What is the Material Handling Form?

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Welcome to “Exhibitor Lounge” sponsored by Exhibit Edge.com. I am your host and Trade Show Mixologist, Michael Gray. Here, each week, you receive simple, practical, and proven tips to improve your trade show marketing strategy and get better results while maximizing your budget.
So you have heard different names for shipping documents: Bill of Lading, Material Handling form, Airbills, etc. These terms are used interchangeably but do have different meanings.
A Material Handling form is an authorization for the show contractor to perform the drayage service.
A Bill of Lading is a contract document between the shipper (you) and the transportation company.
The Airbill is for airfreight with specific instructions different from other carriers.

I am going to read you an excerpt from a show kit without mentioning the contractor’s name. The purpose is to give you an understanding about the importance of a carefully filled out material handling form. So here goes:

“The show contractor is not liable for Customer Goods left on the show floor after the show closing deadline, with or without a Material Handling Services/Straight Bill of Lading signed by Customer. It is Customer’s responsibility to complete accurate paperwork for shipping and to ensure Customer Goods are properly labeled. If Customer Goods remain on the floor after the show closing deadline, the contractor has the right to remove the Customer Goods. Contractor is authorized by Customer to proceed in the manner chosen by Customer on the Order of Material Handling Services/Straight Bill of Lading, if one has been completed, or otherwise to ship Customer Goods at the discretion of the contractor and at Customer’s expense. The contractor shall incur no liability for such shipment. Contractor retains the right to dispose of Customer Goods without liability if left on the show floor unattended, without labels or not correctly labeled.”
So how to fill out a good Material Handling form. You already know the basics so I am going to offer you some extra ideas.

  1. Add the carrier name and check-in time at the very top of the form especially if they are supposed to show up the next day on straight time. You need to do this because carriers can arrive the night before, check in and get loaded on overtime if you are not carful.
  2. Be very specific as to the number of pieces you list with a good description. Don’t just say – 1 pallet. Instead say – 1 pallet that is black stretch wrapped. 30 x 44 x 48 of 15 white cartons and 4 brown cartons.
  3. Pre-make labels with carrier information on them. Make enough labels to put two on every crate or case and one on every carton even under the stretch wrap.
  4. Make sure, make sure, make sure you put your carriers name on the Material handling form.
  5. Think about using the “return to warehouse option” and tell your carrier you will expect them to cover the cost if they do not show up on time.
  6. Add information to your shipping labels that say 1 of 8, 2 of 8, and 3 of 8 to help insure that all 8 8 pieces are loaded.
  7. Provide a phone number for an emergency contact and it can’t be yours if you are in a plane heading home.
  8. Put an expected delivery date on the Material Handling form, especially for air freight, so that deferred shipments are not turned into overnight.
  9. Provide copies of the air bill to be included with the material handling form when turned into the service desk and request that the general contractor gives it to the transportation company.
  10. Be careful to always put your exhibitor name first on all paperwork even for destination and billing areas of the material handling form. For example you would write “your company name c/o Exhibit Edge” if the shipment is coming to us.
  11. At Exhibit Edge we will fill out a material handling form top page and put it in the return shipment package. If you make the shipping arrangements for your company you may want to do this for your onsite people as a template to them fill out the general contractors form correctly.

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