What happens when a package is shipped to you?

There’s a good chance your business sends or receives packages – perhaps a lot of them! But have you ever stopped to think about the journey one of these packages makes? By better understanding the shipping process, you can make more informed choices about your shipping solutions.

Whether you’re sending a package or receiving one, your package goes through several steps between point A and point B. So what happens when you make a purchase and are expecting a shipment?

The first thing that happens – or happened, even before you personally made your purchase – is the vendor chooses a company with which to ship your package. Whether its UPS or FedEx, the United States Postal Service or Canada Post, each shipping company will have different options and rates that will directly correlate to how fast the shipment is delivered.

Depending on what you’re shipping, you may have no choice but to use ground-based shipping. Say you’ve purchased a large supply of lithium batteries. Since they’re considered dangerous goods and can’t be transported via aircraft, ground shipping is the only option. In addition, pricing for different shipping methods varies – ground is cheaper, but notably slower. FedEx gives a good example of your options on their website:

 “For a real-world example, let’s say you need to ship an iPad from Dallas to your best friend in Chicago. Your package weighs 2 lbs., and your box is 13″ x 11″ x 2″. Using FedEx Ground, you will be able to ship that package for as little as $10.78 and it will arrive in only two business days… ‘When it Absolutely, Positively Has to Be There Overnight®,’ FedEx Express has you covered. If it is Monday, and you need that iPad delivered from Dallas to Chicago by the end of the day on Tuesday, FedEx Standard Overnight® will be your choice. This service will cost as little as $67.33 to get your package there the very next day.”

Depending on when you need your package to arrive by, and how specific that arrival date is, most companies will provide a range of options for you that balance price for speed. This factor impacts the price of shipping on your bill.

After your purchase is completed and before the vendor can utilize the shipping company it has chosen, the product in question must be located in a warehouse. Depending on the size of the vendor, this can either be a simple process, or very complicated. For example, Amazon has warehouses across the world and uses an algorithm to decide what gets stored where. A smaller company won’t have nearly the same quantity of stock. This variable also affects how much AI and other tech is involved in preventing human error in the order fulfillment process. Larger warehouses will have more tech available to help human employees pick the right item for your order and know exactly where to find it.

Once the product is located and properly packaged, it is sent out for delivery via whatever method has been chosen. This may mean it’s loaded onto a truck or aircraft. If you are ordering from overseas and it is an especially large package, it may even be loaded onto a ship. If you want to track your package’s progress, you may receive a notification saying the order has been shipped when it reaches this point, allowing you to better estimate its arrival time.

If your package is being shipped internationally, you also have to expect it to go through a security clearance process through your country’s customs agency. For example, when Canada Post is bringing parcels into Canada, it must present each incoming package to the Canada Border Services Agency. The CBSA then inspects each parcel and either holds them for review or clears them for entry into Canada. Generally speaking, if you haven’t ordered anything off the prohibited items list, you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

As you can see, a lot of work goes into getting your package from point A to B, especially if the package is being shipped internationally. There is much to consider when shipping packages, especially for businesses that ship often and must balance the cost with their customer satisfaction.