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What does container devanning mean?

By December 8, 2020September 20th, 2023No Comments9 min read

Devanning is a term that you often come across in discussions about international trade. It describes the process of removing cargo from a sealed container. It sounds simple, but it’s one of the most demanding aspects of warehouse and logistics management. If it’s done incorrectly, devanning a container can lead to
injuries and damage to your goods.

What does container devanning mean?Container devanning should only be carried out by an experienced team, who understand correct product handling techniques and who know how to minimise risk to both people and products. It forms only one part of an integrated logistics process. Combining technical skill, with digital technology, it’s not just about physically moving goods, it’s also about making sure they’re ready for the next stage of the process.

That’s why it’s important to choose your logistics partner carefully. They should have the ability to receive containers, de-van, palletise, store and then distribute them from their site.

What is devanning?

Devanning, sometimes known as stripping, unstuffing or unpacking, is the process of unsealing a landed container and taking its contents out. It sounds straightforward, but it’s actually one of the most demanding tasks in the whole logistics process. Carrying out devanning correctly takes skill and experience.

Container devanning services should offer a dedicated team to handle the whole process. Giving the job to a trusted team minimises the risk of damage to products and people.

Typically, full container load shipments are devanned at the destination warehouse. Your containers will be received, and then carefully unloaded by skilled handlers. This will involve forklifts, cranes. and manual handling.

Over the years, skilled devanning operators will have worked out the best way to approach different cargoes. They will unload any shape or size container, whilst providing clients with the maximum cost efficiency for the entire process.

The devanning process

Receipt of the goods into the UK –

Typically, a company who is importing or exporting goods to and from the UK, will receive their goods in containers at the port. These goods may have come in from the USA, Asia, or Europe, and it can then be arranged for them to be collected via a haulage company for the final part of their long journey.

Having done so, they will then be collected by the logistics company who will carefully load them for transportation via the road network to their own warehousing facilities. Depending on where the goods arrived, this could be at some distance from the arrival port.

Wherever they are heading, this should be carried out with the utmost care and professionalism. It’s one of the many reasons why a trusted logistics partner is essential. Once they’ve reached the warehousing facility, the next stage of the process will begin.


The siting of the logistic company warehouses is a key consideration. They should be well placed not only to receive goods for storage, but also for distributing them onwards.

Unloading the containers

After the safe transportation of the goods, and their arrival at the warehousing facility, the unloading process will begin. This takes a degree of care, and proper attention to health and safety issues. The containers need to be placed on level ground. The lighting for the process should be adequate to allow everyone to see what’s going on, and to be able to carry out their job safely and correctly. The workforce employed to unload the container should be fully aware of all the potential hazards. These might include unsecured items, slippery floors, and possible spillages.

An experienced team will understand the safety issues, and any potential problems that your particular cargo may present. This will enable them to carry out the whole procedure in as efficient and safe a manner as possible.

Counterbalance forklifts

To handle the unloading process safely and efficiently, it should be carried out at ground level making use of counterbalance forklifts. A counterbalance forklift is well-suited to the job due to their design. They’re designed with their forks protruding out at the front of the vehicle, and they don’t have any outrigging, legs, or arms to stabilise them. This means that they can be driven-up to the precise spot where the unloading is to take place, and don’t require any kind of reach facility. They can then turn on their rear wheels.

Dock-level unloading

As an alternative to ground level unloading via counterbalance forklifts, the cargo can be unloaded at dock-level by a forklift. A loading dock is an area of a building where goods vehicles can be safely parked, and then unloaded. A dock-level forklift facilitates the process and can be easier than ground-level unloading depending on what’s contained in the cargo.


Handballing is a term that features regularly in the logistics industry. This is the process by which a cargo is broken down by hand and palletised. This can make it easier for warehousing, and for transporting onwards. This process can be time consuming and laborious, which is why it’s best taken care of by a logistics company that can do the job efficiently.

Warehouse Management Systems

The devanning process is not just about the physical moving, and storage of goods. A key component, on which the success of the entire process depends, is the warehouse management system. This is a software solution that offers visibility into the entire warehouse inventory and allows for the correct storage of any goods received. It manages supply chain fulfilment operations from the warehouse to where they’re needed.

With food and other perishables, the warehouse management system will help to ensure they are stored by Best Before Date (BBD), and full traceability can be guaranteed. The Warehouse Management System should be cloud-based, and fully visible to the client, who will be able to keep track of their cargo remotely. Goods will be processed in and out of the warehouse by barcode.

Warehouse Management Systems should be fully customisable, and able to be adapted to the precise requirements of each client. Detailed delivery notes can be produced ready for dispatch.

BRC Accredited Storage

When a logistics company achieves BRC Storage and Distribution Accreditation it means that their services have met strict criteria set for the storage and distribution of food and food-related packaging within the industry. It guarantees compliance with all the necessary food safety and hygiene standards for their customers.

BRC Accreditation, when it’s applied to storage, gives you confidence that product integrity will be maintained throughout the transportation, handling, storage, and distribution process. BRC Accredited Storage is essential for anyone importing or exporting food and drink.

Originally introduced in 2006, and developed by multi-stakeholder groups, the BRC Global Standard for Storage and Distribution provides the essential certification link between the range of BRC Global Standards Manufacturing Standards and the end-user. The end-user in this case may include the retailer or the food service company.

This accreditation provides protection and peace of mind to the client, benefits the supply chain, and enhances the overall client experience.

Racked or block-stacked storage

When it comes to warehousing goods, they will normally be racked or block-stacked for storage. Steel pallet rack structures are designed to facilitate the maximum storage potential and ensure intelligent use of space. They also provide accessibility when it comes to picking as well as protecting the product and helping with movement around the warehouse.

Block-stacked storage is a form of palletised storage that does not require any storage equipment, and instead loaded pallets are placed directly on the floor. They will then be built up in stacks to a maximum stable, storage height.

BRC Accredited warehousing will ensure that food and drink products are kept safely and are in perfect condition when it’s time for them to be distributed onwards.

Dispatching onwards

The final part of the cargo’s journey is when it’s dispatched onwards. This could be to the client themselves perhaps in stages as and when the goods are needed, or for storage on their own premises.

Alternatively, the logistics company can take orders, and then speedily pick, load, and deliver goods to the client’s customers. They should be able to offer the transportation of smaller cargoes, perhaps as little as a single pallet, up to large scale deliveries through their own fleet of vehicles.

Clear advantages for your company

There are clear advantages for an ambitious company of working with a logistics company on all the stages of securing the safe entry of goods into the UK, through their transportation, warehousing, and distribution to the end-user.

It makes the process much simpler, with software that makes it easier to track and follow wherever you are.

SSO Logistics offer a one-stop solution for all your logistical needs

SSO Logistics is one of the UK’s leading logistics providers. Working as a full logistics partner for a wide range of clients with very different requirements, we offer a premium, highly tailored, service from beginning to end.

Based at our site in St Helens, we have over 40,000 sq foot of BRC AA accredited warehouse units for the storage of food products.

Located at the heart of the North West’s motorway network, we’re close to a vast array of supermarket RDCs. Dispatching freight from our warehouses helps to reduce traffic on the UK’s roads, and lowers the carbon footprint of your business.

Why not find out more about how the container devanning services offered by SSO Logistics can help make your business more efficient?

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