Step 2. Plan package weights and sizes to reduce shipping hazards

It’s a fact — smaller packages experience greater shipping hazards. For example, a package that weighs less than 15 kg might be dropped from a high height or thrown. Grouping one or more small items into a larger package that weighs 15–30 kg will subject each item to less force than if the items were packed individually. It may also save time and money by avoiding unnecessary packaging.

The distribution network is the carrier (or carriers) that get the package from Point A to Point B. Several distribution network scenarios are described in Table 3 in approximately increasing order of hazard intensity. The key to successful shipment is adapting the packing strategy to the worst-case hazards that can be expected in any given scenario.

Table 3. Distribution network scenarios.
ScenarioHazard intensityPackaging comments

Art handler door-to-door shipment without cargo transfers


Use lighter crating or primary packaging alone (consult Step 4 for information on primary packing). Reasonable cushioning is still advisable for high-value or very fragile items.

Art handlers and air cargo for long haul shipment

Low to moderate

Use heavier crating and moderate protection to accommodate cargo transfers.

Art handlers in combination with other art handlers or trusted commercial carriers


Pack for the toughest leg of the journey (where the greatest hazards are expected) and the stresses of multiple cargo transfers.

Commercial carriers

Moderate to high

Use durable crating with good cushioning. Crates built according to recognized standards (e.g. ASTM, military, or other organizations) can be an asset. Worst-case hazards for commercial shipment can be anticipated.

Parcel post or courier shipments

High to very high

This scenario involves small packages and high hazard intensities so packages need to be designed accordingly.

Quality carriers can reduce shipping hazards and packaging requirements. However, when packaging a shipment, always plan for the worst leg of the journey. For example, even if quality carriers are involved in all but one leg of a journey, the packing needs to be designed for that leg of the journey where the greatest hazards are expected.

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