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When designing or selecting a package to ship temperature-sensitive goods, it is far too easy to focus directly on the temperature control issues and ignore other sources of potential product damage. The distribution environment includes many mechanical hazards including shock, vibration, compression and altitude. Fortunately, the shipping industry understands well these hazards in distribution, and standards exist to test for them.

Several organizations have published test standards in the area of distribution. The most commonly requested in our lab are from ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). ISTA publishes a resource book that contains their standards, each tailored to a specific shipping package type and method. The user just needs to pick the test that best matches their shipping package and then follow the procedure laid out. ASTM’s primary distribution test standard is D-4169. In D-4169, ASTM has outlined a series of test sequences and allowed for extensive customization to best simulate the distribution process.

Test Methods for Hazards in Distribution

The test methods are generally a sequence of individual tests that correspond with the steps in the distribution process. A typical overnight shipment will include several logistical steps that are simulated using standard test methods:

  1. The package is assembled at the origin point, picked up by a truck and taken to a distribution sorting center.
  2. It is then handled at the sorting center, then loaded onto another truck or other form of transportation (such as an airplane) for the main part of the transit.
  3. Near the destination, the package goes to another sorting center and is put on a truck to the destination.

Each of these steps in the process are translated into a lab test and those tests conducted in sequence on the package to simulate the entire transportation system.

The following example test videos represent a few of the test types that can be specified during a distribution study. Each of these hazards in distribution has the potential of damaging the product if the shipping container is not designed to counteract their effects. If you would like to test your package through a distribution simulation cycle, please contact Cryopak.

Handling at sorting or packing facilities can be simulated with a variety of drop tests. The height, type and number of drops need to be defined.

Small Parcel Tests

Flat Drop


Edge Drop


Corner Drop

Pallet Tests

Rotational Edge Drop


Incline Impact


Transportation between locations via truck/plane/train/ship is simulated with vibration tests. The style, frequency and amplitude of the vibration must be defined.

Repetitive Shock, Rotary Vibration


Repetitive Shock, Constant Piston Vibration


Random Vibration


Warehousing of packages can be simulated with compression tests. The speed of compression and peak force must be defined.

Apply and Release (Time Lapse)


Compress to Failure (Time Lapse)