Are you still using tape measures in your facility? Are you manually collecting the cube and weight data for all your products, then inputting it into your Warehouse Management System (WMS)? One of the best ways to optimize your entire warehouse, plus maximize your shipping processes, is to collect and import the cube and weight data directly into your WMS.
There are several things to consider when selecting the right cubing system.
- What are you looking to measure?
- How are you planning on using the cube and weight data within your application?
- When and where in your facility is the best time and place to do the measuring and weighing?
- What is your throughput requirement?
- Which vendor offers the most experience and capabilities for your organization?
1. What Needs to be Measured in Your DC?
If only there was a single device out there that could measure everything within a typical warehouse environment–at an economical price. Unfortunately, this multi-talented cubing machine does not exist. There are lots of digital scales and cubing devices out there that could be considered overkill for your distribution and shipping needs. Select the device that best suits your product mix and measure the remaining few by hand if necessary. So, what is it you'll be measuring in your DC?
- Small, irregular shapes?
- Variety of colors?
- Do you need weight?
- Do you need Legal-For-Trade certification (LFT)?
A cubing system that can measure and weigh contact lenses, case packs, ladders, industrial building materials, and pallets simply does not exist. Each device is specific to customer needs and product mix. Determining exactly what you need to measure is your first step to optimizing your warehouse through cubing.
2. How is the Dimensional Data Going to be Used?
- Distribution Application
- Storage space optimization
- Carton selection optimization
- Transportation/Shipping Application
- Accurate manifesting by dimensions and weight
- Trailer/Container Load Planning
The last thing you want out of a high-tech, sleek-looking dimensioner, is to simply use it like a glorified tape measure! The cube and weight data collected from these devices, and its ability to interface with most WMS,' or home-grown software systems, should be the cubing device's greatest strength.
Find an interface unique to your business that will allow you to collect, store, and manage cube and weight data received from the device. Do your homework so you can find crucial interfacing features that will allow the cubing system to speak directly with your WMS if necessary. Find an interface where the data can can be easily imported or exported. If bad data from a tape measure was imported into your WMS, then your entire WMS will be compromised. The overall success of your warehouse and shipping operations is based off correct cube and weight data that is being fed into the WMS. Storage space optimization is critical! If this data is not accurate, then warehouse shelves are either empty, or the items just simply will not fit. Cartons and boxes are being packed with too much void-fill or the sides begin to bulge, jeopardizing customer orders. Capturing cube and weight data from the second an item reaches your facility, and exporting that crucial data to your WMS, the overall efficiency and cost-savings will trickle down to every man-hour, every box, every packing peanut, and every shipment sent out of your DC.
It is not specifically required to have a direct interface into your WMS, or ERP, from the cubing software program; however, it is imperative to offer off-the-shelf software interface applications that will pass data to nearly any 3rd party software system. Find a vendor with an active IT/software department that will also customize an interface should a customer request specific functionality regarding the data transfer to their host processing system. Since a dimensioning and weighing system is only as good as the data interface to the users software system, cubing and weighing providers should make it a priority to become experts in offering many solutions to accomplish a reliable integration. For more information regarding off-the-shelf data transfer solutions visit http://www.cubiscan.com/products/software/.
3. Where in Your Process is the Best Time and Place to Dimension and Weigh?
- Dimension and weigh at the "point of receipt"
In order to strengthen your DC through cubing you'll need to determine the best possible location to place the system. If your main focus for purchasing or renting is for distribution or warehousing applications, then there are portable systems available to complete an initial slotting project. Common practice for static measuring systems is to bring in a mobile cubing workstation, and walk the system to the product–literally walking up and down all warehouse aisles, until every pack type, or SKU, has been measured and weighed and sent to the WMS. Upon the completion of the initial slotting project, most companies place the device in the receiving dock to capture the dimensions of all new items that arrive that day. The data will then be stored and exported to the WMS to ensure that the Inventory Master File is constantly being updated. Other common locations to place these scanners are in shipping docks, packing stations, and research and development labs.
- Dimension and weigh at outbound "End-of-Line"
Every warehouse or distribution facility will benefit from equipment that streamlines operations and saves each organization a lot of time, resources, and money. Find a vendor that provides high value-add systems that provide increased labor efficiencies, improved order accuracy, and faster velocity within the order fulfillment process. Many systems can be combined for a full integrated shipping system. When your DC or shipping application requires high-volume shipping, it will be vital to find a complete system designed to automate End-of-Line (EOL) shipping and manifest. This includes high-speed, overhead barcode scanning, in-motion cubing and weighing, print and apply, and conveyor to complete this highly technical integrated system.
4. What is Your Throughput Requirement
- Static Dimensioning and Weighing
Static cubing and weighing applications are typically used for low-volume shipping applications (up to 500 pieces per day) and warehouse point-of-receipt systems. Many of these small static systems can be rented on a short term basis as well–great for an initial slotting project. All static dimensioning systems can be broken down into a couple categories–small static and large static devices. Small static systems can can measure up to 36" or 48"; many systems are specifically designed to measure cases or cartons, but more advanced static systems are available that will measure irregular-shaped items and large cases as well. Several industries require cubic data to be uploaded in a WMS, such as apparel, health and beauty, e-commerce, and retail. There is no reason to undertake a huge slotting project with just a digital scale, a tape measure, and a clipboard; clearly there are quicker, more accurate, and more economical measuring methods available.
Large static systems for dimensioning pallets or measuring large, odd-shaped items are also available. Many of these large static systems are placed in similar locations as the small static systems. Large static dimensioners are needed to accommodate oversized freight received from vendors and to obtain cubic dimensions on large boxes, crates, and pallets. Many pallet cubing systems are ceiling-mounted. They provide an unobstructed view of the freight and protection against equipment damage like forklifts. Pallet dimensioning systems can process multiple-piece shipments with random sized parcels. Pallet dimensioners will also provide parcel tracking information and prepare collected dimensional weight data to be transferred to the customers data processing system or WMS.
- In-motion / Conveyorized dimension and weighing
High-speed dimensioning and weighing systems are vital for high-volume, automated shipping and manifesting applications–generally applications used for high volume (500+ shipments per day). Additional integration equipment will generally be recommended as part of in-line scanning projects. Automatic barcode scanning and print and apply devices are often added to create high-speed scanning, weighing, labeling, and identification workstations.
5. Considerations When Selecting a Vendor
- Software interfacing and data integration expertise
- Breadth of product offering
- Service and support capabilities
- Ability to offer value
- Overall experience
Whether you decide to integrate cubing and weighing systems into your warehouse and shipping processes is your decision, but you can definitely count on your freight carrier to double check your work! Dimension scanning devices have been used for decades by carriers as a freight auditing tool, as well as for recapturing revenue from their customers. Penalties for not cubing, or declaring inaccurate dimensional data to your carrier, can result in costly monthly back charges.
Of course it depends on the amount of volume leaving your facility, but many companies have experienced a three to four month ROI for these large static pallet scanners. Carrier back charges can be minimized, or completely eliminated, by integrating cubing and weighing devices into your outbound shipping processes.