The Show Book: Material Handling, Advance Warehouse, and Reducing Cost

This is the 3rd installment in a series covering the many pages of the Show Book. 

More on material handling and why you should (almost) always ship to the advance warehouse

In our last installment, we covered the basics of material handling. This month we'll offer three tips to help reduce your material handling costs as well as one aspect of material handling that costs a little more, but is always worth it.

Pack Light

When it comes to planning your exhibit space, be realistic about your needs and don't ship unnecessary items. Exhibitors often underestimate the space required for their display, furniture, and even their booth staff. Yes, people do take up space! We often see exhibit spaces packed to capacity with little room left to move around and engage visitors. Isn't that why you're there to begin with? Also be realistic about the amount of collateral materials and giveaways you send to your trade show. Boxes of brochures are especially heavy. Even better, forgo the brochures all together for a greener approach (read more here). Take a good look at your shipment once it returns from the show. If it contains multiple unopened, unused boxes of brochures and giveaways, you are wasting money on both material handling fees and shipping costs.

Watch the Weight

There is a great selection of light weight portable displays available these days. Your exhibit house can steer you toward the best display choices and casing options to help keep the weight of your display down. Material handling is mainly driven by shipment weight. Lighter displays mean lower costs. For exhibitors who require a custom look, today's custom-modular displays can deliver all the laminate finishes, structural counters, and sophisticated looks of a true custom display at a fraction of the weight and expense.


Trade show shipments are made up of materials from multiple vendors who might be located across the country. The trade show display from your exhibit house, brochures from your printer, tee shirts from your screen printer, supplies from your office, etc. While it may be tempting to simply have each vendor just send your materials to the show, remember that you will be charged material handling fees for each shipment. Don't forget that 200 pound minimum. That is per shipment as well.

Instead consolidate all your materials into a single shipment. Your exhibit house will be happy to do this for you. Any additional costs you incur for shipping to your exhibit house will generally be far less than material handling costs for multiple shipments from your various vendors.

The Warehouse is Worth It

Now that you're saving some money by reducing those material handling charges, let's save you some headaches. You might be tempted to save a bit more by shipping directly to the show site instead of the advance warehouse. Material handling for advance warehouse shipments is sometimes charged at a slightly higher rate compared to show site shipments. Here is where it makes sense to pay the additional cost. The increased cost is generally very small (to the tune of $4 to $6 per hundredweight) while the potential benefits are great. Ship to the advance warehouse whenever possible. Only ship directly to the show site as a last resort. Plan your trade show calendar with advance warehouse delivery deadlines in mind.

Shipping to the advance warehouse offers a couple of important advantages over direct-to-show site shipments that make it worth the additional cost.


• Warehouse receiving generally takes place over a number of days or even weeks. This gives you some reaction time in the event of a delayed or mis-routed shipment. They happen. A delay or late delivery of a show site shipment could mean that you will spend the show with a plain, draped table and two chairs instead of your custom display and branding.


• Warehouse shipments are delivered to the venue prior to the beginning of move-in. Your display materials will be waiting for you in your booth when you arrive for setup. Direct shipment receiving tends to be over a short period of time, often resulting in delivery drivers having to wait in queue for extended periods of time before they are unloaded. Once your delivery is unloaded, it takes time to move your freight from the dock to your booth space. Your time is too valuable to waste just waiting around for your delivery.


Probably more than you ever wanted to know about material handling, right? Next month we'll move onto the Electrical Service order form. Get your calculator ready. There's math...