Volume 35, Number 3, March 2000


Overnight Sensation:

Now that many mirrors are being shipped in a
parcel carrier environment, the industry must
alter its packaging methods.

by Michelle Papierniak

Let’s face it: Transporting mirrors from the point of manufacture to the customer is not easy. I am not talking about transporting the mirror safely to your customer’s warehouse. I am talking about ensuring that the mirror is transported safely to the end user—the person who will ultimately hang the mirror in his or her home.

The mirror industry is changing quickly. Consumers always have purchased mirrors directly from their local furniture or home improvement store. These mirrors typically are shipped in combination with other mirrors directly to the store from the manufacturer, distributor, or retail warehouse. The trucks used are either contracted carriers or owned by
the manufacturer or the retailer themselves.

Times are changing. Now, consumers can order mirrors directly off the Internet from halfway across the country. These consumers want the items shipped directly to them within days of placing the order. Mirrors are now regularly being shipped (gasp) in a parcel carrier environment - FEDEX, UPS, Airborne Express.

So how do you package mirrors to ship in the small parcel environment? How do you ensure that your mirror makes it from your manufacturing facility, to the warehouse, through the UPS terminal, and finally, to the consumer in one piece?


Packing for Parcel Post

Before you decide what packaging to use, you must understand how the mirror will be handled in the small parcel environment. The mirror will travel on multiple trucks, and possibly, airplanes before arriving at its final destination. Most trucks, including many parcel carriers, are equipped to decrease the intensity of jarring and vibration that occurs, but the mirror will still be subjected to many bumps and jolts and will be handled many times. Of course this handling means there is a possibility that the mirror will be mishandled or dropped.

So how do you protect your product from being damaged? Know your product. How is the mirror manufactured? What quality of materials is used to manufacture the mirror and frame? What is the size and shape? Depending on your answers to these questions, there are a number of things you must take into consideration. First, you must ensure that the corners and the edges of the mirror are protected. Remember, if a drop occurs it will most likely occur on a corner or an edge. The protection must offer cushioning to protect the mirror from the blow. Second, if the mirror is large it must be protected from flexing in the center. Imagine what happens to a large mirror if it is dropped on a small edge. Even if it has ample cushioning on that edge, the mirror can snap in the middle because of the bowing that occurs. One way to protect against this is to place packaging support—a corrugated or foam block, or a corrugated roll—in the middle of the carton offering extra support to the mirror. This will eliminate the flexing that can occur and will also add extra support to the middle of the

Framed mirrors are a little more complicated, but basically follow the same rules. The corners and edges must be protected, however, the most important areas are the edges that come into direct contact with the carton. If the mirror has a very ornate, odd-shaped frame, make sure that the edges in contact with the carton are protected. If the mirror is dropped, these areas will most likely obtain the impact of the hit. An important factor with framed mirrors is to protect the mirror inside the frame. Imagine what occurs to a framed mirror when it is dropped off the end of a truck. The frame may be protected from the fall, but the mirror itself can break away from its attachment inside the frame and shatter. This is a common problem and probably the most likely way in which a framed mirror is damaged during shipment. Packaging must be used that does not allow the mirror to slip from its attachment. In most cases, simply placing some packaging support between the back of the mirror and the carton is enough to protect the mirror and hold it in place. In other cases, the mirror must have additional packaging that secures it to the frame during shipment. In the most extreme cases, the attachment of the mirror to the frame must be reevaluated and changed.

Finally, it is imperative that the shippers know that the item they are handling is glass. Ensure that your cartons are clearly labeled on the two flat sides, GLASS - HANDLE WITH CARE. DO NOT LAY FLAT. Also, ensure that up arrows are distinctly marked in the up direction.

Typically, packaging to ship in the parcel carrier environment is more expensive than shipping on less-than-truckload and truckload freight carriers. There is also more protection needed and more packaging required in the parcel carrier environment. One way to decrease the cost of packaging in this venue is to work with a packaging company that has experience packaging for the parcel shipping environment. Our company recommends that its customers test our packaging designs in our testing laboratory. This will ensure that the mirrors are not under- or over-packaged. If you can distinguish which mirrors will be shipped in a small parcel environment, at some point you may be able to cut these costs by using two distinct types of packaging: One type for mirrors shipped in the parcel environment, and one for mirrors shipped on your own trucks or common carrier. If you are unable to make this distinction, then you must package for the worst case scenario—shipping mirrors as individual units in the small parcel shipping

Michelle Papierniak is the customer relations manager at Menasha Corporation’s SUS-RAP Protective Packaging Division, located in Danville, Va.


Copyright 2000 Key Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.