Summer Weight Loss: Does Your Packaging Need a Slim Down?

By Rob Kaszubowski | Packaging Consultant, Packaging Optimization Competency | Chainalytics

Summer SunSummer is officially in full gear, which means most people are out enjoying some fun in the sun at the beach.

Frolicking in the waves in a new bathing suit a size or two larger than last year’s model has a tendency to get people thinking about how to possibly slim down. But this “beach moment” rarely gets them thinking about dimensional weight and how “packaging obesity” can increase the charges they may be paying on shipping their packaged goods.

Ever since Fedex and UPS unleashed their new Dim Weight pricing in January 2015, companies using these two behemoths for shipping have had to take a closer look at the cubic volume of their packaging, especially if it takes up an inordinate amount of space on a truck and incurs extra fees or penalties.

Most shippers were able to negotiate their Dim Weight multiplier from the standard 166 factor, which allows them to ship their large, light-weight packages with no penalty (or at least less of a penalty). But, this summer could be the time when these extra shipping charges could finally rear their ugly heads for those whose negotiated rate has expired or who have failed to redesign their packaging to reduce cubic footprint. And as the shift to e-commerce shopping and deliveries continues to increase year over year, Dimensional Weight penalties will continue to be an issue.

slimming scale

Nevermind the bathing suit: Is your distribution packaging dimensionally obese?

What is dimensional weight, you ask? Dimensional weight is the volume of your package (L x W x D) divided by a nominal value. If the dimensional weight is greater than the actual weight of the package, you get charged for the dimensional weight. The nominal value for FedEx, and UPS is 166 for domestic shipments, and 138 for international shipments.


You ship a widget that has a size of 16” x 16” x 4”, and has an actual weight of 4 lbs. The dimensional weight calculates as (16 x 16 x 4)/166 = 6.2 lbs. Since the dimensional weight is greater than the actual weight, you get charged the dimensional weight.


You bulk ship multiple widgets together, which have an actual weight of 25 lbs. The shipper size is 26” x 14” x 14”. The dimensional weight calculates: (26 x 14 x 14)/166 = 30.7 lbs. Again, since the dimensional weight is greater than the actual weight, you get charged the dimensional weight.

These examples may not seem significant as individual shipments, but if you are shipping thousands of widgets, these small charges can add up in a hurry. Check out the following calculator as a free tool to estimate any shipping penalties your company might be paying.

Domestic Single Parcel Freight Dimensional Weight Calculator

As we discussed in this Dim Weight webinar on pricing changes, the goal is always to ship your product via the most cost-effective means possible. Based on this, the ultimate goal should be to always be as close to actual weight as possible–a goal that holds true for humans in bathing suits and packages alike.

Rob Kaszubowski is a Senior Packaging Engineer in Chainalytics Packaging Optimization competency, where he is focused on reducing dimensional weight penalties and implementing packaging cost savings initiatives.

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