The international shipping industry is a major part of the global economy, with seaborne container trade alone valued at $12 trillion in 2017, according to market data from Statista. Many other industries rely on transportation providers as the backbone of their businesses and would not thrive without successful and competent shipping practices. As a result, shippers must continuously improve their processes to deliver products to their destinations more efficiently.
One way to improve efficiency is to leverage the benefits of dimensioning technology. Dimensioning is the process of measuring the area or volume of a product being shipped, and the use of scanning technology now enables shippers to quickly and accurately calculate storage, box size, and weight to determine the best packaging or storage for space optimization.
Dimensioning solutions come in many different forms for international shipping. Examples include all-in-one fixed stations where a box or product can be placed below a dimensioning scanner that is mounted to a pole, as well as larger capacity scans with flexible mounting options on a warehouse ceiling or on poles throughout the facility. Dimensioning software often is also combined with hardware such as mobile workstations, so that workers can conduct scans on the go, anywhere in the warehouse or distribution center.
Shippers benefit in a number of ways from the use of dimensioning, including space optimization, increased speed, efficiency, and picking accuracy, reduced wasted motion and improved volume management during seasonal peaks.
Dimensioning for warehouses, trucks, shipping containers
Whether in a warehouse, a truck, or a shipping container, every cubic foot of space is valuable.
Due to the rapid growth of e-commerce sales, warehouse capacity has never been tighter. Many densely populated regions such as Southern California simply do not have the space to handle the extreme volume, particularly during seasonal peaks, as in the lead up to the year-end holidays.
Dimensioning becomes immensely important as it’s the only way to truly maximize the space and manage the volume. Each scan ensures that stock keeping units (SKUs) will be stored in the correct location based on size and popularity. Mismanaging warehouse or shipping container space is detrimental to the process. Shipping managers wouldn’t pay to ship air, so why would they pay to stock it?
A proper dimensioning system can scan a parcel or product in less than one second, identify the best possible packaging solutions, and enable direct-to-box picking. The information a dimensioning system will provide is essential and helps to speed up the shipping process, as less time is spent physically measuring a product.
To put this in perspective, according to a recent white paper from QubeVu, for a company that ships 100 packages a day with an average cost of goods sold at $15 per parcel, that would increase revenues by $150 a day, or roughly $37,500 a year. The international shipping industry often has much larger processes, making the savings even greater on a yearly basis.
Since international shipments take weeks to arrive, optimizing the space by SKU is also very important. There are often hundreds of items that all have different pack sizes, and accurately scanning each product through dimensioning allows shippers to plan ahead and pack intelligently. Having accurate dimensions enables better decision making in terms of which packaging material to use, where to store the cargo, and how to best utilize freight capacity.
The rise of e-commerce has also made almost every conceivable item shippable — nothing is too small or commonplace — and dimensioning can accommodate all sizes and shapes.
With the right software, dimensions are measured with an accuracy of within 0.25 inches, reducing costly mistakes that result from inaccurate measurements and human error. More robust systems even record a photo of each scanned item, meaning pick lists can include imagery, making it easier and more efficient for pickers to verify their selections.
Warehouses using this kind of imaging have reported an error reduction from 4 percent to less than 1 percent, something that can translate into important efficiency gains, especially when handling larger volumes during seasonal peaks.
Mobile dimensioning technology
The use of mobile dimensioning technology can also help to reduce wasted steps on the part of warehouse workers. Deploying a dimensioning solution right on the receiving dock, instead of somewhere in the interior of a facility, increases productivity by eliminating the need to walk back and forth between locations.
Although some warehouses store their dimensioning technology on fixed tables, utilizing mobile-powered carts can increase the benefits of your dimensioning software by bringing the technology directly to the product. When dimensioning software is included on a mobile-powered workstation, the back-and-forth motion is eliminated, and operator fatigue is reduced.
Every day, millions of pieces of freight are moved around the world. Most of these products need to be accurately measured for storage or stowage at some point during the international shipping process. Dimensioning helps to improve accuracy, manage volume, and adds an extra layer of efficiency to the process. Shipping is a competitive industry. Implementing a tactic that improves efficiency is a major plus, and dimensioning adds a competitive edge and should be included as part of any international shipping process.
Kevin Ledversis is director of sales at Newcastle Systems, a provider of workplace mobility solutions. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.