Most companies have heard about the high-level benefits of having accurate weights and measures (cubic dimensions) for each SKU in their warehouse management systems, but many operations still aren’t utilizing them. Without this information, companies will struggle to provide the basic data to do slotting, better capacity planning, and if necessary full truck or LTL planning. As a result, they may be paying more in accessorial charges and other freight charges – this includes the small parcel side as well.
By dimensioning SKU inventory, we mean the accurate cubic and weight measurements via technology rather than manual measurements or estimates. Dimensioning is an important building block to managing your operations.
In order to dimension SKU inventory, companies acquire a cubing and weighing system (also called dimensioning systems). These systems are available in a variety of models such as a mobile units on a cart, or a large bed scanner in line with conveyors.
The basic systems scan the product to determine dimensions; weighs the item; records and sends to your warehousing or enterprise shipping system. Updating the product master file can either be batch or online, real time.
Benefits to dimensioning your inventory
There are eight major benefits to having weights and dimensions for your warehouse inventory:
1. Improved accuracy of shipping costs
Obviously, it’s always best to know accurate weights in advance than to have an educated guess of the weight. Without this information, it can be difficult to know whether or not you are charging customers appropriately based on the actual charges (except in a post mortem analysis - by then it’s too late). You will see a decrease in accessorial fees through elimination of manual, costly errors.
2. Improved cartonization
In conjunction with your WMS, box sizes can be determined at the packing stations through cartonization functions in the WMS rather than relying on an individual to pick the best box size. This will save time trying different box sizes, and reduce using too big a box filled with air and dunnage that is not needed. A cartonization function can determine if multiple items can be combined in a single carton.
3. Improved slotting
Dimensioning allows the slotting process to be completed easier and systematically in some cases. If you know the cubic measurements and the dimensions of a stock location, the slotting system will be able to recommend where to slot the item in the most advantageous location.
4. Future capacity planning
Dimensioned inventory greatly assists future warehouse capacity planning, whether it’s reorganizing your existing space or planning a move to a new facility. One of the more laborious steps in planning out a new facility is to determine how many pick and bulk locations are required. To do this accurately, the average and peak inventory based on cubic measurements should be the basis for the decisions.
Additionally, having the weight and dimensions helps you specify the pallet racking needed.
5. Conveyor and other automation planning
In determining the design for conveyor and other forms of automation, it will be necessary to determine the design goals based on the size and weight of the products. If this is not readily available, it becomes a fairly long process you must complete before final design and engineering can begin.
6. Shipping automation - Print and apply applications
There are high speed “print and apply” shipping systems available which can scan, weigh, determine dimensions and cube, print and apply carton shipping labels.
7. Quality control
In some operations, quality control based on weight can be executed for inbound and outbound shipments based on weight of products. For inbound shipments, this can save time (visual checks) in the receiving and inspection process. For outbound carton shipments, it can signal potential mis-shipments.
8. Planning truck freight
If you are shipping full truck load or trying to cube out pallets, having cube and dimensions can save considerable time.
Implementation of dimensioning systems
Here is the process for implementing the dimensioning process in your DC:
- Select and acquire a dimensioning system.
- Devise a plan to measure and weigh all SKUs in the assortment. In some businesses this may take weeks to months to complete. Some manufacturers quote that a cart-mounted mobile system and a single employee can dimension 100 products per hour.
- New product measurements. Ideally, new products added to the assortment should be dimensioned as they are added to your product master file initially or at the time of receipt.
The dimensioning process is fairly simple, but time consuming initially. Having the dimensions for each SKU in your inventory makes dollars and sense for both your current operation and in the longer term for managing capacity, automation planning and facility planning.