DIMensional Precision

Mar 01, 2005 10:30 PM  By

It’s not just for carry-on luggage any more — size and weight restrictions are getting tighter everywhere. Recent changes by major freight carriers to the dimensional weight (DIM) rule mean that carriers are liable to levy charges based on which is greater, DIM weight or physical weight.

The basic cubing formula is length × height × width = cube. But since a long, flat object (1′ × 2′ × 6′ =12) may have the same cube as, well, something much more like a cube (2′ × 3′ × 2′ = 12), so-called cubing software must take account of such differences in shape. Built-in WMS cubing functions may require a fair amount of tweaking. “The more complex the orders and dissimilar the merchandise, the harder it becomes to cube any actual carton in a shipment in advance,” says Ernie Schell, president of Southampton, PA-based consulting firm Marketing Systems Analysis Inc.

Cubing equipment can be generally divided into in-motion and static devices. In-motion and conveyorized equipment can capture weight, ID, and volume data from hundreds of parcels per hour. Some equipment can operate in high-capacity hubs and process as many as 15,000 parcels per hour.

Static cubing technology, however, is more appropriate and more affordable for an operation with lower volume or fewer SKUs. Combinations of dimensioning equipment and software can be found to fit servers and material handling technology already in place.

For example, the Cubiscan 150 machine from Salt Lake City-based Cubiscan, a division of Quantronix, handles packages with dimensions up to 39″ × 39″ × 48″ long and weighing up to 150 lbs. Initially, according to Cubiscan spokesperson Jason Wallace, the vendor thought that the Cubiscan 150 would appeal to freight forwarders. Instead, says Wallace, “We’re seeing use by 3PLs, transport service providers, and shippers to a degree.”

And as shippers work to achieve the precision that will help them avoid DIM chargebacks, Wallace says, “We’re starting to hear that many companies are pre-manifesting through a WMS, picking directly to a carton.”