Chains of Command | The Open Sky Blog

Product Dimension and Weight Data – Who Needs Them?

Prod-Dimension
I don’t believe we have ever implemented a Warehouse Management System (WMS) without a lengthy discussion of product dimension and weight data for inventory. This post will include some of our common findings and outcomes of those lengthy discussions. But first, the answer to our title question is simple; you must capture the minimum product dimension and weight data necessary to support your processes. Or said another way; it depends (now, does that answer truly surprise you?). Let’s explore further.

Since Open Sky primarily implements Best-of-Breed WMS, such as RedPrairie (now JDA), there is generally an overwhelming amount of product data that can be captured with these systems today. For instance, we can capture the size and weight of the each, inner pack, case, pallet, etc. Clients are usually impressed at first by this functionality until they realize that it can be a lot of work to not only capture and record product dimension and weight data but also keep it up-to-date. And, as many of you know from experience, lots of products undergo revisions or substitutions making it likely that it won’t be a one-time activity for every SKU in inventory.

If your operation needs to do one or more of the following processes, then you have no choice but to capture and record accurate product dimension and weight data:

  • Complex and Volumetric Cartonization
  • Pre-Manifesting and Rate Shopping
  • Quality Control & Audit by Weight
  • Directed Put Away based on Cube, Length, Stacking Height, etc.
  • Trailer/Load Building
  • Automatic selection of Shipping Carton

Now, HOW will you capture and record it? Here are a few suggestions:
A little obvious maybe, but the best practice is to have your suppliers or manufacturing/engineering feed you this information in advance before you ever receive the product into your warehouse. You’ll want to validate the information to make sure it is accurate and can be trusted. Keep in mind that some sources will do better than others at this so you might want to consider different sampling frequencies to test the accuracy based on source. Unfortunately, this best practice is also usually the exception, not the rule. Product dimension and weight data will generally be unknown until the first time a product physically arrives at your warehouse. In this case it is critical to have a process that flags that receipt as a “first time receipt.” You may also need to consider a re-flagging process for each time a new supplier is used for the item, a new purchase order was issued, or even for after some period of time has passed since the last time the item was received and verified. We simply cannot stress enough how important this flagging process will be to operations. We know of many times when flagging was agreed upon during the design and conference room pilot and in practice never got fully implemented. Those companies will always struggle with issues related to unknown or inaccurate product dimension and weight data.

If you are not able to get the product dimension and weight data in advance (and even if you do, you’ll still need to verify it), then you’ll want to capture and record this data inside the warehouse. It’s commonly done one of the following ways:

  • The GOOD method is to implement a simple, manual process where the receiving dock is equipped with a tape measure and an accurate scale. This method works but it is very time consuming and mistakes can happen when reading the measurements or weight on the scale or keying in the product dimension and weight to the WMS or ERP.
  • The BETTER method is to invest in a more automated data capture device such as a Cubiscan which “magically” displays all the product dimensions and weight data very quickly and accurately. This information is then manually keyed into the WMS or ERP.
  • The BEST method is to have that same Cubiscan integrated to the WMS or ERP so that the data entry portion is done without human intervention. With this method the capture and update takes only seconds and there is simply no excuse to not have very accurate product dimension and weight data in your systems.

We have seen these Cubiscan devices mounted on movable carts, as well as units big enough to measure a small car. There should be a solution to fit your inventory profile, as well as the physical constraints of your warehouse.

We hope this helps you better plan for how your organization will capture the product dimension and weight data needed to support your operations. Remember, the key is having a process that ensures that all necessary data has been captured before it is needed – and reliable tools and technology that make the verification / capture of that data as quick and painless as possible. Don’t forget that items do change and product dimension and weight data are often not static, so this will most likely be an on-going need.

Do you have some other ideas or experiences with capturing product dimension and weight? Send us an email about it.