1) Buying a custom case shell when an off-the-shelf case shell is appropriate:
In ancient times (about 15 years ago), there were limited options in molded shipping case sizes. In addition, the shells were mostly thin-walled and had metal valences that damaged easily. For this reason, many people got in the habit of buying custom wood ATA cases for every need. Now, there are a myriad of new size options in heavy duty molded shipping and equipment cases. A significant savings in both case weight and upfront cost can be achieved by using standard shells for your application.
2) Buying an off-the shelf case shell when a custom shell is appropriate:
The discussion in #1 notwithstanding, many people who are fond of molded case shells often buy the closest available size without considering a custom design. This may lead to buying a case too small to adequately protect the contents, or so large it extracts a cost penalty every time it is shipped.
3) Using the factory supplied “foam kit”:
Most case manufacturers provide foam kits as an accessory. This is either “pick-n-pluck” foam that you pull apart yourself, or a soft foam layer kit. The deep dark secret here is that the case manufacturers treat case interiors as an afterthought, and use low quality foam. If this means you have to buy a larger (i.e. more expensive) case to get a adequate cushioned protection, oh well! An engineered interior utilizing several different types of foam and solid partitioning gives you better protection and a smaller case size in most instances. Although it costs more upfront, the payback is less weight, lower shipping cost, a more professional appearance, and longer life.
4) Not considering airline or commercial shipper size/weight limits and break points:
In recent years, the airlines have been more aggressive in enforcing both the overall checked baggage weight, and size limits for “free” baggage. Both UPS and FedEx charge customers based on package dimensions and weight, with steep price increases for larger shipping cases. These costs make knowledge of shipper restrictions and break points critical for case selection and design. The main benefit of an engineered case interior is that it will keep you at the minimum weight and size possible. The bonus is less stress and easier handling for the case user.
5) Relying on a “Fragile” sticker to protect fragile items:
The cold, hard fact here is that conveyor belts can’t read. The case and interior design is all you have to rely on for protection. Your equipment shipping case is guaranteed to face combinations of rough handling, vibration, forklift spearing, cold, heat, dampness and inappropriate stacking while in transit. Offsetting the vulnerabilities of your items with sound case design is imperative in preventing expensive damage.