What is Dunnage?

dunnage is a term that is often used but not well understood

  • Written by Jared Wolthuis
  • Published on May 16, 2023
  • Time to read 9 minutes

When it comes to shipping and logistics, dunnage is a term that is often used but not well understood. Simply put, dunnage refers to materials that are used to secure and protect goods during transportation. While it may seem like a small detail, the proper use of dunnage can make a big difference in the safety and integrity of the products being shipped.

To better understand the definition of dunnage, imagine it as a shield that protects your precious cargo during the journey to its destination. Like a shield, dunnage needs to be strong enough to withstand the rigors of transportation and prevent damage to your products. It also needs to be tailored to the specific needs of your products so that it can provide the right level of support and protection.

Many different materials can be used as dunnage, including foam, cardboard, and plastic. Each material has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the choice of dunnage will depend on factors such as the weight and fragility of the products being shipped, as well as the mode of transportation and the length of the journey.

Common Usage

A few examples of the different types of dunnage that are commonly used and their specific application include:

• Airbags: inflatable bags used to brace cargo and prevent movement during transport

• Foam inserts: used to create custom-fit cavities for delicate or irregularly shaped items

• Corrugated sheets: placed between layers of stacked goods to prevent shifting and protect against damage

• Dunnage bags: similar to airbags, but filled with compressed air and used to brace cargo against walls or other fixed surfaces

• Pallets: wooden, plastic, or metal platforms used to elevate goods off the ground and enable easy handling with forklifts or pallet jacks

• Slip sheets: thin sheets of plastic or cardboard used as an alternative to pallets to move goods within a warehouse or transport container

• Void fillers: materials such as packing peanuts, paper, or bubble wrap used to fill empty spaces in a container and prevent goods from shifting during transport

• Strapping: used to secure goods to pallets or to each other to prevent movement or shifting

• Dunnage racks: metal or plastic racks that separate and organize goods within a container or trailer.

In Safe Hands

One of the key benefits of working with a 3PL partner who understands dunnage is that they can help you select suitable materials and design a custom solution that meets the specific needs of your products. This can be especially important when shipping fragile or high-value items that require extra care and attention.

For example, imagine that you are shipping a set of delicate glass sculptures. Without the proper dunnage, the sculptures could be jostled around during transportation and break into a million pieces. However, with the right combination of foam padding and cardboard inserts, the sculptures can be securely placed and arrive at their destination intact.

Of course, selecting the right dunnage is only one part of the equation. Proper installation and placement are also crucial to ensure the dunnage works effectively. This is where the expertise of a 3PL partner can really come in handy.

Experience Goes a Long Way

Experienced 3PL partners will know exactly how to install and place dunnage in a way that maximizes its effectiveness. They will also be familiar with the different regulations and guidelines that govern the use of dunnage and can ensure that your shipments are in compliance with these rules.

In addition to providing expert advice on dunnage, 3PL partners can also offer a range of other services that can help to streamline your shipping and logistics operations. For example, they may be able to offer warehousing and inventory management solutions or help you optimize your supply chain to reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Wrapping Up

Working with a 3PL partner who understands dunnage can be an essential part of your overall logistics strategy. By choosing suitable materials and installation techniques, you can ensure that your products arrive at their destination in the same condition as when they left your facility. This can not only help to protect your brand reputation but also save you money on costly product returns and replacements. Not to mention, it can be very disappointing as a customer to receive a package that they’ve been anticipating only to have it arrive damaged because of improper shipping.

In conclusion, dunnage may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of shipping and logistics, but it can make a big difference in the safety and integrity of your products. By working with a 3PL partner who understands dunnage, you can ensure that your shipments are adequately secured and protected, no matter how far they need to travel. So, the next time you’re shipping valuable cargo, remember the importance of dunnage and its role in protecting your products.

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