Packaging Considerations for Industrial and Hard Goods

August 30,2023 Category: Packaging Development, Quality Optimization, Staffing
Large industrial products and hard goods have unique packaging challenges. Their size and weight place them in a distinct category, separate from other types of products. The cost of materials and manufacturing for these large, heavy items make it especially important to develop packaging that mitigates the risk of damage during shipping.

Carefully considering the unique needs of the product can guide package development to minimize risks of product damage and workplace injury while shipping and handling these packages.

Product Specifics

As is the case for most products, developing packaging for industrial and hard goods should start with a thorough understanding of the product and its distribution environment. Many of the unique challenges presented by industrial and hard goods stem from their size and weight. The product may also have an unusual shape, as they’re frequently designed with function as a higher priority than form. These challenges require thinking about optimizing packaging for safe handling in addition to product protection. They call for packaging that minimizes handling risks and makes it easy to remove the product safely.

In addition to bulk that makes handling a challenge, many industrial products include wheels, fans and other moving parts that can break during shipping if not properly protected by packaging. Thinking carefully through those moving parts, designing packaging to provide stability and minimize damage risk is crucial to the development process. Designing a thorough testing strategy to ensure the packaging protects those parts throughout its distribution is equally important.

For brands that manufacture and package multiple products of similar size, it may make sense to develop a modular packaging system. A great way to save money and storage space in manufacturing and packaging facilities is to optimize common packaging components between multiple products. Often times, two or more products can use the same outer packaging components and have more specialized interior components to suit the specific needs of each product.

It is also important to understand the way the product’s weight is distributed. Large, industrial products often have asymmetrical shapes, and developing packaging to distribute the weight evenly can prevent tipping, which reduces the risk of both product damage and risk to people working around and handling the package. Developing packaging to properly distribute weight can also avoid damage from putting excessive strain on certain areas of the product and package.


Large, heavy products call for robust packaging materials. While some of these materials are similar to those used in more traditional packaging, industrial goods require sturdier varieties. Because of its versatility, durability, sustainability and relatively low cost, corrugate is a popular packaging material for many types of products, and the stronger corrugated formats are good options for large, heavy items.

Triple-wall corrugate, composed of three sets of liner/fluting layers, is popular for its ability to absorb shocks and distribute the weight of heavy items evenly. Honeycomb corrugate, which features interconnected, hexagonal cells in place of traditional fluting, also provides strong durability and cushioning properties.

For situations where even the strongest paperboard materials aren’t enough, there are additional options. Mitered boxes, which can be made from wood, sturdy paperboard or other rigid materials, offer strength and a clean appearance. Miter joints at the corners, created by cutting the material for each side at a 45-degree angle and joining them together to form right angles, provide strength and can be reinforced with splines and corner brackets.

Wooden crates are another option for heavy items that call for a robust packaging format. When designed and constructed carefully, they offer high load-bearing capacity and strong shock absorption. Because crates need to be assembled individually, they can be readily customized to fit the unique dimensions of a product. They can also be designed and built for reusability, providing cost savings over time. Wood is also biodegradable and, when the sourced responsibly, renewable, making wooden crates a good option when sustainability is a priority for heavy goods.

Customer Needs

Even the best packaging designs can fall short of expectations if they don’t account for the way customers will receive and unpack the product. Working with customers to understand their processes for receiving, storing and unpacking large industrial products plays a key role in developing packaging. If the customer facility doesn’t include lift assist equipment, it may make more sense to separate the product into multiple lighter packages for assembly on-site. Customers that don’t have robust racking systems may not be able to safely store large, heavy packages and also require a product separated into several lighter packages.

For customers located close to the manufacturing facility, it may also make sense to explore reusable packaging systems. A customer located within a reasonable distance for reverse logistics may be interested in a reusable system that reduces waste and increases sustainability for both companies. This requires packaging design optimized for durability and ease of return.

Additional Considerations

Some additional considerations include:
  • Opportunities for efficiency: Any recesses or empty spaces within the package can be utilized for hardware, cables or other accessories that accompany the product during shipping.
  • Separate ISTA Tests: During distribution testing, heavier items require different variations of the basic ISTA tests. The cutoff is generally at 150 lbs (68 kg) – for example, in the ISTA 1 Series: Non-Simulation Integrity Performance Tests, 1A is of for packaged products weighing 150 lbs or less while 1B is for packaged products weighing more than 150 lbs.

Developing packaging for hard goods and industrial products calls for input from packaging engineers with experience in this field. Adept Group has experts in more than 60 specialized packaging disciplines, and our experts understand the unique requirements of packaging for these products. Get in touch if you need help solving these packaging challenges.