Put Your Packaging to the Test
Did you know? Even before some fragile, temperature-sensitive or other at-risk products are packaged and loaded onto a FedEx truck or plane, a surprising amount of science goes into their safe delivery. Our engineers at the FedEx Packaging Lab can attest to that.
The FedEx Packaging Lab offers complimentary services to design — and meticulously test — packages and packing materials for any FedEx customer who needs to ship heavy, unusual or fragile items. Engineers and technicians at the lab work with a highly diverse client base, from small businesses to large corporations. “Anything from giant saw blades to guitars to plant seedlings, we’ve seen it all here,” says Tyler Kenney, manager of the FedEx Packaging Lab.
Customers in need of a packaging solution can contact the lab by filling out a form on the website.
As a FedEx Authorized ShipCenter® (FASC) participant, you can help your customers who have special shipping needs by referring them to the lab’s services. Engineers are also on hand if you’d like advice. You can set up a consultation if you need scientific expertise on building a durable crate for shipping a customer’s heavy items and you want to ensure the material can handle the load, for example. Interested? Let’s go behind the scenes for a glimpse of how the testing is done.
Welcome to the FedEx Packaging Lab
From the outside, the FedEx Packaging Lab looks like a fairly normal office building in Collierville, Tennessee. Walk inside and you’ll see a different story altogether.
The vast 30,000-square-foot facility is 30 feet from floor to ceiling — high enough to house a gantry crane that’s mounted from the ceiling, about 20 feet off the ground. The crane is used to perform drop tests of packages up to 6,000 lbs.
The warehouse space is divided into three sections — special testing chambers that house shiny machines and contraptions. Lab technicians stationed throughout the facility run the machines and take packages through vigorous activities to test their strength and durability. The packages, designed by either lab engineers or FedEx customers and their vendors, contain the actual item the customer wants to ship or a prototype if the item is too expensive to test.
“We’ve got testing, design, forklifts driving around,” Kenney says. “We’ve got drop testers, compression testers, vibration tables, CNC [computer numeric control] routing tables. We’ve got a wood shop. We’ve got an area of climate-controlled chambers.”
Kenney explains the ideal packaging solution is a careful balance of strength and efficiency. The package should be durable enough to withstand extreme shipping conditions yet as lightweight as possible for cost considerations.
Dimensional weight is taken into account, as well. Packages should contain as little air space as possible, to both protect the item and help cut extraneous shipping costs.
Spreading the Knowledge
Besides getting advice on a customer’s specific shipping need, you can consult with the lab engineers to get overall training for your employees on proper packaging — how to spot a well-packed item, how to identify an item that needs a more secure packing arrangement, and how to know what to accept and not accept. A little bit of guidance on the front end can mean more successful, intact deliveries and satisfied customers.
As far as general packing tips go, Kenney cautions that every situation is different. “The number-one thing is to understand your product. You’ve got to know how fragile it is, how much it weighs and, obviously, its size. And then understanding your mode of transportation. How are you moving your product? From there, it’s really about building the right solutions with the packaging materials you have available.”
Another thing to keep in mind: Help is available. "We've got a handful of resources on our website that we refer to that provide info on a lot of these basics,” he says. For instance, there are a variety of item-specific packing guides and the Packaging Help Hub, both of which contain several useful tips.
“The goal within our group is to make every customer’s experience with FedEx outstanding,” Kenney says. “When the package arrives safely, everybody wins.