Stock vs. Custom: How to Choose the Right Plastic Shipping Trays

A stock plastic shipping tray for small parts is a fast and easy solution for delivering your products safely to their destination. There are hundreds of thermoformed stock designs out there for a plastic shipping tray with cavities to hold components, so there’s bound to be one that will work for your parts.

However, sometimes stock designs aren’t enough. Buyers will turn to customized pocket plastic trays for shipping unusually shaped products or parts that demand unique tray functionality. Here’s how to choose the right plastic shipping trays for your application.

Why Choose Stock Trays?

Delivery Time

Not all solutions will need to be custom. There are many advantages to choosing stock plastic shipping trays, not the least of which is speed. Standard tray sizes are kept in stock and ready to deliver promptly after your order. This can be an excellent option if you’re up against the clock or for any reason need fast results. Have you run out of your other trays and need a solution quickly? Go with a stock model and restock faster.


Even when speed isn’t your biggest concern, stock trays are a simple and straightforward solution when your products do not require special or unusually-shaped package treatment. Many common products or components will fit snugly in a precisely designed stock tray without any further modifications. There’s one reason we stock over 150 different stock thermoformed plastic shipping trays across a wide range of sizes and configurations (in square, round, and rectangular pocket shapes)! You’re sure to have plenty of options to choose from, and there’s a high probability that one of them will serve you just as well as any custom-requested solution.

Free Samples

Don’t hesitate to request a free sample of a stock-sized tray, either. A quick shipment of an in-stock sample — or perhaps several samples with multiple part numbers — is a great way to confirm quality as well as ensure that you’re getting exactly the right fit for your product. Tray manufacturers want you to be confident in your purchase and will often offer samples for free.

Why Choose Custom Trays?

Unique Sizes/Shapes

When you don’t see what you need among your supplier’s standard model sizes and designs, it’s time to place a custom order. Thermoformed plastic shipping trays are easy to customize with a little retooling in the CNC shop to fit exact tray measurements or customized pocket shapes that will fit almost any small or complex component.

Alternative Materials or Colors

Another reason to consider a custom tray is if you would like to alter the material or color from the stock version. At Ready-Made Plastic Trays, our stock trays come in white High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) plastic, but we also offer custom trays in virtually any color and size — even clear. Changing the tray’s appearance or makeup can help reinforce branding, serve an organizational purpose, or simply improve aesthetic appeal.

Niche Applications

If your products are unusually dense, heavy, or potentially destructive to packaging due to sharp edges, a thicker custom shipping tray may be a better choice than a standard thickness. You might also consider whether the tray’s pockets should feature precise sizing for snap-in functionality or even holes for ventilation in certain applications. Whenever the tray is going to be asked to go above and beyond or serve an extra purpose, a custom tray can be a great solution.

Stock vs. Custom Trays: Industry-Based Examples

  • Food & Beverage: Stock trays are perfect for containing standard-sized bottles, cans, straws, utensils, and other products with predictable or simple measurement dimensions. However, a custom tray may work well for irregularly shaped kitchen device components or to emphasize brand colors for the end user.
  • Healthcare & Pharmaceutical: Standard pharmaceutical vials are a great example of a product that works well with stock shipping trays with circular pockets. However, you might opt for a custom tray if you’re shipping syringes that need to snap into place so that it is not depressed or damaged during shipping.
  • Automotive: Gears, gaskets, pipes, bolts, shafts, and other products or components with straightforward long or round shapes are well-suited for stock plastic shipping trays. The more delicate or unusual the part’s shape — or the more it is critical that the part remains in a stable orientation during shipping, the more a custom tray may be preferred.

Explore Your Options

Ready-Made Plastic Trays offers a wide variety of stock trays as well as the option to request custom trays that fit your precise specifications. Get in touch with our team today for more info or to identify the best solution!