4 Common Problems Importers Of Paper Products Suffer From
Sometimes we work for an importer of paper products (we’ll include cardboard and paperboard here, too) such as books, cards, boxes, packaging, etc, and it’s always the same few issues that come back.

What are the potential problems you face, and how to overcome them?


Let’s say you’re buying paper products from China…

Three examples we’re accustomed to would be paperboard restaurant menus, children’s books, and cardboard boxes for retail and packaging. If you’re ordering thousands of these you need to make sure they’re going to reach you in great condition.

Have they been printed correctly using exactly the right colours, fonts, etc? Are the paper products protected from humidity and dampness (which is a common issue when items are shipped by sea in containers)? Are they packed in such a way that will protect them from damage, such as being crushed by other items during transit, or getting dog-eared corners?

Let’s explore 4 possible issues that can cause you problems…


1. You haven’t vetted a capable or reliable supplier

We’ve mentioned before that packaging, for instance, tends to be an afterthought for many importers. They get so wrapped up in new product development and manufacturing that designing and creating packaging comes firmly last, which can lead to procurement being rushed.

Would you buy materials, components, or finished products from a supplier you haven’t vetted?

If not, the same goes for your packaging and paper products, like books.

Fear not though, sourcing and vetting suppliers of packaging and paper products follows the same process as most other items, and we’ve written a guide to this here: How To Find Trustworthy Suppliers In China In 2021.

👉 Go even deeper into vetting: You should also listen to our 11-episode podcast series on vetting Chinese suppliers!


2. You don’t have PP samples (aproved or golden samples) to help maintain your quality standard and expectations

Have you approved the artwork that your supplier has in the exact colors (perhaps using exact Pantone numbers)?
Have you kept some approved samples of the packaging or product, and does the factory also have some approved samples?

Approved samples, or PP samples, help to assure that the manufacturer doesn’t stray from your expectations during production. This means that the first piece off of the production line should be the same as the final one (within a very tight set of tolerances as approved by you beforehand).

If you consider printed media, the faithful recreation of colors is especially important, and this would include books, flyers, menus, retail packaging, and much more.

In addition, if you do choose to work with a product inspection company, the inspector will benefit from having such a sample in hand when performing your product inspections, too. By the way, a First Article Inspection is often a very good way to check that the printing is set up correctly.

Related 👉 Why Is A Pre-Production Sample So Important? [Podcast]


3) You haven’t specified the way to pack paper products like boxes and cards to maximise protection

A common issue when packing paper products is insufficient protection. If the corners get bumped, the whole product may be ruined.

Therefore choosing the right packaging for protection is still critical even though you might initially think that items like books, or even flattened cardboard boxes, might not need so much protection.

Remember, leaving the packaging to your supplier is not a good idea.

A typical supplier in Asia won’t consider protection as paramount. They are likely to select the cheapest possible packaging, may not consider interior dunnage, and could use boxes that have been stacked in a humid room for months!

Consider dictating what you expect, require, and have the budget for, in your manufacturing contract agreed with the supplier.


4. You don’t consider extra protection for goods shipped by sea in containers

Products like boxes, books, etc, are often shipped by sea in a container, but this doesn’t mean protection should take a back seat.

The issue is that these items often don’t fill an entire container and if that’s the case the freight forwarder may stack more heavy boxes on top of yours within the container to fill it up.

Some packaging tactics to consider are:

  • Pack the goods inside separate cartons inside your master carton
  • Use dunnage like packing peanuts or airbags to provide a protective buffer
  • Protect your shipping boxes with reinforced corners or wooden sides
  • Place the items inside sealed polybags to prevent mold from affecting them
  • Conduct a carton compression test to evaluate packaging reliability under this circumstance



Do you have any tips to share?

If you’re buying paper-based products from Asia how do you protect them during transit? Let us know your tips by commenting, please.


Get up-to-speed with the types of packaging could use when shipping your products

If you’re importing goods from Asia you should take a keen interest in the types of packaging used for holding and shipping your orders.

So, to make your decisions smoother, we’ve created a guide to the many different types of packaging you can choose from, including:

  • 9 key packaging materials
  • Retail packaging
  • Inner protection
  • Sustainable options
  • and more…

Read it right here (no downloads required 😉 ):

Importer's guide to 9 types of packaging

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2 responses to “4 Common Problems Importers Of Paper Products From China Suffer From”

  1. Yann says:

    Regarding point 4.

    By experience, what worked the best for me in order to protect my cartons on palettes is to add some carton-made vertical corner protections, and add a wooden plank on top of the palette. Then use plastic straps to secure and stabilize all the cartons and finalize with a film wrapping all around.
    One of the most secure way to protect the content of a carton, (once you’re sure that you have enough cushion inside), is to make a wooden crate to the size of your carton. It’s quite expensive to make in Europe but in China you would pay around 40-60CNY ($6.20-$9.3).

    And in my experience it’s better to punch 1 or 2 holes inside your polybag to let the product breath, having it completely sealed might create condensation and leads to mold. You can also add some packs of silica gel that you can easily purchase for cheap everywhere in China.

    Be always aware that workers, somewhere along the shipping process, might walk on your cartons (I’ve seen that many times here in China).

    • Renaud Anjoran says:

      I fully agree. It’s often worth spending a bit more to make sure the products are not damaged after transportation. What you suggest makes a lot of sense.
      And yes, packing guys are often the lowest paid in the factory, and they often care very little about the quality of their work…

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