Automated Dimensioning: Key to automation wedge in logistics industry
Automated dimensioning is the most effective way to ensure products arrive at the right place, in the right condition and on time. This is particularly important in the cargo industry, which has operations that are highly sensitive to even minor delays or transport disruptions. While manual systems are less expensive and easier to implement, they are also more likely to result in human errors. These mistakes cost companies more than $100 billion each year in extra costs from lost merchandise and damaged goods
Automated Dimensioning system has two main types—package and parcel dimensioning—mainly used in e-commerce and the logistics market. These solutions help calibrate weight, dimensional data and shipment applications used by different industries such as industrial manufacturing, consumer electronics, ecommerce, healthcare, agriculture and food & beverage.
The major benefit to volumetric dimensioning is that automated dimensioning is a revolutionary planning tool that lets companies dynamically and quite literally pack more into their shipping containers. With the ability to record and analyze every container they pack, companies are able to determine how to maximize the amount of cargo per container and make more money on each trip.
With Amazon and eBay dominating the e-commerce market, the most visible impact of e-commerce has been the need for efficient delivery of more packages in increasingly varied shapes, sizes and weights. This trend has been one of the key drivers behind the industry’s almost universal adoption of dimensional (weight) pricing in recent years. As more parcel companies and warehouses are looking toward space optimization and more economies of scale, this is where automatic dimensioning technology can be a game changer.
However, the current trend for more efficient last mile delivery has prompted the roll-out of more modern machines at parcel centers and warehouses. Automatic dimensioning technology based on weight (DIM) is therefore becoming quite a common solution today, providing accurate pricing information and increased accuracy – but also an easier way to manage dimensions and dimensions pricing across the supply chain.
The total revenue of the Global Cross-Border B2C E-Commerce Market was valued at $793.7 Million in the year 2021 and is projected to rise at a CAGR of 25.1% during the forecast period, which is evaluated to reach $3,042.2 Million by 2028. The major factor supporting the expansion of market worldwide are the increase in export & import of goods & services across the world and rising expansion of trades globally.
Michael Eichenberg, CEO/Co-founder of FreightSnap, explains to Air Cargo Update how Automated Dimensioning is the key to automation wedge in the industry.
Manual vs Dimensioner
Manual dimensioning of freight items can be a tedious and labor-intensive process, but using a “dimensioner,” you can save you time and money.
A typical manual freight process can be an exercise in futility. It’s time consuming, whereby workers need to locate the dimensions from various sources. Missing dimensions cause delays and payoffs, which means less cash in the bank account. But with a new generation of dimensioners that can read barcodes and communicate wirelessly, the industry is eliminating the burdensome tasks and costly delays that typify manual processes.
“There are two things that happen with manual dimensioning that are replaced by automated dimensioning. The first is the actual measurement of the object and the recording of the weight. Generally, weight and dimensions are provided by separate devices that work together. If a manual process, a workers need to utilize a tape measure. This also requires writing or entering the data to a form a screen or both. Then they need to take images of the object with a digital camera and transfer those images to a repository. For any one piece of freight, this can take anywhere from one to six minutes per object. A dimensioner can do all of these functions in two seconds or less,” explains Eichenberg.
Automated dimensioning is the most effective way to ensure products arrive at the right place, in the right condition and on time. This is particularly important in the cargo industry, which has operations that are highly sensitive to even minor delays or transport disruptions.
While manual systems are less expensive and easier to implement, they are also more likely to result in human errors. These mistakes cost companies more than $100 billion each year in extra costs from lost merchandise and damaged goods.
“Due to a shortage of labor and increased freight movement due to changes in the way goods are delivered to customers, logistics companies need to find ways to scale warehouse operations such as the measurement of freight. Automated Dimensioning provides scale to warehouse operations through increased productivity, accurate billing data, and better capacity utilization. These are the keys to removing bottlenecks in clogged supply channels. Removing production bottlenecks helps, but if you can’t move the goods through the system, then the supply chain bogs down. Automated Dimensioning is one of many important factors in streamlining logistics,” said Eichenberg.
Automated Dimensioning is a key to the automation wedge. It is one of the building blocks that make up the value chain required to ultimately achieve Continuous Replenishment and Distribution. These technologies are important in addressing the modern challenges of Supply Chain Management, such as reducing cost, increasing efficiency and optimizing warehouse productivity.
