Are you on top of your different kinds of packaging and shipping supplies?

It can be difficult to conceive of all the moving parts that are required for large organizations to successfully ship product around the world. On top of the materials already needed to make your product, you need plenty more just to ensure safety when transporting it.  Unfortunately, for a lot of business owners or operators, all these different supplies can be overwhelming.  

In this article, we look at the different subcategories of packaging and shipping supplies so you can make a more informed decision when it comes to what’s best for your product and your budget 

The levels of packaging and shipping supplies. 

There are four generally accepted ‘levels’ of packaging and shipping supplies. These are as follows: 

  1. Primary 
  2. Secondary 
  3. Tertiary 
  4. Ancillary 

This might sound complicated, but it all follows the supplies’ relationship to your product. 

For simplicity’s sake, as we go through the different levels, let’s say we’re a beverage manufacturer that makes drinks in single-use containers and ships them across the country.  

Primary supplies. 

Simply put, the primary level of supplies relates specifically to the product packaging. It’s primary packaging if it comes in direct contact with the product, and its purpose is to protect, preserve and make it easier to handle the product.  

So, in the example of a beverage manufacturer, the primary packaging could be the aluminum can, plastic or glass bottle, or plastic pouch that the drink is stored in. Think of them as the single-item containers  

Other examples of primary packaging supplies include: 

  • Cans and tins 
  • Blister packs 
  • Glass bottles 
  • Plastic bottles 
  • Plastic wrappers 
  • Tubes 
  • Poly bags 
  • Vials 
  • Cardboard trays 

Primary packaging is the last place you want to cut corners on quality. Not only does it protect your product from damage and deterioration, but seeing worn or defective packaging can make customers think twice before making a purchase.  

Secondary supplies. 

Secondary packaging supplies include the materials necessary to group multiples of your product together in one container.  

In our beverage manufacturer example, this could look like the cardboard box, plastic casing, or six-pack rings used to group together cans or bottles.  

Examples of primary packaging supplies include: 

  • Cardboard boxes and cases 
  • Paperboard trays 
  • Plastic boxes 
  • Shrink wrapped packages 

Some important facets of secondary packaging are protecting the primary packaging and making the products easy to store for the seller. Usually, secondary packaging needs to be stackable for shelving and displays.  

Tertiary supplies. 

Tertiary supplies refer to the materials needed to ship your product from the factory to the store where it’s being sold. This can also be called shipping supplies, bulk packaging, and transit packaging. It’s meant to safely group large quantities of secondary containers into a single distribution unit for transportation, making it easy for loading and unloading into vehicles and warehouses. 

Tertiary shipping supplies include: 

  • Pallets/skids 
  • Shipping crates 
  • Large cardboard boxes 

Your tertiary supplies – and setup with your shipper – need to be secure enough to withstand any bumps and bruises during the transit process.  

Ancillary supplies. 

Ancillary supplies refer to all the additional materials needed to accompany your first three levels of packaging and shipping supplies. This includes tape, film, labels, etc. – it’s going to look different for every business. 

In conclusion… 

A lot goes into packaging and shipping your product. A lot goes around your product, too; specifically, four different kinds of supplies that all need to be considered, ordered through a vendor, and kept track of to ensure you’re not overspending or under-receiving.