Beyond the film: Unit load containment testing

A warehouse worker manually stretchwrapping a pallet of corrugated sheets

Packaging professionals too often address issues with breakage, damage, and loss (BD&L) by increasing the number of times a pallet is wrapped with film—temporarily addressing unit load failure, but driving up film usage and possibly labor costs. Utilizing different methods of palletized unit load testing can help uncover how primary and secondary packaging structures affect the overall containment performance.

“The proper testing procedures result in data that can be used to guide operational changes. We collaborate with customers, and use a wide range of testing equipment, to find data that uncovers the root cause of unit load failures,” says Jeremy Kell, Former Unit Load Containment Specialist with Veritiv. “The test results often uncover new opportunities to balance cost with performance, while contributing to a safer environment for workers.”

ISTA-certified testing is designed to mimic the most extreme transit conditions. Here are a few key tests that may uncover issues beyond just film containment force.

Specialist testing a package using computerized equipmentImpact

Impact and drop testing evaluates horizontal or incline impact. Imagine your product on a table that is dropped, mimicking material handling shipping environments, depending on testing criteria. Just as important as drop testing, advanced incline testing can simulate the lateral forces a unitized load faces during transit. Engineers set a G-force on impact strength, and monitoring devices record how the energy moves through the unitized load. Post-test analysis of the data can signal areas where packaging materials, such as primary packaging void fill, can be increased or decreased in rigidity to improve packaging performance.

Thermal shock

Thermal shock testing ensures your packaging materials and products can withstand extreme temperature and humidity fluctuations. Different types of corrugated boxes and flutes are better at withstanding high levels of humidity. Some companies will see an increase in BD&L as the seasons change. Thermal shock testing can help identify the current limitations of your packaging and help you build a new packaging strategy tailored for different seasons or parts of the world.


Vibration testing evaluates for fractures, bending, and minor or complete structural failure. Understanding how vibrations may weaken key parts of your packaging structure can identify areas that need a mix of different packaging materials to survive the harsh conditions.


Formatted text representing a point made in the contentCompression testing evaluates how a palletized unit load performs as weight is applied on top. This test simulates the stress caused as other palletized loads are stacked. Understanding the compression performance can help companies more fully utilize vertical warehouse space in a safer manner. 

The right testing methods and mixing different packaging materials can help reduce damage, lower costs, and speed manufacturing, packing, and shipping. “Film is just one element of containing and protecting a unitized load,” says Kell. “A strategic packaging partner should use a scientific approach to help customers improve their packaging methods.”

Companies are uncovering the root cause of BD&L issues by collaborating with packaging providers that have access to in-house ISTA-certified testing labs, with fully integrated design and prototyping capabilities to allow for quicker adjustments and re-testing, along with expertise in sourcing different packaging materials—helping to ensure packaging consistency, cost, and performance.