Data entry process
The technology involved in automating the dimensioning process has made it fast and efficient. One Dimensioner can process up to 1,600 freight containers per day. A Dimensioner operator who is experienced and highly trained will take an average of 8-seconds to measure a piece of freight. If a company were using 2 operators, they could process up to 3,200 freight containers per day.
An advantage all around is that this new technology provides a digital image, which then can be used for additional information platforms. For example, having digital images of the containers makes it easier for a Transportation Management System (TMS) to capture this image and enter it into the system as opposed to manually measuring the container at the dock or other facilities in the chain.
“The ideal situation would have been to have all machine generated data to flow seamlessly from the dock to the back office. This affectively removes the middle data entry person from the process and allows for productivity and repurposing valuable human resources. In some cases, Dimensioner providers have independent cloud data management systems to house images and data of the freight that has been measured. Some companies have their own Transportation Management Systems and utilize integration methods to transfer data from the Dimensioner to their systems. Others though may not have the same investment or the resources to integrate all of the data. For example, some systems won’t allow images of the freight to be stored. Others might be lacking key components. This is why it is important to have a full repository to draw upon in the event that your own internal systems might be lacking the design to house actual dimensions on freight,” said Eichenberg.
There are some functions of automated dimensioning that are always going to be the same. Each Dimensioner will automate the measurement of cingulated freight without the need for human intervention. Where things differ is in the process.
In some use cases, the freight might be moving under a scanner and measured in motion, other times it is measured while presented in a pre-identified area. Every application calls for identification or cataloging of the measured object so that the measurements and weight can be applied directly without confusion.
There are some use cases where the freight might be transported on a forklift and measured during transport. Each application has specific requirements and Dimensioning vendors must provide integration services to enable customers to maximize the Return on Investment of the equipment.
Freight audits happen and they are a part of doing business with carriers. From time to time, the carrier will perform an audit of the freight based upon how it was measured at the Shipper location. To mitigate any audit changes, accurate rating is paramount immediately after the freight has been dimensioned.
“When freight is moved from a Shipper’s dock to a carrier’s dock, it can shift dramatically on the pallet and then measure quite differently. If the Shipper does not have certified dimensions and images at the time of tendering, there is no countermeasure if the freight was rated with a particular density class at the Shipper location and then measured differently at the carrier. This happens more than people realize. The ability to fight an audit reclassification is solely based upon accurate rating following the dimensioning process at the Shipper dock. That is key to the process. Too often Shippers are not rating freight properly and there is no fix to that situation.
“If a Shipment has multiple images documenting the condition of the freight, you have a much better position when comparing the freight to how it was received by the customer. Images provided by the Shipper’s customers will show external damage when compared to pre-tendered images taken on the Shipper dock. Accurate dimensions and weight will always provide the correct rating. There are no exceptions to this rule. The correct rating and charges will allow Shippers to bill correctly without the worry of additional fees from Carriers. Over time, as Shippers accumulate accurate freight profiles, they will be in a stronger position to negotiate rates with their Carrier partners. Good data means less risk for the Carriers, which always leads to best possible pricing,” concludes Eichenberg.
“The transition to density pricing over straight class identification means we will have to provide accurate measurements. A tight labor market has already stretched dock operations and that was before this transition. Without automated dimensioning, it will be impossible to meet the data requirements coming out of the density transition”.
Lastly, according to Micheal transitioning to automated dimensioning is not as difficult as it might seem. The equipment itself is fairly easy to install and calibrate. The real challenge is training a workforce, thinking through the processes, and integrating the data electronically. With the proper resources and planning, these projects can advance smoothly and show immediate ROI. The best course of action is to choose a vendor that is willing to work through these processes with your team. Too often Dimensioning Vendors take a shortened approach to implementation. Basically, install the equipment, a quick one-hour training, and they are gone. That type of implementation leads to slow adoption, frustration, and in some cases a complete return to manual processes. In any organization, there is going to be some pushback and fear when certain processes are automated. The key is to involve as many people as possible in the process, plan, and then have a good plan of execution which should involve your vendor.