While shipping is a line item that all exhibitors plan for when solidifying their budgets, material handling, also known as drayage, is a forgotten cost that can oftentimes blindside your accounting team.
What is material handling and how does it differ from shipping? Ahead, we break down the basics of each, along with tips to reduce your convention and trade show-related material handling costs.
What’s the Difference Between Shipping and Material Handling?
In the trade show context, shipping refers to the actual shipment of pallets, boxes, and crates of items. Drayage, on the other hand, is the handling of the shipment once it reaches its destination (i.e. the convention center’s loading dock). When packages are delivered to the loading dock, someone needs to be on the receiving end to physically move the items from the truck shipping your items to the final exhibit space. This labor is solely provided by the tradeshow’s general contractor (Freeman or GES, for example) via union workers. Unless your team is physically walking the boxes in by hand or on a dolly, material handling labor and associated fees are unavoidable.
In addition, material handling costs covers the labor associated with removing empty palettes from your booth space during setup, temporarily storing items, and bringing items back to the loading dock and onto the carrier’s truck once the show is over.
How are Costs Calculated?
Shipping costs are calculated based on the box’s dimensions and weight. Material handling, on the other hand, is a bit more complex. Pricing is often calculated based on CWT (per hundred-pound weight). Basic material handling charges usually run anywhere between $60-$160 per CWT, but can fluctuate due to factors including:
- Whether items are shipped directly to the show or to advance warehouse.
- Whether the packages arrive on time to the advance warehouse.
- Types of items that are being handled. Additional special handling fees are determined by the general contractor during the process of moving the freight. (i.e flooring, uncrated items, or items that are fragile, for example, are charged at a separate rate if shipped by itself.) Costs can be incurred quickly, so pack wisely.
The weight of your boxes will also play a big role in how drayage costs affect your event budget. Many shows will charge a minimum cost per item. Say that charge is $100 per item and you have a 10-pound box. That mean’s you just paid $100 to move something they could have easily been walked in by a member of your team!
How Can I Reduce My Drayage Costs?
Fortunately, it’s not impossible to save money on this necessary trade show expense. Many event general contractors offer the option to ship items in advance to a storage warehouse (typically 21-30 days before the show). On paper, this is more expensive but it will save you on labor costs because your crew isn’t waiting for materials to arrive at the booth space to begin work. Instead, items will be in your booth and ready for the labor crew when they arrive on the first day of installation.
Packing smart and consolidating your items to adhere to weight guidelines will also help keep material handling costs down. Sending smaller, individual boxes to your hotel and walking them in is another way to reduce material handling costs.
As a full-service trade show exhibit company, we have years of experience managing shipping and material handling expectations. Our team is available to consult you on every step of exhibiting at a show, ensuring your budget is maximized to its full potential. For more information on our services and to begin working on your next trade show booth, contact us.