Transportation costs are skyrocketing. A tank of gas is edging up to $4 a gallon. With this trend going on, food and beverage companies are now looking for new ways to max out the cube in their delivery trucks.
Cubing system can enable workers to get the maximum number of items onto a pallet and the maximum number of pallets into a vehicle. It's all about helping today's fleet managers make the space they have available in their trucks do more.
First off, distributors need to know that there are several different methodologies out there to achieve the best cube. It depends upon how their workflow is set up and what type of software they've incorporated into their warehouse management system-and to use any of these solutions a WMS is required.
"With regard to a food distribution application, they'll often take a cubing device and put it in the receiving area," says Randy Neilson, director of sales and marketing for Quantronix, a Farmington, UT, company that builds dimensional scanning equipment. "That way they're able to cube and weigh all the new items that are coming into the facility."
Quantronix builds a variety of scanning equipment, such as the Cubiscan 100, which uses ultrasonic sensing technology to gather dimensions and weights on products as small as 0.5 inches and as large as 24 by 24 inches in length and width and 36 inches in height. This solution can be deployed on a mobile cart with a battery system. It also builds larger dimensioning devices such as the Cubiscan 150 and the Cubiscan 200-TL (a conveyorized model).
The goal is to keep the most accurate cube and weight information on all the SKUs a warehouse has in the master file of its warehouse management system.
Systems like Quantronix's work well for measuring the individual boxes that will eventually be going into cartons. With the proper cube information, a warehouse's WMS will be able to select the correct-sized carton that will allow workers to package orders most efficiently and get the best use out of cartons.
"You don't fill a box only half full," says Neilson. "Or fill one box and have three items left over, so that you have to utilize another box and put a bunch of packaging material in there to fill up the excess space. You end-up sending out boxes with a lot of dead space in them."
When workers put half-empty boxes in a trailer, the trailer itself, in effect, is only half-full. This results in companies sending out more trailers than is necessary.
Express Cube, based in Toronto Canada, offers a countertop dimensioning and weighing system that uses a passive, infrared sensor array. The choice of sensor units depends upon the preference of the user. In addition to ultras-sonic and infrared, many dimensioning units use laser sensors.
Express Cube also captures the dimensions and weights of items and brings them into a WMS, after which the information can be used to obtain the optimum use of space in a vehicle or container.
"From the standpoint of a person optimizing the trailer space, Express Cube gives the consistent data to be able to do that, as opposed to a person taking a tape measure and measuring a box or just eyeballing it, which is cost prohibitive," says Gordon Cooper, director of marketing for Express Cube.
Less expensive systems such as these make it possible for small- to mid-sized operations to get into the cubing and weighing game, as they typically cost in the $7,000 range. Larger systems, designed for higher throughput, can range from $30,000 to $50,000.
Companies that aren't measuring the packages before they're putting them on the pallet will most likely need to measure the entire pallet after they've built it. Mettler-Toledo Inc., a Columbus, OH-based provider of precision instruments and services to the food and beverage industry, offers a device for just such an application-the CSN840 Pallet Solution. The CSN840 can capture the dimension, weight and identification code of almost all pallet shapes and sizes in less than three seconds. The ceiling-mounted design allows operators to place pallets directly under the measuring system.