When you’re shipping frozen or refrigerated items, you know it’s important to ensure they’ll be kept at cool enough temperatures to arrive at their destination in-tact and safe to use. However, even items that don’t require specific temperatures for safety and efficacy can experience fluctuations in environmental conditions like temperature, humidity, and compression that can have an impact on your products or their packaging.
With persisting shipping and supply chain backups, your products may be subject to extreme conditions for longer than anticipated—or they may be in conditions you’d never imagined. While it’s impossible to predict the exact environmental conditions your products will endure on their journey, these are some common fluctuations that can happen and some product categories that may be impacted by them.
The Common Types of Environmental Fluctuations
There’s a variety of environmental factors that can change throughout a package’s journey, whether it’s going across the state or halfway across the world. Let’s take a look at some of the common factors that can affect products and packaging:
One of the biggest risks products face on their journey to their final destination is impact, either from being dropped or having other items pushed into them. Even the vibrations of the shipping vehicle on the road can cause damage to poorly-packed items.
Sturdy packaging and proper packing of items helps stabilize them and protect from impacts or accidental drops and shifts during transit. Mechanical testing is common practice for many companies, especially when shipping items in large quantities on pallets or items that are pre-stocked in retail displays. Simulating events like sudden stops or unexpected impacts allows you to see if your packaging (and the products inside) will hold up to these conditions.
Pressure or Compression
Pressure, such as from having items stacked on top of yours, also poses a risk. Much like impact, sturdy packaging and mindful interior packing for your items can prevent many issues regarding how well your packed items stand up to pressure in transit. There are some mechanical testing procedures for pressure as well, which can identify how much pressure the package can withstand and whether it is susceptible to punctures or tears.
Extreme Temperature Fluctuations
Products going across the country or around the world can be subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations, from very hot to very cold—especially depending on the season. This means products that are not shipped in temperature-regulated vehicles (such as to keep items cool or frozen) can experience damage, discoloration, or warping from exposure to fluctuating temperatures.
Some products, such as cosmetics, can be damaged beyond use when exposed to extremely high or low temperatures—think of a lipstick left in your car on a hot summer day. If the lipstick is left out in direct sunlight, the tube can get hot enough to melt the product inside. Prolonged heat exposure, even if they’re not in direct sunlight, puts these types of products at a higher risk for melting.
Extreme changes to temperature in a short amount of time can also pose a risk of warping in some materials, like wood or even some metals. Changing temperatures may cause some dyes to shift in tone. Other chemicals can also react to changing temperatures in a way that causes discoloration or separation or the product.
With some chemicals, extreme heat can also create a build up of gases in a product’s container that may cause the product to burst. Products like paints, dyes, or cosmetics such as nail polish are most at risk for this type of catastrophic failure.
Excessive dryness or high moisture content in the air can also affect packages and products. As previously mentioned, warping is a risk factor with some products. For example, where high moisture exposure is a possibility, wood products can warp, which can then make them more susceptible to other types of damage from a warped or weakened structure. Excessive moisture may also cause some dyes to transfer.
Understanding Environmental Changes in Transit
Your products take on an incredible journey to reach their destination. Awareness of the possibilities is helpful when managing risk during transit. As we’ve learned throughout the pandemic, shipping can be difficult to predict, and prolonged transit times are unavoidable at times.
While it’s impossible to anticipate every potential concern, protecting your products from impact and other mechanical forces is one way to mitigate some risk. Learn more about ISTA Testing for identifying and preventing damage from impact and vibration during transit: