Debra Schug, Contributing Writer
In the supply chain, knowing exactly what you are shipping and storing is vital. By understanding the size and weight of your inventory, your operation’s visibility increases. This enables your facility to achieve a higher velocity, as the warehouse can be used more efficiently.
Cubing and weighing, often a pretty mundane-sounding affair, becomes an incredibly important part of the business, according to Ed Romaine, Vice President of Marketing for Conveyco.
“When distributing, cubing and weighing will help you avoid shipping air,” Romaine explained. “In storage applications, it’ll help you figure out how to use your warehouse.”
The equipment has long been touted as beneficial to optimizing material handling operations. However, a few years ago, cubing and weighing (also known as dimensioning) became essential due to a change in the way UPS and FedEx determines their shipping fees.
In 2017, the carriers decided they would use dimensional weight rather than actual weight of items being shipped from small packages to full pallets. The U.S. Postal Service soon followed suit and now also uses dimensional weight to assess shipping charges.
The dimensional weight is determined by multiplying the three dimensions of the package, known as total package volume. This number is divided by a factor to produce the dim weight, which is used to determine the shipping charges. Recently, UPS has added a fee for incorrect dim weights provided by shippers, including incorrect or missing package dimensions and incorrect weights.
“With the increasing shipping rates, make sure you are not getting chargebacks on oversized boxes and in accurate dimensions,” said Thomas Guest, Sales Resource Manager for Rice Lake Weighing Systems. “By having inaccurate data or no data at all, you risk not charging your customer enough and end up eating the remaining cost on top of a special handling fee because the shipment was dimensioned at the carrier.”
Because this equipment has become so critical, this article takes a look at how cubing and weighing can save real dollars and cents, as well as improve the optimization of your facility.
The Benefits of Cubing and Weighing Systems
Knowing the size and weight of inventory is beneficial to both shippers who have storage facilities, as well as carriers. Transportation vessels, from ship to shore, can be optimized. This becomes increasingly important as shipping costs rise due to a variety of reasons, such as growing consumer expectations to labor shortages.
“Pairing a dimensioning solution with a scale and multi-carrier shipping software ensures you are getting accurate rates and the best shipping method based on weight, dimensions and zip code,” said Guest.
To improve the supply chain operations, distribution centers must have the ability to accurately determine the dimensions of SKUs and packages in warehouses, as well as receiving areas. This efficient space management can lead to better order fulfillment, carton selection and dense “slotting” of inventory.
“If you can capture the dimensions and weight of the incoming product or box and know the dimensions of your stock locations, you can use the data with a slotting system/software to recommend the most valuable spot for that product or box,” Guest stated.
This information enables warehouses to better predict space requirements and determine which product will need to be stored in a bin or rack location. Having this ability opens up the warehouse and might even eliminate the need to expand a facility—an option that is not feasible for many companies.
Cartonization, Picking and Packing
Dimensioning systems allow the automated collection of accurate size and weight information. This cubic data can then be paired with the overall Warehouse Management System (WMS). Not only will this increase the automation capabilities in a material handling operation, but it will give businesses the ability to determine the best box size rather than rely on someone else picking the box.
“This can result in manual error, loss in time and money if a larger box is picked,” said Guest.
In particular, e-commerce applications can benefit from this capability because many times they need to ship multiple items in one order. The ability to combine dimensions and weight through the WMS can help determine the right box size for each order.
Additionally, new dimensioning technology provides overhead images of items being dimensioned that can help the pickers and packers in the warehouse filling orders. Having the image can help facilitate a correct order fulfillment, because it visually confirms what is being picked and what was ordered.
“Warehouses using images on pick lists reported an error reduction from 4% to less than 1%,” Guest added. “This also helps lower your return rate, which in turn saves on the time and labor on dealing with a returned item.”
Having an Edge on the Bottom Line
When billing your carriers, having the correct dimensioning data can keep them honest. With an accurate system, material handling operations have a way to prove discrepancies in weight and dimensions when auditing invoices. This will go a long way when asking carriers for a refund.
“Errors occur on the carrier side and, without images, dimension and weight data will make it harder or almost impossible to get a refund. This can also occur with damaged shipments,” said Guest. But, dimensioning systems provide “proof with an image that the package left your facility dated and time stamped and that the parcel or freight was damaged in shipment by the carrier.”
As shipping costs continue to rise, material handling operations are looking to optimize their facilities in new ways. Thus, they are looking for increased accuracy in inventory data; more capabilities to capture different types of shapes and products in the dimensioning system; and advanced imaging features.
“We see more and more e-commerce companies utilizing dimensioning for accurate data,” Guest offered.
This represents an increase in use that isn’t likely to stop any time soon, due to recent changes from carriers, such as UPS, FedEx and USPS, as well as the decrease in vendors and manufacturers who give precise dimensional data for use in distribution centers. WMHS