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Tackle Dimensional Weight by Rethinking the Box

30 March 2017

Don’t let reports of deliveries made by flying robots fool you. We haven’t moved fully into The Jetsons territory yet. Just because Amazon has been granted patents for drones and airborne fulfilment centres doesn’t mean use of these delivery technologies is imminent. Today, tomorrow and for quite a while, goods vehicles will be used to transport E-commerce packages to people’s homes.

The trouble with vehicles (and why drones are under consideration to augment delivery service) is there’s not enough space inside them to keep up with the onslaught of E-commerce deliveries. The vehicles, however, are not going to get any bigger. Bigger vehicles require more fuel, face more regulations and need more drivers.

This issue has forced carriers to either get more on each vehicle or raise income for each shipment. They’ve opted for the latter and have chosen to charge for space rather than weight.

Implemented in 2015 by major carriers, dimensional weight is a pricing technique assigned to a shipment based on volume versus actual weight. It reflects package density. Earlier this year, UPS and FedEx instituted a smaller denominator, which equates to heavier dim and therefore higher freight costs. Chances are this latest increase won’t be the last because E-commerce home deliveries are not as profitable as business-to-business segments for major carriers.

DC Velocity magazine reports the dimensional weight vise will not turn as much on large corporations, but instead on small to medium-sized businesses that lack sufficient volumes to gain negotiating leverage with carriers and/or aren’t schooled in the ins and outs of dimensional weight pricing.    

To combat dimensional weight fees, shippers must reconsider secondary packaging materials and methods and make immediate changes that will result in smarter and smaller parcels. Dealing with these three variables is a good place to start:

  • Be clear about damage goals. Understand what solutions offer the best protection for your needs and decide what amount of packaging material will meet those needs while shrinking the size of the total package. 
  • Understand your throughput needs. You can end up spending more money going slow than you will recover from your freight savings, which is ultimately a combination of labour management and speed.
  • Decide how complicated you want your inputs to be. How many packaging SKUs do you want to manage? Shippers often outthink themselves and create a multi-component, smaller package when the right packaging in a single format can do the job.

Which one of these variables rules the day will vary greatly industry to industry or sometimes just day to day within the company. By asking the right questions, a decision maker can determine the right balance and then address the end goal of an optimised package with the lowest logistical burden possible.

Once this scorecard is firmly in place, shippers should re-think the traditional box in order to combat rising dimensional weight fees. Reliable protection can still be accomplished in smaller packages with options such as:  

Shipping mailers: These oldies but goodies are quick, affordable and easy to use. Historically, only light items could be placed in a mailer but with recent innovations, there are certain mailers that can now withstand up to three pounds.  

Durable carton wrap: This opaque material eliminates the need for a secondary corrugated box by wrapping the main packaging and making it strong enough for delivery. Plus, it's store drop-off recyclable at thousands of locations across the USA. 

Right-size automation: Stock corrugated box sizes are one of the leading culprits of dimensional weight charges. Automated machines can produce boxes and polybags to fit the specific size of each order.

Inflatable air cushioning: Engineered inflatables, created on demand, provide superior damage protection in smaller spaces with less air than ever before.

On-demand foam: Like engineered inflatables, engineered foam provides protection in tight spaces and is a good solution for oddly shaped or industrial items.

Shippers don’t have to drown in exorbitant dimensional weight fees. By harnessing the power of packaging, companies can use smaller parcels that provide stellar protection while improving the customer experience.