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What Is Dunnage?

April 15, 2021 3PL

Companies, warehouses, and distributors use different types of packaging materials, called dunnage, to protect products. What does this term mean, and why is it so important?

A top problem companies face is dealing with product returns. Angry customers may complain that there is a chip, scratch, or part missing from their product. When a product complaint arrives, companies scramble to discover the cause. They may find that when the shipment arrived at their warehouse, the shipper used very little dunnage.

Dunnage refers to the packaging placed around products during storage, handling, and shipping processes. Dunnage works by providing the necessary support for shipments when they are jostled on a truck. The packaging may also provide moisture control, prevent contamination, and absorb shocks caused by collisions. Shipping companies and 3PLs use a variety of dunnage based on the size and types of products they ship.

Varieties of Dunnage

Many customers may ask, “What is dunnage in shipping?” Dunnage materials can consist of wood, steel, recycled paper, foam, air-filled plastic, solid plastic, and other materials. Shippers and 3PL companies select the appropriate dunnage based on numerous factors, such as the product’s size and fragility.

Types of dunnage used might include:

  • Bubble wrap: Bubble wrap consists of plastic pockets filled with air. These pockets create a cushion to keep products safe and offer shock resistance.
  • Solid plastic: Made of high-density polyethylene, solid corrugated plastic dunnage contains racks to hold smaller products in place.
  • Air pillows: Much like bubble wrap, these plastic pillows contain air. Shippers place these pillows in the gaps in boxes to prevent products from sliding inside.
  • Foam: Foam padding is often used when packaging medical equipment, electronics, or products with sharp edges. Custom-made foam dunnage helps protect products that are fragile or damaged easily.
  • Recycled paper: Also called Kraft paper, this dunnage offers a cheap and effective way to shelter sturdier products.
  • Wood: Wood offers versatility when used as dunnage during shipping. Wood blocks may be placed between products to create barriers. Shippers also use wood pallets to lift products when using forklifts.
  • Steel: One of the most expensive dunnage materials, steel is typically used for heavy high-end, high-value products. 

Benefits of Dunnage

Dunnage offers amazing benefits to 3PLs and shipping companies when handling products. Dunnage can provide varying protection based on their materials and construction.

Consider the following advantages:

  • Moisture protection: Some products may react negatively to moisture that is present during shipping. Shippers may use dunnage to lift products from wet surfaces or as another barrier inside packages.
  • Contamination protection: Shippers and 3PLs might consolidate shipments. Some shipments can contain contaminants that could ruin other products if there is leakage. Dunnage offers the right amount of protection.
  • Shock absorption: Modes of transportation could cause shocks and jostle packages inside containers. Dunnage becomes a shock absorber between shipments and products when they slide or collide.
  • Damage protection: The top benefit of dunnage is damage protection. Dunnage helps prevent breakage that could occur during shipping.

Products Requiring Dunnage

Shippers and 3PLs typically use some form of dunnage for most of the shipped and stored products. The only exception may be for larger products shipped separately, such as vehicles and heavy equipment.

Companies may use dunnage for packing, shipping, and storing the following products:

  • Electronics
  • Tools
  • Home appliances
  • Household products
  • Chemicals
  • Medical equipment
  • Office equipment
  • Glass products
  • Tiles
  • Arts & crafts

Packing and Shipping Essentials From WSI

Dunnage logistics provides incredible benefits to any size company that requires packing, handling, and shipping services. To select the right kind of dunnage, companies should consider how the products are transported — as well as their destination, size, and sturdiness.

Also, keep in mind the customer’s preferences when it comes to receiving products. Many customers are eco-friendly, as they select companies that invest in recycling and sustainable packaging. In these instances, your company may want to opt for more recyclable or reusable materials to please customers.

Here at WSI, we help companies choose the materials necessary to pack, ship, and store their products. We use a range of materials in our operations — including dunnage, pallets, corner protectors, slip sheets, and much more.

Our staff knows the benefits of each dunnage material and how to best protect your products. In addition, WSI allows companies to customize their packaging and shipping labels to further promote their businesses.

For more information on what dunnage to use for your products, and to learn more about our dunnage logistics services, contact WSI today.

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