What is Dimensional Weight, why does it exist and how can you try and avoid over paying for your shipping.
The What and the Why?
Dimensional weight is a calculation that all carriers use in determining the actual shipping weight of a package. There was a time when carriers would take packages simply based on their weight. As time went on this process proved to be advantageous for the shipper but not for the shipping company.
Imagine the carrier picks up 2 packages – 1 from customer A and 1 from customer B. Customer A is shipping toaster ovens. The box is 16″ x 10″ x 10″ and when placed on a scale comes in at 20 lbs. Customer B is shipping plastic chairs. The box the chair comes in is 26″ x 18 x 18 and when placed on a scale it weighs 20 lbs. Based on a per weight only method both of these packages will be billed the same rate. However the cost to transport these items is not the same. A standard delivery truck would be able to fit 2.5x more toaster oven than chairs. If the items need to be transported on a plane again fewer items will fit based on the size.
This discrepancy in the actual cost to transport an item is what led all carriers to adopt a dimensional weight system. This allows the carriers to make sure each square inch of their trucks and planes are producing similar returns.
How is Dimensional weight calculated:
Dimensional weight is calculated using a simple formula. The length of a product times the width times the height divided by a DIM factor
Take the 2 examples above:
Item: Toaster Oven
Box weight: 20 Lbs
Box size: 16 x 10 x 10
Dimensional weight: ((16 x 10 x 10)/166) 9.63 Lbs
Since the actual weight is more than the dimensional weight this package would ship at 20 Lbs
Item: Plastic Chairs
Box weight: 20 Lbs
Box size: 26 x 18 x 18
Dimensional weight: ((26 x 18 x 18)/166) 51 Lbs
Since the dimensional weight is more than the actual weight this package would ship at 51 Lbs
How IWS can work to decrease the impact dimensional weight
Dimensional weight can be mitigated a few ways:
Most products don’t present a dimensional problem alone. They face a dimensional problem when multiple units are being shipped at the same time. For this reason having access to a multitude of packaging materials can be the solution. Since customer orders can and will vary there is most likely not one or two shipping options to keep costs inline. Many other 3PL providers try and standardize all their customers orders into 10 or 15 total packaging options. While this may help to reduce the 3PL’s cost it is may not be the best thing for their customers. IWS stocks over 40 different shipping boxes and bags allowing IWS to most closely match box sizes to the items shipping. As an additional benefit items that are shipped in boxes with limited empty space tend to have fewer damages while in transit
Shipping rates. Utilizing IWS’s highly discounted rates can help to decrease the impacts of dimensional weight.
Pro tip: When brining a new item to market 1st calculate the dimensional weight of an individual item. If the dimensional weight is more than the actual weight work with your factory to make sure there is no play in the box. Reducing 1 or 2 sides of the box by even 1/2″ can impact the base shipping rates for that item.
Jason is a content contributor for IWS with over 15 years in the logistics space. Jasons goal is to help small to mid sized brands by providing content that helps them plan for growth rather than react to growth.