It's an age-old adage: Don't judge a book by its cover. The same could be said for packages. Just about anything could be inside, from the sturdiest of goods to the most fragile of items, and you can't tell by simply glancing at the outside of the box. 

Unlike with a book, however, the companies transporting millions of shipments each day aren't able to pick up each package, open the flaps and see what's inside to determine how to best handle each box. So it's the responsibility of you — the shipper — to pack everything you send to withstand its journey from Point A to Point B.

But what's the best way to ensure the safety and security of precious cargo, from the highly valuable to the highly breakable? Think outside the box with both low-tech and high-tech solutions: 

1) Got an Engineer? The goods inside our packages aren't uniform, but the boxes and packaging materials we use often are. Shippers don't have to settle for this one-size-fits-all approach, however, and should consider alternative options for the most valuable and fragile items being sent on a recurring basis. 

Several transportation companies have packaging engineers on staff full-time to design and test packaging materials to ensure goods arrive in excellent condition time and time again. Inside the FedEx Packaging Lab, engineers put materials to the test using machines specially calibrated to mimic the rigors of the global shipping process. The response to these simulated conditions allows the engineers to help you design even more effective and protective packaging, while still keeping size and weight to a minimum. 

2) Go Inside the System. From the physical integrity of your shipment to its very security, sensor technology is among the smartest solutions for protecting precious cargo. 

Sensor systems on the market today allow you extensive control and insight to your most valuable shipments. 

• Exact Location: You'll be able to see in near-real time where your package is — not where it was the last time its tracking code was scanned. You can also create a specific route for your shipment to travel and be informed in near-real time if the shipment deviates from your geo-fence in any way. 
• Accurate Temperature: When you're sending something temperature sensitive, you need to know that the package has stayed within range throughout the duration of its transport. With sensor technology, you'll know without question the precise temperature of the package from departure to arrival, and can take action if you see temperatures begin to rise unexpectedly.
• Light Exposure: Has your package been opened or tampered with while in transit? You'll know if the sensors are exposed to light and can take action.
• Shock alert: Know if your package experiences an unexpected shock in its supply chain.

3) Then Get Outside the System. Sometimes even the extensive insight provided with sensor monitoring systems isn't enough to provide peace of mind about the proper transport of your items. When that's the case, it's time to think outside of the traditional shipping networks to specialty services and carriers who provide specialized options and vehicles. We see this often with the transport of dangerous goods, vehicles, fine art and other irreplaceable items. The important thing to remember is that you have options that go outside the traditional box walls.

4) Layer it On. There's no silver bullet or single solution for perfect shipment protection regardless of what you're sending. That's why deploying a layered solution is the best way to assure your goods arrive in as pristine a condition as the day you sent them out. 

Start with smart packaging decisions but don't stop there. Layer on the additional security and control options available to you for added peace of mind in the shipping process: sensor-based monitoring, near-real-time notifications and intervention options, specialized service providers. Each layer adds to the overall protection of your most valuable items, whether it's a one-time shipment or something you'll be repeating over and over again in the life of your business.

Chris Swearingen is Marketing Manager for SenseAware, powered by FedEx. With more than 25 years experience in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Global Marketing, Chris Swearingen is currently leading the SenseAware effort for FedEx. In his role, Chris oversees the US domestic and global rollout of SenseAware.

He has spent the last ten years at FedEx fulfilling a multitude of marketing, product and selling roles. Chris was hired by FedEx to launch its entry into NASCAR in 2004. In 2007, he was asked to move to the FedEx Innovation Department to utilize his start-up experience on the SenseAware project. He was responsible for prototyping various business models, customer deployment and the day-to-day business operations of SenseAware. Learn more at