When you’re shipping fragile items, you need to know exactly what stresses they’re subject to in transit, both in terms of vibrations and in terms of impact. Understanding what your packages go through during shipping can help you improve your cushioning and packaging for future shipments. Knowing what stresses an item has endured during shipping can also help you, or your customer, decide whether to inspect, or even reject, shipments when they arrive.

Vibration and impact recorders can help you understand the force of any impacts your package sustains, what level of vibration it’s subject to, and even pressure changes that result from changes in elevation as your package travels from one region to another. Vibration and impact recorders can even help you see where along the shipping route damage may have occurred. Here’s how to use them to the best effect.

How Vibration and Impact Loggers Work

Vibration and impact data recorders use accelerometers and other sensors to collect and store data on speed and shocks. At the end of the journey, you or your customer can use the associated software to evaluate this data, which is typically presented in the form of charts, graphs, or tables. Some such devices record all data within a specified time frame, while others record only data that meets certain criteria, such as g-forces exceeded. Some vibration loggers have Bluetooth or RFID capabilities in order to transmit data wirelessly to smart phones or other devices.

But how can you use vibration and impact loggers to monitor stresses subjected to goods in transit? Usually, these devices are small enough to attach to items shipped by freight or to insert into boxes shipped by commercial carriers like UPS or FedEx. Sometimes, rather than being attached to the item or its packaging, sensors are also affixed to the transit vehicle itself. For very large items, multiple sensors may be used, measuring the effect of impacts and vibrations on different parts of the large item.

Using the Data

Once you have the data from a vibration and impact logger, you can evaluate it in one of several ways. Often, the field data is taken into a lab in order to replicate the conditions of the shipping environment and understand not only how that environment has affected the shipment, but what can be done to improve shipping conditions in the future. Laboratory conditions can also be tweaked to understand how packaging will withstand certain levels of vibration, changes in atmospheric pressure, and g-forces from impact.

After your shipment arrives at its destination, the recipient can use the data to decide whether the shipment needs additional inspection, or whether to reject the shipment altogether due to the stresses it has endured. Many such loggers include GPS tracking devices, which can help you pinpoint the exact location in which damaging vibrations or shocks may have occurred.

Often, shock and vibration data can be collected from multiple shipments in order to compare how different providers or routes impact shock and vibration stress. You can use this information to choose the best carrier or the best route for your shipments. You can also use composite data to fine-tune or develop testing protocols for your packages. Acceleration data can be used to determine drop heights, for example. Vibration data can be used as a control for random vibration testing in a laboratory environment.

Do you have to ship fragile, expensive items to customers or vendors? Have you been wondering or worrying about what happens to those items in transit? Well, there’s no reason to stay in the dark.

These days, you don’t have to rely on crossing your fingers to make sure delicate items get to their destination in one piece. You can use data from impact and vibration loggers to find out exactly what stresses your packages endure in shipping, and fine-tune packaging, cushioning, routes, and carriers as a result. With vibration and impact data at your fingertips, you can turn your worry into confidence that your items will arrive undamaged and in good working order. And if they don’t, you can use the data to understand why – and keep your items from getting damaged in transit again.