessed base that interlock into the top or lid of the container below when stacked. Many plastic pallets feature a perimeter rim that securely holds stacked containers in place when fitted with a top cap (pallet lid), saving the time and expense of stretch-wrapping.

Internal packaging can be used (and reused) to add further protection to fragile products. Manufacturers of high value delicate components sometimes use internal trays moulded to the shape of the component to prevent them from sliding about within the container. Referred to as ‘dunnage’ it is often supplied as vacuum form trays, foam inserts or textile sleeves that securely hold the products and components in place. 

Containers with attached or optional lids will protect contents from rain, dust and other forms of contamination. The ability to fit tamper-evident seals is an important consideration where deliberate contamination could be a risk, such as for pharmaceutical distribution.

Preventing theft of the containers themselves

Plastic crates are by nature extremely useful for all types of storage and handling activities, making empty boxes vulnerable to theft. Totebox believe that it is the anonymity of the boxes that make them a popular target, which can be significantly reduced by printing the owner’s logo and contact details as boldly as possible on the containers.

Consequently, most Totebox distribution containers a have large print area on each side to identify them as the owner’s property and promote brand identity.

Totebox provide customers with a print design service and use a hot-foil printing process where boxes are permanently embossed in a contrasting colour.

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